Photos and Text Throughout Body of This Page
– Rights Given to Use in Any Publicity (Print or Online) or Newspaper Article directly about or referencing Sarah Uthoff or Trundlebed Tales
or Laura Ingalls Wilder
Scroll down to find:
- background talking points
- a sample press release
- text about specific programs
- answers to the questions I most frequently get from the press.
The text is interspersed with photos so be sure to keep scrolling to make sure you’ve seen it all.
Sarah S. Uthoff
P.O. Box 111
Solon IA 52333
- respected Laura Ingalls Wilder authority
- BA in History Education from University of Iowa
- MLS from the ALA endorsed program from the University of Iowa
- 6th Generation of family to live in Johnson County, Iowa
- Grew up on the family farm (raised Hereford cattle, Suffolk Sheep, brown egg laying chickens, and LOTS of barn cats)
- Reference Librarian at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
- Former Director, Oxford Public Library in Oxford, Iowa
- Past President of a national Laura Ingalls Wilder organization
- Publicity Chair, Country School Association of America
- Historic Foodways Chair, Midwest Open-Air Museums Coordinating Council
- Blogger since 2007
- Podcast since 2010
- Social Media Counts
- Major Past Presentations
- Published Works
- Previous Press
- Just how interested are people in Trundlebed Tales? Take a look at our latest numbers post.
Sample Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: May 7, 2019
QUESTIONS? Call XXX-XXXX
Laura Ingalls Wilder Comes to XXXXX XXXXX XXXXXX
The XXXXX XXXXX XXXX is hosting a very special event. Kirkwood Community College Reference Librarian and historical interpreter Sarah S. Uthoff will be presenting a program on famous author and pioneer Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Uthoff is a respected authority on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life. She is a much in demand Humanities Iowa speaker and also has spoken at several of the places Laura lived. She has been a regular speaker at Laura Ingalls Wilder Remembered at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa and continues as the keynote speaker at Laura Days at Laura’s birthplace in Pepin Wisconsin.
Uthoff’s interest in Wilder began before she can remember and before anyone knew what was happening, she was “playing Laura,” visiting the Laura sites, and learning how to do the things Laura did around her family farm. In the words of one cousin, “Laura took over her life and everybody’s who knew her.” When Sarah grew up, she got her degree in history education, got actively involved with living history and historic foodways, and began to research the history around Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her latest project is searching out copies of letters written by Wilder to fans and press about it has appeared in many publications. To learn more about Uthoff, Wilder, or the quest for letters, visit http://www.trundlebedtales.com
After the program you can ask Uthoff those pressing Laura questions that you’ve always wanted to know.
The show will be great for both children and adults and both are invited to wear period clothing! EVERYONE will enjoy the show more if they’ve read at least one of Wilder’s books. Come join us at the XXXXXX XXXXX XXXXX Date Time.
Questions? Phone XXXXX. Program is free & open to the public.
Text Specifically for Particular Programs
General Laura aka A Long Way Home
It’s 1931 and Laura Ingalls Wilder has invited you, her neighbors, over to talk about her writing. She’s trying to get a book that tells her life story. She’s been rejected again and again. She’ll tell you her story and ask for your help. Should she just give up or should she rewrite it one last time? Be sure to bring any questions about things you’ve always wanted to know. If you have a “Little House” outfit. Feel free to wear it.
Uthoff will be presenting Packing Up: the Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Come be transported back in time to 1894. Life hasn’t been easy for pioneer Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family. Since she married her Manly, they’ve tried to farm in South Dakota, Minnesota, and even Florida, but they’ve met problem after problem. Now having saved up a stake to start again in the land of the big, red apple, Mansfield, Missouri, Laura is packing up to leave De Smet for the last time. Each artifact in the old trunk holds a story and Laura will share them with you.
In the Kitchen With Laura
Drop by Rocky Ridge and Laura will invite you into her kitchen. While she tells you about her life, she’ll also share about food history with plenty of opportunities for people to come up and help cook. It will include a chance for everyone to try a dried plum and taste ginger water.
A Day in a One-Room School
Come with us back to 1900 when we go through a typical day in a one-room school. Learn about attending school like Laura Ingalls Wilder did. Learn about the building, the lessons, the punishments, and its impact on the community. Watch photos our reenactors as they go through a day in one-room school from opening ceremonies to walking home. Whether you went to a one-room, rural, or country school and want to share your memories or are learning something new, be sure to be there before we ring the bell and start our school day.
