What Happened to Mary

According to the 1880 census, the United States then had about 50,000 people who were blind. That was the year that Helen Keller, who became deaf and blind as an infant, was born in Alabama. Though society at that time often looked at people with disabilities as "defective," there were others, including people who actually lived with disabilities, who knew that everyone could flourish in their own way if given the right opportunities.

After Mary graduated from college, she returned to live with her family in De Smet. Some of the students who met at the School for the Blind married each other. Though Mary never married, she kept in touch with classmates by letter.

In the house on 3rd Street, the Ingalls family used cupboards and closets divided into compartments to help Mary be able to find things. A network of ropes in the backyard allowed Mary to navigate to the garden and outbuildings.

Mary played the organ well and was a church organist for 30 years. Mary, Carrie, and Grace also joined the Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor, an inter-denominational youth group.

Christian Endeavor Pamphlet

This is an 1895 pamphlet from a Society of Christian Endeavor group in Pennsylvania.
Neosho Absecon, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Mary subscribed to a braille magazine. When Carrie and Grace moved away, they learned New York Point, a system of tactile writing, that allowed them to keep in touch directly with Mary.

To earn income, Mary created fly nets for horses. When draped over a horse’s back and neck, the movement of these loose collections of string or leather discouraged insects from landing on the horse (see example). Mary embellished her nets with patterns of colored string.

When Ma and Mary went out, they dressed fashionably. As Ma struggled with arthritis, Mary said, "I am Ma’s feet, and she is my eyes." In a 1914 letter to Laura, Mary wrote "How good it is to be alive! . . . Let us be thankful that we were born. Let us fold away our fears and put by our foolish tears through the coming year and just be glad."

Mary Ingalls

Mary Ingalls

After Ma died in 1924, Mary spent time with Grace and Carrie. Mary suffered a stroke while visiting Carrie in Keystone, South Dakota. She died on October 17, 1928, at age 63.

My Father’s Violin

Mary also composed poetry. Here is a beautiful example remembering Pa and his music.

Read Poem

Learn More

This article provides even more detail about Mary's life.

Mary Ingalls

Commenting is not enabled on this course.