About Melissa Sue Anderson

by Website Editors | Sep 1, 2020

Mary Ingalls: God’s world isn’t fear and hate. It’s love, its understanding.
Woman: Amen to that!
Mary Ingalls: And learning is part of that understanding.

—Season 4, Episode 15 “Whisper Country”

Early Life and Career

Born September 26, 1962, in Berkeley, California to James and Marion Anderson, [1] Melissa moved to southern California with her sister, Maureen, and her parents when her dad was transferred. [2]

Because she had asthma, Melissa took dancing lessons with Louis DePrine who encouraged her to take acting lessons. [3] She recalled, “I wanted to be a dancer, and he felt acting would be good for me.  So I took some lessons. Then I pestered my mom for a year to get me an agent. She did, hoping I’d get acting out of my system if I did a commercial.”[4]

Melissa had her first screen kiss on the “The Brady Bunch.” [5]

As Mary Ingalls in “Little House on the Prairie”

In her book, The Way I See It, Melissa describes how Mary Ingalls does not do much in the “Little House” books. [6] At first she felt under-utilized because her acting skills were unknown and the writers (and Michael Landon) were unwilling to risk writing material for her. That changed when Michael Landon was hospitalized with meningitis and could not do his close-up shots for a scene in “The Raccoon” (Season 1, Episode 10). Landon told the editor to “See how it plays. I think she [Melissa] can carry the scene on her own.”[7] She did and better material was written for her after that.

Mary Ingalls Going Blind

Her most challenging acting experience was going blind in season four. Melissa knew her character went blind in the books and confronted Michael Landon about it but, “I told her to trust me,” Landon said. [8] She worked hard to make the character believable. “I went to the Foundation for the Junior Blind, for specific instructions on how a young person adjusts to recent blindness,” Anderson said. “It was the only time in the history of television that a series regular had lost their sight and not gotten it back… ever.”[9]

For her performance in “I’ll Be Waving as You Drive Away” Melissa was nominated for an Emmy in the category Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. [10] She did not win but it put her on the map.

“Little House” Education

The same day Melissa was nominated for her Emmy (August 10, 1978), she graduated from high school at age 15. Only one month a year was spent at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in La Canada Flintridge [11] because her education was with her on-set tutor, Mrs. Minniear. “Mrs. Minniear was terrific, the perfect combination of charm and discipline. I learned a lot from her.”[12]

She learned a lot from Michael Landon, too, by watching him direct on the set. One day Landon turned to her and said, ‘You want to be a director, watch this.’”[13] Landon appreciated her inquisitive nature. “She’s not only a beautiful, talented actress,” Landon said, “but she’s bright and curious. By the time she’s 20 she’ll be able to star and direct.”[14]

“Little House” Accolades

Widely recognized for her “Little House” work, she shared the Western Heritage Award for Fictional Television Drama in 1975 with Ed Friendly, Michael Landon, Karen Grassle and Melissa Gilbert; in 1980 she accepted the TP de Oro Award in Spain for Best Foreign Actress (Mejor Actriz Extranjera); and she was inducted into the Great Western Performers Hall of Fame by the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in 1998. [15]

Life Other Than “Little House”

During “Little House on the Prairie” Michael Landon asked her to play his former girlfriend in his autobiographical TV Movie “The Loneliest Runner.”

For her portrayal in the ABC Afterschool Special “Which Mother is Mine?” she won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children’s Programming. [16]

In 1981 she was nominated Best Young Motion Picture Actress for the Youth in Film Awards for the psychological thriller “Happy Birthday to Me.” She also appeared in popular TV series including “Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island,” and “Murder, She Wrote” plus playing the First Lady in the TV Mini-Series “10.5: Apocalypse.”

Michael Sloan: Writer, Producer, Husband

Melissa did not meet future husband Michael Sloan until she was cast in the series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” with Michael as writer and executive producer. [17] They also worked together on “The Equalizer” and TV movies “Memories of Manon,” “The Return of Sam McCloud,” and “Earthquake in New York.”[18][19]

When Melissa and Michael together pitched Michael Landon on doing “Where Pigeons Go to Die,” [20] Landon made Melissa an associate producer on the project. [21]


Melissa and Michael married March 17, 1990. [22] Daughter Piper was born February 15, 1991 [23] and her son Griffin arrived on June 14, 1996. [24] Melissa decided to devote more time to her children and less time on acting. “I decided to retire when I had my kids and to work only occasionally for friends. I never wanted to see that look on my children’s faces.” The ‘look’ was Michael Landon’s daughter being ignored at her own birthday party while her dad was being mobbed by fans. [25]

In 2010, Melissa published her memoir, The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House.

