South Dakota celebrates Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 150th birthday

Rooms at both the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre and the DeSmet (South Dakota) Middle School were filled Tuesday with Laura Ingalls Wilder readers, looking to celebrate the author’s 150th birthday together via video conference.

There were birthday cake and desserts, made according to recipes featured in Wilder’s “The Little House Cookbook”.

Jay Vogt, director of the South Dakota State Historical Society, said the event was organized to celebrate the success of Pioneer Girl, Wilder’s autobiography which was published by the State Historical Society Press. The Press is publishing another book on Wilder this spring, he said.

“It’s a great time to recognize it. Being the 150th year is a great anniversary too,” Vogt said.

Vogt said Wilder’s popularity, especially among South Dakotans, remains strong.

“She had made a huge contribution to South Dakota, its history and heritage,” he said.

About 50 people came to the event in Pierre, he said.

William Anderson, a historian and author about Wilder, joined in the video conference by telephone to introduce his new book, The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, which is comprised of letters spanning from 1894 to 1956.

Renee Marsh, of Pierre, said she had read about Wilder since her childhood. She recalled visiting Wilder’s former home in DeSmet with her grandmother as a fifth grader.

“Even when I taught at school, I read my kids and my students the Laura Ingalls books. They really enjoyed those,” Marsh said.

She said it was interesting to see why Wilder’s family moved to Missouri. “I would like to visit there someday,” Marsh said.

Pat Weeldreyer, who works for the Rawlins Municipal Library in Pierre, said she had organized some programs about Wilder at the library.

Weeldreyer said she had read all of Wilder’s books, including Anderson’s book since she moved to South Dakota in 1974. She said it was interesting for the speaker to use technology to share without the need to come.

“That’s awesome you can have speakers do that,” she said.

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