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Your Turn: Laura Ingalls

From the Little House book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Nominated by Callie Kimball

Hard work and rock candy: Callie Kimball says Laura Ingalls — portrayed here by Melissa Gilbert in TV's long-running Little House on the Prairie — illustrated the value of bootstrapping in a world that doesn't always take perfect care of its kids. Photo: NBC/Getty Images hide caption

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Photo: NBC/Getty Images

Laura Ingalls — the character, not the author — was a complex girl in a hostile world. That she was based on someone real gave a force to her stories that was absent from the male-driven literature at school. She wasn't pretty, she wasn't plucky, she wasn't particularly clever. Not your typical heroine, and for that I loved her all the more.

She was an example of humor, compassion, and industry I could relate to. She did farm chores that made her strong, she was smart (but only from making the occasional poor choice), and she knew the value of a dollar thanks to her hand-me-down calico dresses.

She showed that living in America involved hard work — but also that there would be square dances and rock candy once in a while. With romanticism and reality, she reinforced the Emersonian virtue of self-reliance in my latchkey adolescence.

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