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How Old Was Laura Ingalls When She Taught?

While researching for The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide, I knew readers (young and old) might be a bit confused about Laura Ingalls earning a teaching certificate before even graduating from school. 

Fact or Fiction? Teaching at Age 15

In Little Town on the Prairie, we read how Laura earned her teaching certificate when she was just 15. But did that really happen? 

The actual date on Laura Ingalls’s teaching certificate was dated December 10, 1883.  She was 16. The dates and ages in the story were changed but still show the need for teachers.

Dakota Territory’s actual age requirement for teachers in 1883 was 18. The district superintendents often overlooked the minimum age because of the teacher shortage. Many teachers were not the required age of 18.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri displays a photo of Laura Ingalls’s third grade teaching certificate. 

If you enjoy reading about the real Laura Ingalls Wilder and the history surrounding the Little House books, consider purchasing (or ask your library to buy) my book The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide. It's even available at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum. If you buy it through them, send me an email, and I'll send you a signed book plate. 

If you want to learn even more, I highly recommend Nancy S. Cleaveland's book, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Education in Kingsbury County. (Actually, it's  not quite a book. It's a monograph: a written study of a single, specialized subject.) As a former teacher and researcher, I found it fascinating!

Happy Trails! 
Annette Whipple is a nonfiction children's author. Learn more about her books and presentations at


  1. Where is , she buried?

    1. Laura Ingalls Wilder (as well as her husband Almanzo) are buried in Mansfield, Missouri. I was able to visit the cemetery and see their headstones when I visited there. A picture of the Wilder headstone is here.