Melissa says: “I have enjoyed putting my children first and being at home with them day in and day out. As much as I enjoyed my career, I have been even happier playing my parent role. I’ve worked very hard; it is the most difficult job there is and by far the most rewarding. I’m confident I made the right decision for me and for our family. [My kids] are both terrific individuals, and I’m proud to be their mother.”[27]

Since then, her children have grown up and moved on, so Melissa is working on new projects, such as “The Brits Are Coming,” which is in post-production as of the publication of this article in 2017.[28]

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] Gritten, David. “With Dates Like Sinatra Junior Melissa Sue Anderson Is Outgrowing Her ‘Little House.’” People 1 June 1981
[2] Norman, Nina. “Melissa Sue Anderson: Bright Star on the Prairie.” Fayetteville Northwest Arkansas Times 11 November 1979
[3] Miley, Scott. “Melissa Anderson’s role challenging.” Anderson Daily Bulletin 14 September 1979
[4] Norman, Nina. “Melissa Sue Anderson: Bright Star on the Prairie.” Fayetteville Northwest Arkansas Times 11 November 1979
[5] Melissa Sue Anderson: actress. Internet Movie Database

[6] Anderson, Melissa. The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House. Globe Pequot Press, 2010, pg. 3.
[7] Anderson, Melissa. The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House. Globe Pequot Press, 2010, pg. 38.
[8] Reilly, Sue. “Landon’s Little Kids.” People 11 September 1978
[9] “Celebrity Then and Now: Melissa Sue Anderson.” Stanton Daily website accessed 14 August 2017
[10] “’Holocaust’ Tops Emmy Nominees.” The Indianapolis News” 10 August 1978
[11] Delmar, Carie J. “Actress Sees A Bright Future – Independent Melissa Anderson Displays Confidence, Ambition.” Daily News of Los Angeles 15 April 1987
[12] Anderson, Melissa. The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House. Globe Pequot Press, 2010, pg. 43.
[13] Witbeck, Charles. “Blindness: portrayal convincing.” Winnepeg Free Press 6 January 1978
[14] Jory, Tom. “Mary has grown up in the ‘Little House’.” Journal and Courier 2 October 1978
[15] Melissa Sue Anderson: actress. Internet Movie Database

[16] Rosenberg, Howard. “Donahue Tops Daytime Emmys.” Los Angeles Times 5 June 1980
[17] Anderson, Melissa. The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House. Globe Pequot Press, 2010, pg. 228.
[18] Melissa Sue Anderson: actress. Internet Movie Database

[19] Michael Sloan: writer, producer. Internet Movie Database

[20] Anderson, Melissa. The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House. Globe Pequot Press, 2010, pg. 234.
[21] “Where Pigeons Go to Die.” Internet Movie Database

[22] Anderson, Melissa. The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House. Globe Pequot Press, 2010, pg. 235.
[23] Anderson, Melissa. The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House. Globe Pequot Press, 2010, pg. 237.
[24] Anderson, Melissa. The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House. Globe Pequot Press, 2010, pg. 238.
[25] Anderson, Melissa. The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House. Globe Pequot Press, 2010, pg. 51.
[26] “Melissa Sue Anderson.” Biography.com
[27] Anderson, Melissa. The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House. Globe Pequot Press, 2010, pg. 52.
[28] “The Brits Are Coming.” Internet Movie Database

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. Love Little House so much!

  2. Little house on the prairies, best home television series to ever hit the screens. No swearing, with the most excellent actors and actresses with excellent story lines!

  3. Love Melissa Sue Anderson great actress.

  4. Happy birthday Melissa Sue Anderson. I am looking forward to reading your book. You are a beautiful young lady. Congratulations on everything you have done in your life, especially being a parent. God bless. Robin

  5. I love Melissa Sue! I just recently ordered her book. I didn’t have the opportunity to purchase it until now. She has always been my favorite. Not because she went blind, or had awful things happen to her; I didn’t have a close relationship with my sister or brother, They were gone by the time I got pre- teen. They both acted indifferent toward me- It got to the idea that when my neice was born, I was able to hold her after she was born, I didn’t get to see my nephew. For some reason my brother cut me out of his life. Anyway- I considered Mary to be a stand in sister for me & Adam a stand in brother. I know, it sounds silly. It comforted me. I can’t wait for the book to come out. ????

