The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women

Features thousands of biographic and thematic essays on Jewish women around the world. Learn more

Melissa Gilbert

b. May 8, 1964

by JWA Staff
Our work to expand the Encyclopedia is ongoing. We are providing this brief biography for Melissa Gilbert until we are able to commission a full entry.

Melissa Gilbert in a 1975 promotional photo for Little House on the Prairie.

Courtesy of NBC Television Network/Wikimedia.

After a highly successful decade as the lead on Little House on the Prairie, Melissa Gilbert defied the odds for child actors by becoming a Hollywood power-broker as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 2001–2005. Adopted at birth by comedian Paul Gilbert, Melissa Gilbert got her start in TV commercials at age two. She played Laura Ingalls Wilder on Little House on the Prairie from 1974–1984 while starring in dozens of film roles, including 1979’s The Miracle Worker, 1980’s Diary of Anne Frank, and 1983’s Choices of the Heart. In 1985 she became the youngest actress with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. After the series ended, she continued to work in both films and television, with guest appearances on Babylon 5, 7th Heaven, and Nip/Tuck, as well as a stint on Dancing with the Stars in 2012. As president of SAG, she fought for reforms, including new contracts for actors working in commercials and those working in television and films. In 2001 she also became vice president of the AFL-CIO. As of 2015 she chairs SAG’s Task Force on Affirmative Action and the AFSTRA/SAG Young Performers Steering Committee. She published Prairie Tale: A Memoir in 2009.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Melissa Gilbert." (Viewed on May 28, 2023) <>.


Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Get JWA in your inbox

Read the latest from JWA from your inbox.

sign up now