Melissa Sue Anderson’s character, mary Ingalls, top top the lover Little residence on the Prairie collection – starring Michael Landon and based on the book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder – famously ended up being blind due to scarlet fever. Later, when attending a college for visually impaired student in Iowa, the on-screen Mary fell for her teacher and also future husband, Adam kendall (who to be played by Linwood Boomer).

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In actual life, mar Amelia Ingalls (Wilder’s older sister, the oldest child that Charles and also Caroline Ingalls) never ever married or had actually children. However, several of the details of she life, as presented on Little home on the Prairie, were accurate.


Melissa Sue Anderson as mar Ingalls Kendall and Linwood Boomer as Adam kendal | Bruce Bermilen/NBCU photo Bank

Mary can not have become blind due to scarlet fever after all

On Little residence on the Prairie, Mary came to be visually impaired due to a bout that scarlet fever. At age 15, in the memorable two-part season 4 episode “I’ll it is in Waiting together You journey Away,” Anderson’s character came to be blind.

According to Wilder’s unpublished memoir, Pioneer Girl (via children MD), the actual Ingalls household did think their earliest daughter mar (who was actually 14 when she shed her sight) came to be blind as result of scarlet fever. However, lock were never ever sure of the true cause. They periodically wondered if Mary had had a punch or other medical event that led to her intuitive impairment. Their family members physician mused that her blindness may have been because of a current measles outbreak.

“One morning as soon as I looked at her I witnessed one next of her face drawn out of shape,” Wilder wrote of she older sister Mary. “Ma stated Mary had actually had a hit <…> after the stroke Mary began to acquire better, yet she can not see well…As Mary grew stronger she eyes thrived weaker until once she might sit increase in the huge chair amongst the pillows, she can hardly check out at all.”

In a 2013 write-up in the medical journal Pediatrics, researchers concluded that Mary might not have become visually impaired, and also eventually blind, due to the fact that of scarlet fever at all. Instead, they said that viral meningoencephalitis – which causes inflammation in the mind – may have been the real cause.

Linwood Boomer and Melissa Sue Anderson ~ above ‘Little residence on the Prairie’ | NBCU photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

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The real-life mar attended Iowa College for the Blind

The Ingalls’ family members doctor on Little home on the Prairie (Dr. Hiram Baker, play by Kevin Hagen) recommend them to send mar to a institution for visually impaired college student in Iowa. Favor Anderson’s character, the actual Mary did certainly attend the Iowa College because that the Blind, i m sorry later became the Iowa Braille School.

According to the Pioneer Girl blog, mar studied and also lived at the institution in Iowa indigenous 1881-1889. She graduated after eight years of study, which contained courses in every little thing from literature, history, and economics to music and also Braille.

Students also took courses in potential money-making endeavors the they can use to assist support themselves and also their family members after graduation. For she part, mary learned to do fly nets because that horses, i beg your pardon she continued to sell after she returned house to her family in De Smet, southern Dakota.

Melissa Sue Anderson and Linwood Boomer | NBCU picture Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

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She returned house afterward and lived through her family

On Little house on the Prairie, Mary fell in love through her teacher at the Iowa school, Adam Kendall. She and also Adam moved back to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, to open up their very own school for visually impaired and blind students.

In the series, Anderson’s character ended up being pregnant twice: very first with a boy, who she miscarried halfway into her pregnancy, and also then v her son, Adam Charles Holbrook kendall Jr., who died in a fire in ~ the school.

In real life, Mary never married or had actually children. However, follow to the Pioneer Girl blog, she did have a longtime boyfriend that asked she to marry him at one point. Not much is known around their relationship.

Her mother, to whom mar was specifically close, left she the family home on 3rd Street in De Smet. Castle briefly common the home with Mary and Laura’s younger sister, elegant Ingalls Dow. Mary created poetry, which she periodically published, and also continued to sell fly nets for horses. Meanwhile, Caroline (“Ma”) and also Mary additionally rented maximum ground rooms in ~ the house and did wash for neighbors to make a life after Pa’s death.

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According to the Museum the the American Printing residence for the Blind, Mary continued to be close come her household until her fatality of a punch in 1928 at the home of she sister Carrie Ingalls (now Swanzey) in Keystone, southern Dakota. She was 63 year old.