  6. I love each and every one of LHOP
    Still watch it till this day, I have the the LHOP books and now about to get the way I see it your such a blessing…… love all of you .

  7. Hi Melissa, My names is Colleen Webster. You are about 7 months younger then me. I still faithfully watch LHOP 5 days a week. I always felt Micheal Landon.showed more attention to Laura.. you were such a good girl. I always wondered how you did that fall in the barn. Now I think it may have been from your dancing days. I named.my son Landon, he is now 28. I’d love to have you as my fb friend if you wish. I love your morals. God Bless

  8. Happy birthday Melissa loved watching little house on the prairie when I was young never missed an episode and I still watch all the rerunds today.Happy birthday have a good one.

  9. Happy Birthday Melissa! I was a big fan of yours when you were playing on Little House well have a wonderful day and hope to see you in new film projects!

  10. Thank you for this interesting article. I also grew up with LHOTP, and I still watch it every chance I get. Melissa as Mary is definitely one of my top 5 favorite characters. She is just brilliant as Mary Ingalls Kendall!

  11. Love love this show

  12. Loved watching the Ingalls family and cast on Little House. Thankyou for giving us a behind-the-scenes view of relationships between cast members & letting us know of other media presented by the cast. I am 62 and have been given the privilege of bringing An Immigrant’s Story to publication. I am writing the Foreword & Afterword with archived documents of a Danish immigrant born in 1859, whom built the house I grew up in. Could be a screenplay written some day.

  13. I grew up watching Little House, and still watch the reruns, so thank you for this article, I loved it!

  14. I grew up on Little House on Prarie❤️ I’m now 57 yrs old still watch the rerun now it’s closed caption as I miss out while grown up as I’m hard off hearing n no close caption during that time❤️

    • You were always my favorite!! Happy Birthday ????????????

  15. There are TV Shows that come and go. Some, we were lucky enough to watch in their entirety, for many years, from the very first episode, to the very last, including many TV Specials and Movies. I only have a few of those on my list. The Andy Griffith Show, I Love Lucy, The Big Valley, The Beverly Hillbillies, I Dream of Jeannie, All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude, Barnaby Jones, The Waltons, The Dukes of Hazzard, Charlie’s Angels, Dallas, Seinfeld, Frazier, Sex and the City, and Little House on the Prairie.

  16. Mary is my favorite as well I always had a crush on her I still watch ever show now that’s is on IMDB TV app on my Amazon TV I can watch th them anytime
    I think Laura was just a little brat always getting her way she didn’t even care about her dog jack until he died and when Bandit came in the picture she pushed him away as well until the old lady near the church the house that burned down she living at
    But I still love the shows

  17. I like Laura Ingalls and her friends. I liked it when Laura met her future husband. Enjoyed their courtship throughout the series The show told the viewers what kind of life the Ingalls lived with hardships, sorrow, happiness new life. Mr.Edwards was a special friend to Laura in the show

  18. Why was Mary written out of the story line?
    She was such a beautiful little girl.

    I just started season 9 and I am so disappointed every one is gone! What happened? Im glad I didn’t watch in in its heyday I would have been so angry!

    Thank you

    • She cried to much

  19. Very well written and organized! Wow!

  20. Little house on the prairie tv series – watching you feel you get to know the characters and also the actors actresses, i think it brings much joy, also learn things about history and prairie life, i do crafts and research many ways to do things at home, also invent ways to use things in the kitchen, here is some for you all: put original listerine in a spray bottle to cool you and it is a good bug repellant and hand sanitizer and spray your plants and good cleaner: another is make thyme or garlic extract to use for bug repellent, Melissa thyme extract is good to treat acne and i read acne and asthma are related, my daughter had asthma really bad sometimes, i had to sit up with many nights while she had much trouble breathing, i know how you felt, thank you and everyone on LHOTP, happy birthday Melissa

  21. Happy early birthday Melissa! I treasure all your portrayals. Your are truly gifted.

  22. Hello Miss blue eyes, i am Brenda Williams, i live in La. I still watch on the Prairi.its so nice to see what a beautiful young lady you are, no wonder, you were a beautiful child. Forgive me, i am new at this massaging. Sounds like your life is like hoir TV life, loving and caring. I am all alone now , my busband of 49 years passed away three years this July and one of my two boys died recently, my other son is in Navy and not easy to see him much. Well, it’s nice to have had a chance to write my commentary. Have a wonderful future and God Bless you.

