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Melissa Gilbert
Melissa Gilbert after Drug Free America shoot - cropped (5242325680).jpg
Gilbert in December 2010
26th President of the Screen Actors Guild
In office
October 15, 2001 – February 22, 2005
Preceded by William Daniels
Succeeded by Alan Rosenberg
Personal details
Melissa Ellen Gilbert

(1963-05-08) May 8, 1963 (age 60)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Political party Democratic Party
Bo Brinkman
(m. 1988; div. 1992)

(m. 1995, divorced)

Timothy Busfield
(m. 2013)
Children 2
  • Paul Gilbert (father)
Relatives Jonathan Gilbert (brother)
Sara Gilbert (sister)
Known for Little House on the Prairie
The Miracle Worker
  • Actress
  • director
  • producer
  • politician
  • author
Years active 1967–present

Melissa Ellen Gilbert (born May 8, 1963) is an American actress, television director, producer, politician, and former president of the Screen Actors Guild.

Gilbert began her career as a child actress in the late 1960s, appearing in numerous commercials and guest starring roles on television. From 1974 to 1983, she starred as Laura Ingalls Wilder, the second oldest daughter of Charles Ingalls (played by Michael Landon) on the NBC series Little House on the Prairie. During the run of Little House, Gilbert appeared in several television films, including The Diary of Anne Frank and The Miracle Worker.

As an adult, she continued her career mainly in television films. Gilbert has also continued with guest starring roles on television and has completed voice work for animation such as Batman: The Animated Series as Barbara Gordon / Batgirl. From 2009 to 2010, Gilbert appeared as Caroline "Ma" Ingalls in the touring production of Little House on the Prairie, the Musical. In 2012, she was a contestant on season fourteen of the popular reality dance competition show Dancing with the Stars on ABC.

Gilbert served as the President of the Screen Actors Guild from 2001 to 2005. In 2009, her autobiography Prairie Tale: A Memoir, was released. In 2014, she wrote a short story for children, called Daisy and Josephine as well as My Prairie Cookbook: Memories and Frontier Food from My Little House to Yours.

In 2016, Gilbert ran for U.S. Congress as a Democrat in Michigan's 8th congressional district and she won the Democratic primary. She later dropped out because of health issues stemming from a 2012 accident.

Early life and family

Gilbert was born in Los Angeles, California, on May 8, 1964, to a newly engaged couple, Kathy Wood and David Darlington, and given up for adoption immediately after birth. She was adopted one day later by actor and comedian Paul Gilbert and his wife, dancer and actress Barbara Crane, the daughter of The Honeymooners creator Harry Crane. They later adopted a son, Jonathan, who co-starred on Little House on the Prairie.

Gilbert's parents divorced when she was 8 years old. Her mother then married attorney Harold Abeles, and together they had biological daughter Sara Rebecca Abeles (the actress known professionally as Sara Gilbert) on January 29, 1975.

On February 13, 1976, Paul Gilbert died. The marriage of Barbara and Harold Abeles later ended in divorce. According to her biography, Gilbert was raised in her adoptive mother's Jewish religion, but did not have any formal religious education or conversion ceremony.


Early years

Little House on the Prairie Melissa Gilbert 1975 Crop 1
Gilbert as Laura Ingalls, circa 1975

Gilbert's earliest television appearances were in dozens of commercials, including one for Alpo dog food with Lorne Greene (Michael Landon's television father on Bonanza). She also attended school with Landon's daughter, Leslie Landon. It was Leslie who informed her that she had won the role of Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie, beating out over 500 child actresses for the part. The pilot was shot in 1973 and was a ratings success. Almost a year later, Gilbert began filming the series. Gilbert became extremely close to the Landon family after her adoptive father died.

Gilbert had limited contact with Landon after Little House ended during the 1983–84 season. Seven years later, she was contacted by Landon's family and upon news of his condition, paid him a heartfelt visit following his May 9, 1991, appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson where he discussed his pancreatic cancer. She visited Landon at his Malibu home where he was, by then, bedridden, and they spent the afternoon together. Landon died one week later. When Gilbert gave birth to her son with second husband Bruce Boxleitner on October 6, 1995, they named him Michael, in honor of Landon.

Career after Little House

Melissa Gilbert at the 1991 Emmy Awards cropped
Gilbert at the 1991 Emmy Awards

Gilbert has continued to work regularly, mainly in television. She starred as Jean Donovan in the biopic Choices of the Heart (1983), and as Anna Sheridan in three episodes of Babylon 5 with then-husband Boxleitner in 1996. She also provided the voice of Batgirl on the 1990s Batman: The Animated Series, though she would be replaced by voice actress Tara Strong for the series' follow-up The New Batman Adventures.

For her contribution to the television industry, Gilbert received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6429 Hollywood Blvd in 1985. Her then-fiancé, Rob Lowe, was present with her when her star was unveiled during the ceremony.

