About Katherine MacGregor

by Website Editors | Jan 11, 2018

Harriet Oleson: “Pride cometh before destruction; and a haughty spirit before a fall!” Proverbs 16:18

—Season 2, Episode 1 “The Richest Man in Walnut Grove”

About Katherine MacGregor

The Early Life of Katherine MacGregor

Katherine “Scottie” MacGregor was born January 12, 1925, as Dorlee Deane McGregor in Glendale, California, [1] but grew up in Fort Collins, Colorado with her mother Beatrice and stepfather Francis “Frank” Garner. [2] “We come from a little town in Colorado… …we were not class at all. We had no money; my step-dad was a railroad man.” [3] She started acting at an early age. “I was an only child, and I was aimed at show business from the time I could walk. “Maybe that’s why I enjoy silly, childish play now. I missed all that.” [4]

As a freshman at the University of Denver in 1944, she was active in the Drama Club.

Dorlee McGregor 1944 University of Denver Drama Club

University of Denver 1944 Year Book.

Dorlee McGregor 1944 Yearbook picture(3)

Dorlee Deane McGregor University of Denver Kynewisbok 1944 Year Book

In 1947 she graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Science degree, [6] then moved to New York to pursue her acting career.

Katherine MacGregor’s Theatre Career

For the 1949 summer season, she was a Gretna Playhouse company member, appearing in Philadelphia Story and The Whole Town’s Talking, among others. [7] For the National Tour of The Seven Year Itch in 1954 she started as one of the ‘dream girls,’ [8] and by 1956 had advanced to the role of Helen, the wife. [9]

Changing her name to ‘Scottie MacGregor,’ her many Broadway credits include Purple Dust, ‘Toinette, Telemachus Clay, and The Old Glory. Respected by her peers, at the memorial service for playwright Clifford Odets in 1963, she was asked to read excerpts from his plays, along with Dustin Hoffman. [10]

Many of her most acclaimed performances were in regional theatres, starring in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, [11] The Typists and The Tiger, [12] The Subject Was Roses, [13] and A Delicate Balance [14] at the Pittsburgh Playhouse with glowing reviews and extended runs in 1966 and 1968.

She made the move to Hollywood at the peak of her stage career.

Film and Television

Scottie MacGregor’s New York film and television credits are limited. She had an uncredited role in On the Waterfront, appeared in East Side/West Side, and had a leading role in The Power and the Glory for the TV series Play of the Week. Although highly trained (she studied with Sanford Meisner and Stella Adler) and a seasoned professional, the move to Hollywood did not bring success. She found work in TV movies (The Death of Me Yet, Tell Me Where It Hurts) and TV series (Ironside, Emergency!, and Mannix), [15] but the stream of the secretary, teacher, and nurse roles discouraged her.

It was a rude awakening coming to Hollywood. I was used to doing juicy parts on the stage. I was so choosy. Then I got little parts on television. Secretaries and teachers. I was used to doing sophisticated parts. They didn’t know what to do with me. They didn’t know what I could do.” [16]

I was getting ready to go back to New York and my agent called and said, ‘Could you go see somebody this afternoon?’”
“And I said, ‘Who did you say I’m supposed to meet?’”
“She said, ‘Michael Landon.’”
“And I said, ‘Well, who’s he?’” [17]

Katherine MacGregor on Little House on the Prairie

MacGregor met Michael Landon and won the role of Harriet Oleson. Harriet has been called shrewish, quarrelsome, nagging, bigoted, among others, however, Katherine MacGregor describes her as “…a person who had her own feelings about things.” [18]

Katherine worked diligently to craft Harriet into the character we love to hate. “When I got the show, I went out and I got all the books. And I read them all and I thought they were absolutely charming. I sat down and I wrote eight pages of where I came from…” [19]

I look for the humor of Mrs. Oleson. She was originally painted as just black-and-white mean. Anyone that mean has to be a fool. So I began mixing farce into it. I think the audience counts on seeing Mrs. Oleson fall on her fanny.” [20]

By the second season, she felt secure enough to make character suggestions.
“Sometime in the second season, we were on a camping trip with the Ingalls. We were crossing a stream and the script called for the camera on my husband. As I crossed, there was this scream and a splash. I suggested to the director that the scene be shot with the camera on me. I hopped over the stream, landed on both feet, then lost my balance and fell into the water. It was funny, and I got stacks of letters about it. I like to be mean and bigoted and crabby, and I love the instance when the tables are turned on Mrs. Oleson.” [21]

Occasionally there were episodes when Harriet seems to break character and the depth of Katherine’s talents are revealed, such as “Mortal Mission,” in which she fears Nels is dying from anthrax.