Thanksgiving: From Pilgrims to Pioneers
Lifelong Laura Ingalls Wilder enthusiast Sarah Uthoff will present “Thanksgiving: From Pilgrims to Pioneer.” Sarah received both her BA in history education and her Masters of Library Science from the University of Iowa. She is currently a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. Sarah is an active Wilder researcher and was president of a national Laura Ingalls Wilder organization. She is also social media chair for the Country School Association of America and serves on their board.
Originally presented at the national Association of Living History Farms and Museums conference, “Thanksgiving: From Pilgrims to Pioneer” looks at some examples of how Thanksgiving was celebrated over the years. The Ingalls family serves as guides but included is information from many other sources. It traces back traditions to where they belong (mostly with the Victorians) and talks about why we associate Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims.
Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas
It’s Christmas 1939 when Laura Ingalls Wilder has just received a magazine with her daughter’s description of their celebrating Christmas and thinks back on how they celebrated Christmas over the years. Afterwards you can ask her those pressing questions about Laura that you’ve always had.
Possible Additions for Press Releases
If you are using a Humanities Iowa grant to bring me here is the text to add:
The XXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXX has received funding from Humanities Iowa, a private, non-profit state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities to host this presentation. A cultural resource for Iowans since 1971, Humanities Iowa offers many cultural and historical programs and grants to Iowa’s communities.
Here are questions I frequently get asked:
How long have you been presenting on Laura Ingalls Wilder?
I started presenting when I put together a program for my county 4-H presentation when I was 9 years old. I’ve been playing Laura ever since. I didn’t have too many bookings as a 9-year-old, but now I’ve even spoken at five of the Laura Ingalls Wilder homesites or museums and all around the Midwest.
How did you get interested in Laura Ingalls Wilder?
When a friend of my mom’s found out she was going to have a little girl she told her she had to get her this set of books. She’d never heard of them before — she was a Black Stallion girl herself — but she started collecting the “Little House” books at garage sales. Everyone started reading them to me and when I got older I started reading them myself.
What have you found most fascinating about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her life?
There are so many interesting things about Laura’s life that it’s hard to pick just one. If you’re asking what I admire most about her, it’s her bravery. It’s easy to be brave when you’re not afraid of something, but when you are scared and persevere anyway that’s true courage and Laura is such a great example of that for so many people.
What’s your favorite “Little House” book?
That’s a hard question for me because I see them all as one big story. When I was growing up it was always the book that was closest in age to me right then. Now I’ve aged out, it’s harder to pick. I can definitely say that my favorite designed book is the paperback Garth Williams version of Long Winter. I love how there are butterflies at the beginning before the storm hits and another at the end on when normalcy is restored. Watch how the snowflakes slowly increase and finally go off the page surrounding you in snowflakes. It’s just a gorgeous book. Helen Gentry did the actual book design with Garth Williams illustrations. She was a high quality book designer and I think it definitely shows. However, when I think about it a lot of my favorite individuals stories though are from On the Banks of Plum Creek.
Do kids still read the “Little House” books?
Yes, they definitely do and many kids still love them. It has certainly come down from the number of kids who read them in the 1970s and 1980s for a couple of reasons.
First, the NBC TV show “Little House on the Prairie” was a definite advertising blitz. Both the books and the homesites really benefited from that advertising. We haven’t had that kind of boost for awhile even though a few other productions based on the books have come out.
Second, the series isn’t as widely used in schools anymore. Many schools had multi-discipline curriculum that would pull in different subjects for example Reading and Social Studies. Sadly No Child Left Behind discouraged that kind of multi-discipline units. Social Studies aka history was also severely cut back in the amount of time they were allowed. Even as we move away from NCLB, many teachers who came through school after that weren’t given the social studies background because they didn’t teach it much so this is an ongoing problem. Many older people first fell in love with Laura in school so that is a long term loss to the number of fans.
Third, and this is the one I’m most concerned about, is how far the books are separated from the everyday experience of children. That’s nothing to do with Laura, but more with the limited experiences of today’s kids. Laura does a great job explaining pioneer life, for example what a spider is a frying pan on legs used to cook over an open fire, but saying a frying pan with legs doesn’t make any sense if you don’t know what a frying pan is. How many children see their parents cook with a frying pan or even cook something at all that isn’t from a mix or in the microwave? I’ve talked to kids that literally think food just appears in the grocery store because that’s where food comes from. When I taught in an elementary school there was a cornfield literally within 20 feet of the classroom window and the kids couldn’t tell me the basic parts of the corn (ears, kernels, cob, silk), if that’s what kids in Iowa are like what chance of knowing this stuff does an urban or suburban kid have? When kids today are so separated from this kind of thing in their everyday life, it’s a challenge for Laura to break through even with the best description in the world. Kids still do break through and love Laura, but it’s getting harder.