In 1998, she was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

In 2008 and through 2009, Gilbert played Caroline "Ma" Ingalls in the musical adaptation of Little House on the Prairie. This world premiere production at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis was directed by Francesca Zambello and also starred Kara Lindsay as Laura. The show ran through October 19 and was on a US National tour for 2009–10. The tour ended in June 2010 at Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri.

In March and April 2018, Gilbert starred in an Off-Off-Broadway, limited-run production of Geraldine Aron's 2001 one-woman play 2001 My Brilliant Divorce.

Dancing with the Stars

In March 2012, Gilbert joined the cast of celebrity contestants on season 14 of Dancing with the Stars. She was paired with Maksim Chmerkovskiy. During week four's show, while dancing the Paso Doble, she fell and hit her head on Maksim's leg and suffered a mild concussion and was taken to a hospital. She went home to recuperate, but returned to continue in the competition. In week eight of competition, she was eliminated, finishing in fifth place.

Screen Actors Guild presidency

Gilbert was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild in 2001 after a contentious candidacy, in which she ultimately beat her opponent, Rhoda actress Valerie Harper, 21,351 votes to 12,613 votes after a second vote was taken. In 2003, she was re-elected, defeating Kent McCord with 50% of the vote to his 42%. In July 2005, she announced that she would not seek a third term. She was succeeded by Alan Rosenberg, who assumed the guild presidency on September 25.

2016 congressional campaign

On August 10, 2015, Gilbert announced her campaign for Michigan's 8th congressional district in the 2016 elections to the United States House of Representatives. Gilbert, who was the presumptive Democratic nominee in the district, dropped out of the race in May 2016, citing health issues.

Personal life


After her relationship with Rob Lowe ended, Gilbert left for New York City to star in the play A Shayna Maidel. Gilbert was set up with actor Bo Brinkman, a cousin of actors Randy Quaid and Dennis Quaid. The couple married on February 22, 1988, seven weeks after her split from Lowe. Their son was born on May 1, 1989. The couple divorced in 1992.

Weeks after Gilbert's divorce filing, actor Bruce Boxleitner's former wife set him up with Gilbert. Gilbert had met Boxleitner as a teenager when they both were on Battle of the Network Stars; he was her teenage crush. After reconnecting, they dated on and off for over a year. They were engaged twice and both engagements were ended by Boxleitner. After reuniting for a third time, they married on January 1, 1995, in her mother's living room. Gilbert gave birth to their son , on October 6, 1995. Gilbert was stepmother to Boxleitner's two sons. On March 1, 2011, Gilbert announced that she and Boxleitner had separated. On August 22, 2011, Gilbert filed for divorce from Boxleitner.

In January 2013, Gilbert's representative confirmed her engagement to actor Timothy Busfield. They married on April 24, 2013, lived in Howell, Michigan, from 2013 to 2018, and moved to New York City late in 2018. Also in 2018, the couple purchased a cottage in the Catskill Mountains of Upstate New York. Gilbert and Busfield have been renovating the cottage and intend to live there permanently.



Year Title Role Notes
1967 Reluctant Astronaut, TheThe Reluctant Astronaut Niece
1979 Nutcracker Fantasy Clara (voice)
1985 Sylvester Charlie
1986 D... Free Kids: A Parent's Guide Video
1987 Blood Vows: The Story of a Mafia Wife Marian (Wife) Movie
1989 Ice House Kay Shattered Trust
2007 Safe Harbour Ophelia MacKenzie Video
2015 One Smart Fellow Ellen Short film
2019 Guest Artist Producer
2019 When We Last Spoke Ruby