Katherine breathed life into Harriet Oleson for 148 episodes. Nine years later it was over. “When my agent called me up and said, ‘They’ve canceled the show,’ I felt like a deflated balloon. And when the show was over I didn’t realize how tired I was. And I didn’t really want to work anymore.” [22]

Marital Matters

Katherine MacGregor survived two brief marriages, one each on the East and West Coasts. At the beginning of their careers, she and well-known actor, Bert Remsen, were married on the East Coast in 1949 and divorced in 1950. [23]

After moving to Los Angeles she met Edward Kaye-Martin, an actor and director who was head of UCLA’s acting program from 1968 to 1974. [24] They were married in August 1969 and divorced in October 1970. [25]

When asked if she would ever marry again she said, “I don’t want to get into that kind of thing again. My first two marriages were disasters. I was too childish the first time around, even though I was 28, and too easily flattered the second time around. He said I was the most fantastic actress he’d ever seen. Flattery got him everywhere! So, no more.” [26]

Current Affairs

Upon retiring from acting, Katherine focused on her Hindu faith and was on pilgrimage in India during the filming of the final episode “The Last Farewell.” [27] She created the Wee Hollywood Vedanta Players children’s theater company and “I worked there, and wrote the plays, directed the plays, designed the plays. I was very good at it. It felt very creative.” [28]

MacGregor passed away on November 14, 2018, at age 93.   She lived at the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s home in Woodland Hills, California. Richard Bull, her long-suffering husband ‘Nels’ also lived there with his wife, Barbara Collentine.  When Richard passed away in 2014, Katherine and Barbara had dinner together and both agreed “…they had both lost a wonderful husband.” [29]

Recommendations from the Website Editors

A number of the cast members from “Little House on the Prairie” have written about their experiences. Below are links to our website articles about them, as well as to their books, which make entertaining reading and inspired gifts for fans of the television series.

Melissa Anderson

Alison Arngrim

Melissa Francis

Melissa Gilbert

Karen Grassle

Wendi Lou Lee

Ketty Lester

Charlotte Stewart

For information about Laura Ingalls Wilder whose novels inspired the TV series, please visit our Recommended Reading lists for children and young adults and adults. You may also be interested in a documentary film about Laura Ingalls Wilder.

We invite you to subscribe to the free Little House on the Prairie newsletter for all the exclusive interviews and events.

