June 4, 2023
Melissa Gilbert’s latest project has ‘Little House on the Prairie’ roots | CNN

Melissa Gilbert’s latest project has ‘Little House on the Prairie’ roots | CNN


Melissa Gilbert’s message for women over 50 is you’re just getting started.

The actress turned entrepreneur was inspired during the Covid-19 pandemic to create a community to connect and empower women. Gilbert wanted to change the narrative around aging, so she launched Modern Prairie, an online platform with virtual crafting classes, ecommerce and a podcast, the “Knitty Gritty.”

The project is a play off Gilbert’s time starring on “Little House on the Prairie” from 1974 – 1983. She caught up with CNN in an recent interview to discuss her new venture and why she hopes it resonates with women.

The conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Melissa Gilbert works with Bright Endeavors, who make the candles sold on Modern Prairie.

What inspired you to create Modern Prairie?

“You know, we are pigeonholed into two things. We’re either that cute little daughter and lady or that horrible old shrew, stay away from her. And there’s so much more, we’re so much richer and have so many more accomplishments and have earned our right to our opinion. I found coming out of the pandemic was the importance of the little things in our lives, the really sweet, simple things, the connections, the community love, all the things we really missed while we were struggling through that horrible time. And so in the creation of Modern Prairie, my partner Nicole and I not only wanted to create a retail space, but we wanted to elevate and promote female entrepreneurs, female makers and then also create an environment where women can share the things are going in their lives at this age, whether it’s transitioning into a new job, or children leaving the nest, or the hormonal changes our bodies are going through and the grief that comes with all of those things and the fear and a lot of women feel stuck. We wanted to create a place where women could talk to other women about it.”

What do you want to tell women over 50?

“We want women over 50 to know that we see and hear them and they are not alone. They are important. The journeys their lives have taken are meaningful and we want to give them a space to value that. We know they are and can be more than just sweet old ladies. We want them to know that Modern Prairie is a community where they can share their triumphs, difficulties, transitions, and talents.”

Clearly the name ties into “Little House on the Prairie,” talk to us about the impact that show had on your life.

“I think what people don’t realize is that, I wouldn’t say I was actually a fan of ‘Little House on the Prairie,’ but while people were watching ‘Little House on The Prairie’ and learning all of these important life lessons that we were teaching and telling, I was learning them too, developing an appreciation for the sweet, simple things in life and so that ‘Prairie’ legacy is in me all the time. I don’t try to run away from it. I embrace it because it represents for me, all of the good important things, community, love, family, acceptance, understanding, compassion, and the things we all strive for in life and Modern Prairie is just the natural sort of evolution of all of that.

Would you say that a small part of Laura Ingalls has stayed with you always?

“I actually think that every woman has a Laura Ingalls inside. That spirited, curious by the way, a big word, especially for women who are older, remaining curious is going to keep you young to have that curiosity and that sort of spunk and fire. I think we all have it and we have a tendency to tamp it down.”

When you look at the landscape of television and content right now, do you think that you would want to be part of also creating something for the screen that is teaching those simple things in life for a younger generation?

“There’s a lot of talk out there in the ether about people wanting to do ‘Little House on the Prairie’ reboots, it happens every couple of years. Someone is going to do a feature film version, or a new television series, and it ends up not happening. I think the reason why is because ‘Little House on the Prairie’ is still on every day, multiple times a day, all over the world, so it’s not like it disappeared and you’re doing it all over again. It’s right there. I do think there’s a way to tell the stories. I think there is a way to continue telling the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her life as an adult. No plans to do it yet, but I would consider that for sure.”

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