What’s a homesite?
Basically it’s a Laura Ingalls Wilder museum. There is some variance between people whether they specifically mean the museum or the entire town where Laura lived. I use it for the town, but other people don’t.
What do you enjoy most about these speaking engagements?
I enjoy getting to know the fans and help spread the word about Laura’s life. In September I was back again speaking at Laura Days in Pepin, WI and it was great to see all the people come back for more. I’m still excited about a new type of program I started a couple of years ago where volunteers come up and create part of the program. In the Kitchen With Laura (which I have 2 versions of now set in the 1930s and another in the 1890s) is very popular and the newer one In the Classroom With Laura (about Laura teaching in a one-room school) is coming along. I did both versions of In the Kitchen With Laura in Pepin in back to back years. The second year a mother came up to me and said her daughter had helped me with biscuit making last year and she’d been making them ever since. I try and put a lot of hands on learning into my programs to pull people into the story and people seem to really enjoy it.
Why are you so interested in Laura Ingalls Wilder?
That’s always a hard question for me because what I don’t know is how come everyone else isn’t as interested in Laura as I am. When I talk to other people one of the things they bring up most is the warm feeling of family. Whether they had that experience themselves or only wanted to have it the Ingalls have been surrogate family for many people.
People also want to be Laura. They want to be the spunky girl who stands up and does what’s right even if she is afraid. They want to conquer everything, marry the hero of the books, and become a famous writer. Even as children they want to be of real importance to the welfare of their family. I didn’t realize how vital that was to people until I read some grown-up fans accounts and they talked about how they wanted to be important to their family like Laura was to hers. That angle hadn’t occurred to me, but there seem to be a lot of people who feel that way.
I still think though it comes down to the quality of the books. They are just well written. The characterizations sing out and you really feel like you are part of this family. The descriptions put you in that time and place and sometime you just have to sit back and look at such a lovely turned phrase.
The books pull people deeper and that can take different forms. For some people it makes them very interested in the TV show. Some people want to track down information about the people who appeared in the books. Others do genealogy of Laura. I’m more interested in the social history side myself besides specific facts about Laura as a person I want to know more about how she lived. What was school like when she attended and taught? What would she wear? What would she eat? What music would she listen to?
Laura just draws you in a way I don’t think a lot of other writers do. Although not many people do reenacting professionally like I do, there are lots of volunteers around the country who go into local classrooms and libraries to share their love of Laura. They create Laura collections, not just of books, but of artifacts of things mentioned in the books. I just don’t see that happen much with other writers. For example, you see people being Mark Twain a lot, but you don’t hear much of Mark Twain collectors of things mentioned in his books.
Are the “Little House” books just for girls?
Laura hated it when people said the books were just for girls. They definitely written for BOTH boys and girls. There are some things like cooking, quilting, and fashion, but there are also dangerous adventures like being pulled by a flooded creek or fighting a prairie fire or going out on on to the prairie when there could be a blizzard coming. There are animal stories like Jack being lost, school stories like the bully being punished, and farm stories like how they used to shear sheep or plant wheat. Plus, there is lots of food, especially in Farmer Boy, but really even when they don’t have much of it Laura describes food and who doesn’t like food?
In fact, two of the best known and most distinguished Wilder researchers are men, William T. Anderson and John E. Miller. Hundreds of men have come up to me after my programs to tell me how much they loved it when their teachers read them the books in school. Then there are men like Aubrey Sherwood who loved the books so much he promoted them before anyone else was very interested and Tim Sullivan who loved the books so much he built the Ingalls Homestead and all the other men who made the homesite museums we know today possible. Men and boys definitely love the books too if they actually read what’s there and not what they THINK is in there. There ARE more girls who do things like come out to the pageants and dress up but that doesn’t mean there aren’t boys who love reading the books.
You seem to have a lot of different programs, why?
I have had several bookings where I present every year. I want to make sure people come back so I like to do something different each year. Most years I develop a new program, sometimes I substantially rework an old one instead. The programs that work well are added to the roster. Programs that don’t go over well disappear into the night never to be seen again.
What should the audience be prepared for in the presentation?
It isn’t necessary to do anything special to prepare, although it always helps if you’ve read at least one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. Everyone should enjoy the program even if they haven’t. It also makes it more fun when people come in costume, but most people don’t. Come in with an open attitude there are opportunities for the audience to get involved in most programs, so participate!
Last Updated: July 24, 2019
By Sarah S. Uthoff firstname.lastname@example.org