[1] “Katherine ‘Scottie’ MacGregor.” Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia Accessed 30 November 2017
[2] “Dorlee Deane McGregor in the 1940 Census.“ Archives.com Accessed 30 November 2017
[3] “Katherine MacGregor Little House interview Pt. 1.” YouTube.com, published 2 November 201; accessed 5 December 2017
[4] ”Harriet’s Not So Horrible.” The Pittsburgh Press 30 July 1978
[5] University of Denver Digital Collections. Kynewisbok, 1944 (yearbook). Digitally accessed 4 December 2017
[6] Northwestern University 89th Annual Commencement Program, 18 June 1947. Digitally accessed 4 December 2017
[7] “Delightful Farce Opens on Stage of Gretna Playhouse.” Lebanon Daily News 15 July 1949
[8] “‘’ Seven Year Itch’ Opens at Geary Tonight.” Oakland Tribune 2 August 1954
[9] “‘7 Year Itch’ Held Over at Bucks County.” Courier-Post 9 July 1956
[10] “Memorial Service for Odets.” New York Times 9 September 1963
[11] “Albee’s ‘Virginia Woolf’ Held Over to March 27.” The Oil City Derrick 27 March 1966
[12] Monahan, Kaspar. “Bargain Bill of Comedies at Playhouse: MacGregor, Noble Sparkle in Acid ‘Tiger, Typists’.” The Pittsburgh Press 16 May 1966
[13] Fanning, Win. “The Subject was Roses at Playhouse.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 18 January 1968
[14] Monahan, Kaspar. “Albee Drama A High Peak at Playhouse: Cast and Director Shine in ‘A Delicate Balance.’” The Pittsburgh Press 29 February 1968
[15] “Scottie MacGregor: Actress.” Internet Movie Database Accessed 30 November 2017
[16] Buck, Jerry. ‘Prairie’s Likeable Co-Star.” Santa Cruz Sentinel 11 June 1981
[17] “The Little House on the Prairie Phenomenon part Three: Casting Walnut Grove.” Little House on the Prairie Season 3 DVD Special Feature (Deluxe Remastered Edition) release date 9 September 2014
[18] “Katherine MacGregor Little House interview Pt. 1.” YouTube.com, published 2 November 201; accessed 5 December 2017
[19] “Katherine MacGregor Little House interview Pt. 1.” YouTube.com, published 2 November 201; accessed 5 December 2017
[20] Buck, Jerry. ‘Prairie’s Likeable Co-Star.” Santa Cruz Sentinel 11 June 1981
[21] “’ Prairie’s’ Katherine MacGregor: She’s hated and loved.” Sunday Telegram (Elmira, NY) 6 May 1979
[22] “Interview Harriet Oleson Katherine MacGregor 2emes part VOSTFR” [French language with English sub-titles]. YouTube.com, published 14 July 2014; accessed 5 December 2017
[23] “Katherine ‘Scottie’ MacGregor.” Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia Accessed 30 November 2017
[24] Oliver, Myrna. “Edward Kaye-Martin; Noted Acting Teacher (obituary).” Los Angeles Times 24 August 1989
[25] “Katherine ‘Scottie’ MacGregor.” Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia Accessed 30 November 2017
[26] “’ Ask Them Yourself.” Clearfield Progress 26 January 1980
[27] “Scottie MacGregor Biography.” Internet Movie Database Accessed 30 November 2017
[28] “Interview Harriet Oleson Katherine MacGregor 2emes part VOSTFR” [French language with English sub-titles]. YouTube.com, published 14 July 2014; accessed 5 December 2017
[29] “‘Little House’ star Richard Bull dies.” Longview News-Journal 7 February 2014

The editors of the Little House on the Prairie® website are pleased to bring you interesting articles, interviews, fan features, videos, and much more.


  1. My favorite Little House scene with Mrs Olsen is in the two part episode “Blind Journey” when, at the very end of Part two, she shakes hands with Joe Kegan and says, “Ah, Mr Kegan, it’s been a long journey.” That scene always makes me cry since before that she was so against him. She had a big change of heart on that trip.

  2. Just finished the entire series including the movies, would had loved to see her in the final movie, and what Ms.MacGregor said about her character Ms.Olsen and the audience is absolutely right and she brought so much life into the series it would not had been whole or fun without her. She made quite an impression on me when i was a child with her character, I admit i was a little terrified of her character watching LHOP the first time but I can’t think of any other actress that has her charm and talents to draw so much emphasis and attention into her character as she did. It was great to know how she was in life through the interview I feel she was a great and wonderful person full of life and vigor, loved and admired by all that know her, i think i am not alone when i say she will be sorely missed.

  3. How lovely to get to hear about the depth behind the character. Thank goodness Ms. MacGregor took on the “bit part”. It was such a vital part of the show. What a talent. God bless and thank you!

  4. I’m 66 years old and can remember reading the Little House books as a child. I watched the series as an adult and still love to watch them whenever I can. One of the best series still on television

  5. I had not heard of Katherine ‘s passing and I am saddened to learn this. Thank you so much for the memories, to this day I still watch Little House, I love the show and it’s wholesome family values, something that we do not see enough of these days. Your character lives on forever in our hearts and in our homes. ????

  6. I am so glad we have the Little House series we can still watch today. My husband and I still watch these every chance we get and my adult children watch these as well with their children and we will sometimes talk about a special episode we enjoyed seeing. I wish we had more programs on TV today for my grandchildren it has so many real life lessons that our young children need to know. Even if we try to teach them all we can in today’s society its so comforting to have these to go back to from time to time to remind us how simple life can be if we choose!

  7. I also grew up with LHOTP. I have always loved it and continue today to watch the reruns. Harriet and Nells. It was an all around great family show. I miss them all. Thank you so much for all the years of growing up in that era.

