Reflections on Little House on the Prairie

Housework: Ma Ingalls did a LOT of work. Just reading about all the work she did makes me feel exhausted. And it’s like, who cares if their dresses were clean and pressed? Nobody is there to see them. Me, I think I’m exerting huge effort to put on a pair of wrinkled cargo pants to make my way to Target (see below re: Target), and there’s Ma wringing things out in the creek by hand, and then IRONING it afterward?! I mean, I applaud her determination to look nice, but it’s sort of akin to…I don’t know. I have no comparison to make here – it’s too crazy for me.

Racism and Prejudice: As impressed (and bewildered) as I was with Ma’s cleaning and cooking, I didn’t like her attitude toward the Indians. Yes, she was a product of her times, but not everyone was so jerk-faced about them. What I most appreciated was Laura’s innocent questions such as, “Isn’t this the Indians’ land? Aren’t they sad to have to move?” but those questions were silenced (see below re: never speaking at the table). Pa didn’t seem nearly as judgmental as Ma did, and I’m wondering if it came down to fear. Ma was really really afraid of the Indians, and Pa had a more balanced view?

The Family Dinner: The part about how kids aren’t supposed to speak at the table, unless they are spoken to? Made me nine shades of nostalgic for something I’ve never experienced, because most dinners I can’t get a word in edgewise to Homes. Ma and Pa could shut Laura up with three words: “Laura, that’s all.” And she’d stop. How did they do it?

Material Goods: Mary and Laura were SO THRILLED at getting their own tin cups…and that’s the sort of thing I’d pick up at Target without even a thought. Not to mention the occasional random art supplies like construction paper or notebooks or markers or stickers…. Imagine how thrilled they’d be!

Crazy Talk: What would’ve happened to them if Pa died? I mean, that’s a huge risk they’re undertaking, going off into the unsettled prairie, and as capable as Ma wields her spider-cooker thingie, I don’t think she’s quite up for chopping down and hauling lumber, and building cabin-sized things (like cabins). I guess I’m not enough of an adventurer to be a pioneer, but it’s hard to sympathize with them when they’re endangering not only themselves but their very young daughters by venturing into the great yonder. There are snakes and wolves and things, and all kinds of other dangers!

Do It All Over Again: And then, after all that work making that sweet little cabin with the Ridiculously Symbolic and Special china doll on the mantel, they had to abandon the cabin and venture off again to start over. All that work. I need a nap now.

One More Thing: No, I don’t know what is up with all the gopher drawingss. I can’t seem to stop.


  1. PB Rippey · October 19, 2012

    Don’t stop with the gophers! They are artfully symbolic. My GGrandmother, grandmothers and mom ironed their sheets. Gah! My mom still does. But when she stays at my house? The uber-threaded guestbed sheets (a gift from her) are wrinkled. I warn her that I just. Can’t. Iron. Sheets. Chop the head off the chicken, make the dinner, dessert, clean up, face danger and iron the sheets? Pioneer women were amazing. They paved the way for polyester and Kenmore dishwashers. Great post, Beth–good to check in with the past. Well, some of it, anyway!

    • Beth Hull · October 19, 2012

      Ironing sheets?! That’s one part of my special version of hell.

  2. readingisdelicious · October 19, 2012

    Ironing is horrid. Hate it. Try to hang up everything immediately or fold everything and hope the wrinkles get smushed out. Usually just makes more wrinkles…

    • Beth Hull · October 19, 2012

      Same here. Hang things up right away. Well, at least drape them over the baby gate until it gets so weighted down by apparel it threatens to break.

  3. Randi · October 19, 2012

    I think they had ginormous spiders as well.

    • Beth Hull · October 19, 2012

      Then, um, yeah, not the place for me! YIKES.

  4. Brenda Visser · October 27, 2012

    Maybe I’m strange, but I actually like ironing! I find it relaxing. It beats washing dishes, mopping the floor, vaccuuming, cleaning up after the pets any day! Maybe ironing was a positive thing for Ma…

    • Beth Hull · October 27, 2012

      I’ve never liked ironing, but I do love sweeping and vacuuming. So yes, maybe ironing was relaxing and enjoyable to Ma Ingalls. I hope so–it seems she did a lot of it!

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