  23. Happy Birthday Melissa
    I watched and enjoyed Little House on the Prairie series for many years
    Have all the tapes and to this day watch the show in reruns whenever I can.

    I enjoyed many of the shows that you were the main character, I felt for you when you played those parts

    I hope you have a Great Day and a Great Year

    • I watched and absolutely enjoyed every episode of Little house as a child. I’m now 47 yrs old and I still watch and enjoy Watching the show. My husband thinks I’m crazy and obsessed with the characters of the show because I research different things about them and I find it so fascinating that yeah, I guess I’m a little obsessed. But I’m a good way of course. This show will always be one of my all time favorites.

  24. I like this article. I appreciate the fact that she chooses her children over being one of the megastars always working and having nannies to raise their kids. Now that they (her children are adults) it will be great seeing her in front of the screen more. I always felt she was an excellent actress.

    • I am still watching the series..There is aiways a moral at the end of each episode..God Bless each and everyone that no longer are with us from the series..I love each and every character for what they brought to the show and their individuality..

      Thank you and God Bless You….Gone but will never be forgotten..

      • Just to let you know that my four small grandchildren and I watched every season on Amazon Prime. The last two Little House movies are not on Prime. “Bless the Dear Children” and “The Last Farewell”. It upset me pretty bad that after all of those seasons that we watched they are not even available.

  25. Mary was always my favorite! To me and this is just my opinion but I always thought that Laura was just too much of a sense stealer seems like it was always about Laura, Laura this and Laura that. Like for instance in the ” I’ll be waving as you drive away episode when Charles finally tells Mary the truth about her condition, about her eyes and after a while after she’s told she gets up and she walks and Charles turns around and there stands Laura and it’s like the camera just goes off Mary and on to Laura and she runs off like she’s always doing and like my God this should be Mary’s moment not Laura’s I mean Mary’s the one going blind not Laura but the whole sense is treated like it’s Laura going blind and not Mary and Laura was always so bad for getting so jealous anyway this the one main reason why Mary is my favorite nothing against Melissa Gilbert I know she’s only playing the part that she’s supposed to and she’s good at it.

    • Good stuff, Faye. I never considered some of your critiques, but, I see your wisdom here. I’ve been binge watching “Little House” on two cable channels for a few months now. It’s a terrific show and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching. By tracking from the pilot episode brings a more comprehensive feel for the characters and how they are evolved. Landon did a wonderful job of bringing this series to television and keeping it alive for so many years.

      Thanks, Faye.

      – Dale

    • What you forget is the series was based on the writings of Laura from her perspective, so of course the show focused more on Laura and others not so much. Had the books been written by say Mary Ingalls or Carrie then the show would have been focused on either of them.

    • I understand how you feel, but the show is about Laura . I think Mary is beautiful and amazing. But, In the show Laura and Mary had a boy dispute going on and the were mad at each other. Laura was mad cause she had to clean up things for Mary, in fact Laura did not know about Mary going blind until she over heardPa telling Mary.

    • I agree…Laura always crying and running….Mary was my favorite too…plus no matter what…she always forgave that nagging Laura

    • Read the books and understand who the main character is. I liked Mary but Laura was featured in the show exactly how I expected her to be. Exact and Hollywood don’t see the same. I tried to watch the show through the authors eyes . It made more since. As a history major and Texas farm boy and Aggie I saw more truth to the acting Didn’t like it Anderson should have tried out for Laura. Felt sorry for Carey.

    • I love each one on this show. Ms.Olson cracks me up along with Mr.Edwards. I watch this show all day and evening.


    • I Totally Agree But That’s How The Producers N Michael Landon set it up…..im still watching reruns of my favorite childhood show and learning more about the actors and show everyday.

    • The little house book series were written by Laura Ingalls Wilder so of course she is the dominant character in the television show.


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