  8. I love this show and everyone in it very sorry to hear that another one as gone I love Michael Landon so handsome and everyone seems so happy with there lot xx

  9. I loved the episode of when her sister was coming to visit and she thought she would try to loose weight because her sister was always smaller than her. She was cooking ham and eggs at the restaurant and answering the telephone. She didn’t want Mel’s to see her eating and she put the plate on her chair and when Mel’s walked in she say down right in that food. So funny, but what was funnier was when her sister arrived she had gained weight and was much bigger than HArriet. Great show! Thanks Michael Langdon, you too are mised.

    • I loved this episode too.But it was actually her cousin Miriam.

  10. I always loved to watch Catherine MacGregor on Little house. It has been an all time favorite show of mine and I never missed an episode. I still enjoy the reruns. My daughters grew up watching little house also. I was so sorry to hear of Catherine’s passing. She was so funny and enjoyable to watch. I believe we all have aliitle Mrs. Olson in us. Bless you my dear lady.

  11. I watched the show in the mornings as a child in the 90’s. I love period pieces. It is so sad that our time on Earth is so short….she taught the lesson of perseverance, strong-character, hard-work, and friendship. She broke away from typical “female” life choices. We her taught the importance of friendship and how it is equal to family. That’s what I received, from reading about her life.

  12. I truly enjoyed Little House on The Prairie. I still look at it. So many life lessons.

  13. Enjoyed growing up watching the show and I am still watching the show to this day on reruns with my daughter Carolyn.

  14. I grew up watching the Little House series and, once I saw all of the episodes were available on DVD, didn’t hesitate to buy them for my kids. I sustained a severe injury to my ankle less than a year ago which left me recliner-bound for a month. I spent most of my time catching up on all of the episodes once again. Every character had a special place in my heart.

  15. Just saw that Katherine MacGregor has passed away. Like everyone else, I LOVED watching (and reading) Little House. Who didn’t want to be Laura? (I still do, 🙂 Last year I was given the full set of books from a friend for my birthday, was one of the best presents I’ve ever received. I’m so sorry Katherine is gone. I hope she knew how much joy and laughter she gave us all. I just watched Little House today, love it as much as ever. Thank you for being not only a huge part of my childhood, but of my entire life.

    • I also at 55 still love watching the show over n over… I wish we could have had more of Michael Landon stories.. Mrs. Olsen was so fun to watch

  16. I’m a fan of Little House and I watch several episodes every day if possible. My favorite character is Mrs. Olson for sure. I especially like the episode where she goes down into the ice house to ask little lou to forgive her for her behavior towards him…its an especially touching scene that most often brings tears every time. God bless Michael Landon for allowing us to watch this timeless show throughout the past several decades..I love the show and will continue watching it as long as I’m able.

  17. I watched LH when it originally aired. I bought the entire series in approximately 1998 on VCR tape. I watched the entire series, then watched again in around 2006 (probably an episode here and there in between those years).
    I’m currently watching it on TV but for some reason, they skip some of the episodes.
    Since I’ve seen it so many times, I do know what happens in every episode but when it’s one that’s continued and not recorded, it sucks because I do want to watch the continuation even though I know the outcome. I know, kind of weird (me) but it’s a bit frustrating. Also, I no longer have the VCR tapes I bought in the 1990’s, they were lost during my divorce in 2009.
    I started my grandchildren watching them in 2006 and they enjoyed the episodes they were able to watch. The series is timeless and applicable to every generation no matter what year, decade or century.
    I hope to watch the series over and over (at least 4 more times) until I’m not here to watch anymore. I know my grandchildren and their children will watch and pass onto their children.
    One of the best if not best series of books written that combines history, lifestyle, ethics, morals, kindness and real life.
    My hope is to meet Katherine MacGregor soon since she’s the oldest living actress from the series. I’m not sure if that’s possible but it’s something I really hope to happen in the near future.
    I’m a great fan of the TV series and books, I hope that people and children around the world have an opportunity to at least read or see a little of this wonderful, heart-felt series written by Laura Ingalls Wilder!

