Pa assured her. "You've never failed anything you tried to do, have you?"
(These Happy Golden Years)
Last Monday (March 19th) I became Laura Ingalls for a half hour. I've been working on this project for almost a year now, but I feel like I've been working on it since I picked up the first Little House book. It was as if all my years of reading and studying this subject finally were coming together. And I was terrified.
I chose to perform for my homeschool co-op. This is a group of people who have known me for many years. In some ways this was great. It was all people who knew me very well and weren't going to be annoyed or unsupportive if I messed up. But it also made me more nervous because I knew every person in the room. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to stay in character when I looked at one of my friends, a parent, or a kid. Truthfully though, most of my worries were in the buildup. I'd put so much work into my costume and my research and now my vision was finally becoming real.
So here are a few things I learned:
I started reading the Little House series at a very young age. My sisters and I played Little House, I built log cabins out of blocks, and made little Ma, Pa, Laura, Mary, and Carrie dolls. When I was twelve, I got the chance to go on a trip through the mid-west, stopping at almost all of Laura's homes. That was when I began to see Laura as a person, not just a character. On that trip I met so many enthusiastic people who wanted to tell us all the historic and gossipy facts about the Ingalls family and the people they knew. It was fascinating, and it brought a level of reality to Laura's story that I had not seen before.
Laura’s story is a very typical American concept. It is very picturesque and beautiful, and I think that is why people are initially drawn to it. But when you get past the pretty parts, you are left with the gritty, dirty, day-to-day moments, and those are my favorite. There are beautiful moments, but there are also hard moments. Pioneer families, cowboys, and the western movement, are all romanticized by media as an "American dream" and the Little House books feed into that story. Covered wagons, cotton print dresses, and baking bread all seem very nice, but the reality was often much harsher.
I often find textbook history unexciting. Learning about wars, great events, and famous people gets dull quickly. I believe the reason so many people say that history is boring, is because it was taught to them through this widespread method. Most people don't learn to love history through big events, but through personal connection. Whether that’s local history, a museum, genealogy, etc. My hope with this project is to create a personal connection for people to Laura and to the 1880s.
I would like to share the ups and the downs of what life was like in 1880 Dakota. I want people to see the more complex character of Laura then what they see in the books and TV show. I want to show people a comparison to their 2017 lives. I want them to see the difference between the everyday items they use and the ones used in the 1880s. That’s what I find most interesting about history, and would like to pass on.
My name is Rosalie Silliman, I'm a history enthusiast with a love for sewing and costumes.