Year Title Role Notes
1968 The Dean Martin Comedy Hour Girl on Santa's Lap Episode: "1968 Christmas Show"
1972 Gunsmoke Spratt's Child Episode: "The Judgement"
1972 Emergency! Jenny Episode: "Dinner Date"
1973 Tenafly Suzie's sister Episode: "The Cash and Carry Caper"
1974–83 Little House on the Prairie Laura Ingalls A lead role (191 episodes)
1977 Christmas Miracle in Caufield, U.S.A. Kelly Sullivan TV film
1978 Love Boat, TheThe Love Boat Rosemary 'Rocky' Simpson Episode: "Rocky"
1978 The Hanna-Barbera Happy Hour Herself (Guest Star) Episode 1.2
1979 Miracle Worker, TheThe Miracle Worker Helen Keller TV film
1979 The Little House Years Laura Ingalls TV film
1980 Diary of Anne Frank, TheThe Diary of Anne Frank Anne Frank TV film
1981 Splendor in the Grass Wilma Dean 'Deanie' Loomis TV film
1983 Choices of the Heart Jean Donovan TV film
1983 Little House: Look Back to Yesterday Laura Ingalls Wilder TV film
1984 Little House: The Last Farewell Laura Ingalls Wilder TV film (Events occur after the events of Bless All the Dear Children)
1984 Family Secrets Sara Calloway TV film
1984 Little House: Bless All the Dear Children Laura Ingalls Wilder TV film (Events occur before the events of The Last Farewell)
1985 Faerie Tale Theatre Gerda Episode: "The Snow Queen"
1986 Choices Terry Granger TV film
1986 Penalty Phase Leah Furman TV film
1987 Blood Vows: The Story of a Mafia Wife Marian TV film
1988 Killer Instinct Dr. Lisa DaVito TV film
1989 Ice House Kay TV film
1989 Chameleons TV film
1990 Without Her Consent Emily Briggs TV film
1990 Forbidden Nights Judith Shapiro TV film
1990 Joshua's Heart Claudia TV film
1990 Donor Dr. Kristine Lipton TV film
1990 Lookalike, TheThe Lookalike Gina / Jennifer TV film
1991 The Hidden Room Episode: "Spirit Cabinet"
1992 Stand by Your Man Rochelle Dunphy Main role (8 episodes)
1992 With a Vengeance Jenna King / Valerie Tanner TV film
1992–94 Batman: The Animated Series Barbara Gordon / Batgirl (voice) Recurring role (6 episodes)
1993 Family of Strangers Julie Lawson TV film
1993 With Hostile Intent Miranda Berkley TV film
1993 Shattered Trust: The Shari Karney Story Shari Karney TV film
1993 House of Secrets Marion Ravinel TV film
1993 Dying to Remember Lynn Matthews TV film
1994 Babymaker: The Dr. Cecil Jacobson Story, TheThe Babymaker: The Dr. Cecil Jacobson Story Mary Bennett TV film
1994 Against Her Will: The Carrie Buck Story Melissa Prentice TV film
1994 Asbestos in Obstetrics Fire Captain TV film
1994 Cries from the Heart Karen Barth TV film
1994–95 Sweet Justice Kate Delacroy Main role (22 episodes)
1995 Zoya Zoya Ossipov TV film
1996 Babylon 5 Anna Sheridan Episodes: "War Without End: Part 2", "Shadow Dancing", "Z'ha'dum"
1996 Holiday for Love, AA Holiday for Love Emma Murphy TV film
1997 S... in a Small Town Sarah Jenks TV film
1997 Childhood Sweetheart? Karen Carlson TV film
1998 Outer Limits, TheThe Outer Limits Teresa Janovitch Episode: "Relativity Theory"
1998 Murder at 75 Birch Gwen Todson TV film
1998 Her Own Rules Meredith Sanders TV film
1998 Touched by an Angel Michelle Tanner Episode: "The Peacemaker"
1999 Soul Collector, TheThe Soul Collector Rebecca TV film
1999 Mistaken Identity Sarah Barlow TV film
2000 Vision of Murder: The Story of Donielle, AA Vision of Murder: The Story of Donielle Donielle TV film
2001 Sanctuary Jo Ellen Hathaway TV film
2002 Providence Lorna Berlin Episode: "Smoke and Mirrors"
2002 Presidio Med Grace Bennett Episode: "Once Upon a Family"
2003 Then Came Jones Devon Jones-Thomas TV film
2003 Storyline Online Herself Episode: "My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother"
2003 Hollywood Wives: The New Generation Taylor Singer TV film
2004 Heart of the Storm Cassie Broadbeck TV film
2005 Thicker than Water Natalie Travers TV film
2005 Fat Actress Herself
2005 7th Heaven Marie Wagner Episode: "Honor Thy Mother"
2006 Nip/Tuck Shari Noble Episode: "Shari Noble"
2007 Sacrifices of the Heart Kate Weston / Anne Weston TV film
2011 Christmas Pageant, TheThe Christmas Pageant Vera Parks TV film
2012 Dancing with the Stars Herself (Contestant) Dance competition (14 episodes)
2015 The Night Shift Lindsay Episode: "Hold On"
2015 Secrets and Lies Lisa Daly Recurring role (5 episodes)
2017 Tenure Tilly Masters TV film
2018 Hometown Christmas Mary Russell TV film

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Title of work Result
1980 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Special The Miracle Worker Nominated
1980 Young Artist Award Best Juvenile Actress in a TV Series or Special Little House on the Prairie Nominated
1981 Golden Globe Award Best Actress – Television Series Drama Little House on the Prairie Nominated
1982 Young Artist Award Best Young Actress in a Television Special Splendor in the Grass Nominated
1983 Young Artist Award Best Young Actress in a Drama Series Little House on the Prairie Won
1984 Young Artist Award Best Young Actress in a Drama Series Little House on the Prairie Won
2000 Golden Boot Awards Golden Boot
2006 TV Land Awards Most Memorable Kiss Little House on the Prairie Won

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Melissa Gilbert para niños

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