  18. I always saw “Little House on the Prairie” through the eyes of the Olsens, calling it instead “Little Mercantile on the Prairie”. Katharine played the larger than life Harriett Olsen as if she was the town’s “Queen Bee”, reminding me of Ruth Warrick’s Phoebe Tyler Wallingford on “All My Children”. Alison Arngrim’s Nellie Olsen was the equivalent of “AMC’s” Marcy Walker (Liza Colby), with both characters starting off as spoiled brats who were rivals to leading heroines, yet changing as they matured into more sympathetic young ladies. That’s very true to life, as some people who were brats or bullies as kids do end up being quite the opposite as they get older. I loved watching Katharine build up Harriett’s “follies”, acting all haughty (or as she once described herself, “persnickety”, in a rare honest moment), then falling on her face when her foibles came back to haunt her. The scene where a teary eyed Harriett told Caroline Ingalls that she considered Caroline to be her best friend is one of the great moments in TV history because it showed who this woman we had all come to know and love (and often love to hate) for who she really was.

  19. Is there some way I can send Katherine fan mail? I have never sent fan mail to anyone and I don’t know how that works. Do you contact her agent or something?

  20. Katherine you were my favorite on Little House! I grew up watching you and i remember realizing that you were playing a part and were not actually a crazy self righteous lady…lol! I still watch the reruns and i never grow tired of them or you…God Bless you for all the joy you brought and will always bring to people! Love & Prayers

  21. Mrs Oleson was one of my favorite characters – I’ve been watching the show throughout the decades along with my children and grandchildren. And no one could have played Mrs Oleson as brilliantly as this dear lady – happy birthday Scottie!

  22. Have a wonderful and blessed 2018.
    Marilyn,Joan and Marion

  23. Little House On The Prairie is MY FAVORITE show still. I watch ALL the reruns over & over & love all of them.. I especially loved Harriet Olson (Really Katherine Macgregor ) was MY FAVORITE. I really mean that & want to wish her a HAPPY Belated Birthday. I would love to have a picture of her for my collection of stars.

  24. Happy Belated Birthday Wishes! I watch Little House Monday through Friday. I got 2 of my granddaughters the Books for Christmas and also the Christmas DVD.
    Thank you Katherine for all of the smiles & laughter!

    God Bless You Sweet Lady!

  25. Hi from Italy.
    I am Kevin Vecchi and I am a huge fan of ” Little House on The Prairie” and of actress Katherine MacGregor. She is one of my favourite actress of all times and I loved her as Harriet Oleson!. I also watched her in many other films and tv shows she did during the years. I enjoyed very much this article and the beautiful photos of her as young woman.
    I tried many times to contact Mrs. MacGregor and also the retirement home where she live now, but I had no success.I would be very happy to have a photo signed by her !. I just want to ask you, if possible, if she is well. Do you know how I could contact her ?? Thank you very much
    Have a great day
    Kevin Vecchi Arco,TN ITALY.

  26. I loved watching Little house on the prairie and all the characters good family show .Happy birthday to Katherine MacGregor best wishes xxxx

  27. Being an avid fan of “Little House on the Prairie,” I always looked forward to seeing Harriet embarrassed and getting what was coming to her! She was nosey, gullible, sarcastic, vindictive, and bossy…but I loved her!! Spreading gossip, listening to conversations via the phone…it was all wonderful!! Thank you, dear lady, for sharing your craft with us…I hope you had the best birthday ever!! Take care…God bless you!! 🙂

  28. Just watched one of my favorite episodes with Harriet Olson. It is the one where she complains to bishop about Reverend Aldins relationship with an elderly parishioner who nurses him back to health following pneumonia. It is very touching and shows Harriet in a different light
    Can’t get enough of” Little House on the Prairie”. When my daughter was in grade school, she, my grandsons, and myself would sit down after school and watch an episode. Afterwards we would discuss the moral of the story. Was a great time together.

  29. Happy Birthday ??. To Mrs.Oleson , Katherine MacGregor.

  30. I enjoy your performances very much in Little House. Little House would not be the same without “Mrs. Olson”. Mrs. Olson was such a “human” character. I think there is a little of her in all of us. Happy ?..
    God bless you.

  31. Katherine played Mrs. Olsen brilliantly! I’m surprised that she didn’t win an Emmy for her portrayal as Mrs. Olsen. Little House would not have been as great of a television series if it had not been for her being cast as Mrs. Olsen. Harriet Olsen was absolutely my favorite character on the show!

  32. Happy Birthday… ??❤️

  33. I enjoy watching LH almost every day while I work in my studio. Happy birthday to the wonderful Katherine. Didn’t realize you’ve lived virtually in every place my folks did….

  34. how can i get the movies of little house


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *