What Caroline Ingalls Taught Me About Feminism

I’ve been reading Little House in the Big Woods to my kids as our read-aloud, and, besides being a fun way to learn American history, it’s been eye opening about today’s “woke” worldviews, to say the least.

Here’s what Caroline Ingalls taught me about feminism.


Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

3 thoughts on “What Caroline Ingalls Taught Me About Feminism”

  1. I am so glad to hear your views on this topic. I devoured the Little House series when I was young and continue to read most of them once a year or so. As an adult, I have read everything I can get my hands on by or about Laura Ingalls Wilder. I especially love all of the journal articles she wrote in the early part of the 20th century (before she wrote the Little House books.) She was truly wise and I marvel how valuable I found her books as a child and find them valuable still as an adult. Her writing is the epitome of that which can be read and appreciated for different reasons in different seasons of life. I was saddened 4 or 5 years ago when I started reading about families who were conflicted about reading the Little House books to their children regardless of how much they might have enjoyed them as children themselves. Most of the criticism I have read surrounds the Homestead Act and the removal of Native Americans from their ancestral home lands. Much can be said about these issues and they do constitute a dark part of our history but, like all history, these events must be understood in the context of the times. Similar thing could be said about the issue of feminism and Caroline Ingalls. She recognized her husband as the head of the household and supported him in decisions made about their family’s destiny. That does not mean she was oppressed. While there are always exceptions, women and men traditionally had different and unique roles each of which were equally important. You are right, we have seen what happens to a society when no one is at home with children or tending the home. This does not mean it necessarily have to be the woman but I think it is very clear what happens when everyone is gone all day and no one manages the home and family. The other strange criticism I once read about Caroline had to do with an instance when Caroline encouraged Laura to give her doll to another girl who admired it. This was when they had first moved to a new place and were making friends with their nearest neighbors. I was saddened to read in that story that the little girl later left the doll in the snow and Laura brought it home and Ma repaired her. The criticism I read went on and on about what a horrible mother Caroline was for making Laura give her precious doll away. I took it another way entirely. I imagine it pained Caroline to do that but consider what she was facing: She and her family lived in a new place with no family close by and having good relationships with your neighbors could literally mean the difference between life and death. She was probably willing to make this gesture to ingratiate them to their new neighbors knowing she could make Laura another doll more easily than she could create helpful neighbors. The fact that she repairs the doll in the end makes for a satisfying end to the ordeal. Again, I think it is dishonest to view people of the past with todays’ standards and views as life then was simply different. To truly appreciate the past, we must be able to put ourselves in their shoes and try to understand their motivations. To do otherwise is to miss the opportunity to learn from the past – both the good and the bad. Thanks again for making me think. You do that well!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: