Little Congresswoman on the Prairie

little house on the prairie

Melissa Gilbert grew up right before our eyes in the real America—the one on television. We watched her blossom from ‘tween to matron as Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie, based on the real-life stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder in all her proto-Randian glory and produced by Jewish cowboy Michael “Little Joe” Landon.

Melissa Gilbert has always represented America

Melissa Gilbert has always represented America

Unlike some of those other child stars of the 70s and 80s, Melissa did not wind up robbing convenience stores or getting a PhD in something we can’t even pronounce. She wasn’t one of those Hollywood princesses like Brooke Shields, Jodie Foster, or her little sister Sara what went to fancy Ivy League colleges. Instead, she attended the school of hard knocks and high times with the brat pack. There was a brief engagement to Rob Lowe, and she and Jennifer Grey may have traded boyfriends, possibly while in the same bed, but who remembers? It was the 80s! Eventually she settled down and got married. Then she did that again. And again.

One of them was Tron.

One of them was Tron.

In 2005, she was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild, which is not an honorary position, but a real stepping stone and pretty good for a girl who went to a one-room schoolhouse on the plains. You know who else was president of the Screen Actors Guild? Ronald Reagan, that’s who!

Not one of Melissa Gilbert's husbands

Not one of Melissa Gilbert’s husbands

But not much happened after that. After she failed to take home the trophy on Dancing with the Stars, and being 97 years old in Hollywood-lady years, she and Husband Numero Tres, Timothy Busfield, decided to move to the Wolverine state. That would be Michigan. And YES, we had to look it up.

Little Congresswoman on the Prairie

Yeah, yeah, it’s Laura Ingalls and that guy from “Thirtysomething,” but am I the only one distracted by the fact that the soup kitchen is sponsored by Toyota?


Why Michigan? Maybe she came for the waters. Maybe she pinned a spot on a map while blind drunk blindfolded. Why ever she came, it wasn’t to pay taxes. She owes over $300,000.

"And I'm glad-I-didn't-marry-the-one-who-ran-up-$300,000-in-back-taxes Rob Lowe."

“And I’m glad-I-didn’t-marry-the-one-who-ran-up-$300,000-in-back-taxes Rob Lowe.”

And so, with no other prospects, our plucky heroine decided to follow once more in the footsteps of Ronnie Reagan and also Sonny Bono, the Gobernator, that guy from the Love Boat, and the rest. She’s running for office. Congress, specifically.

Ironically, her district is in East Lansing, which is near Lansing, where her sister’s television family on Roseanne lived, so there’s kind of a family connection sort of.


She’s a Democrat, whose motto is she “knows what working families need.” But can she overcome her wild past and complete lack of formal education or experience in The Real World—which she was never on—and convince Michiganders she’s good enough, she’s smart enough, and gosh darn it people like her, just like that senator from another flyover state who also used to be on TV? More importantly, who will be her campaign manager? We’re hoping Sam Seaborn is available (even if he did once leave her at the altar).

"Wait, so that reporter who ends up with C.J. Craig is married to my ex-girlfriend in real life? Damn, Hollywood is a small world."

“Wait, so that reporter who ends up with C.J. Craig on West Wing is married to my ex-girlfriend in real life? Damn, Hollywood is a small world.”

Her campaign might be a long shot, but bring out the cameras and this could be better than Veep!

Marion Stein

Marion writes television recaps and reviews for the Agony Booth, and books you can find over at Amazon.

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