Alison Arngrim was the star of “Little House on the Prairie,” who was sadly abused during childhood. At 61, the actress is a stepmother living a quieter life while continuing with her activism.
In “Little House on the Prairie,” Alison Arngrim played the role of Nellie Oleson. She starred in the fan-favorite series for 104 episodes, and although her character wasn’t part of the prominent Ingalls family, Oleson became a trademark star.
Arngrim’s 1970s role was based on three characters from the original book series; the star was 12 when she was cast for it. The actress mastered the role so well that she won a prestigious accolade.
Alison Arngrim as Nellie Oleson in an undated photo on “Little House on the Prairie” | Source: Getty Images
She was given a Young Artist Award–Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award. Karen Grassle (Caroline Ingalls) once noted how Arngrim began shining when she became a teenager, adding:
“She wore wonderfully campy 50s outfits and, when she could drive, got a funny 50s car.”
Alison Arngrim posing for a photo created on December 25, 2007 | Source: Getty Images
Grassle also shared how her former co-star had the acting abilities of someone beyond her years and was getting better at what she did with every scene! Although she was young at the time, the actress was an infectious personality in the series.
However, things in her personal life were grimmer, confessing to being abused as a child. During an “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” episode, Arngrim revealed that a relative took advantage of her for three years from age six.
The star only first spoke up about the incident in her early 20s and then started going to therapy. Being so young when the abuse began, the actress didn’t tell anyone because she didn’t understand what was happening to her.
However, when she was old enough to understand, she refused to be a victim, and the abuse stopped. Arngrim’s “Little House” co-stars also didn’t know about her “awful” torment, and the star struggled more about keeping the secret. She wondered if people could tell what was happening by looking at her.
The actress cathartically wrote about her grueling experience in her book, “Confessions of Prairie [expletive].” When asked what inspired the book, she revealed that people often asked when she would write one whenever she shared the bizarre things that happened in her life.
Alison Arngrim backstage at the Cutting Room before her performance on August 13, 2008 | Source: Getty Images
Even before she appeared in “Little House,” people were fascinated by her background. Their curiosity included wanting information about the behind-the-scenes of the show and afterward. It began with a New York Q&A and a one-woman performance, then her extended version of her story became a book.
Fans also wanted to know about the show’s cast members, while others were fascinated by her and Melissa Gilbert (Laura Ingalls) being friends. Arngrim also spoke openly about the abuse she endured, but that wasn’t the main focus.
The star surprised people by ending up on the PROTECT board, the National Association to Protect Children, where she influenced laws so children could be better protected.
How Alison Became a Stepmother?
Arngrim’s childhood trauma didn’t stop her from finding happiness and becoming a mother. The actress became a stepmother when she married her second husband, a musician.
The star was married to her first husband, Donald Spencer, from 1989 until their divorce in 1993. That same year, she found love again and married Robert Schoonover, whose Facebook account said they lived in Los Angeles, California.
Robert’s account also revealed that he was originally from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and studied at The University of Akron. Although his wife still made appearances here and there, she mostly preferred staying out of the limelight whenever possible.
Alison’s Life at 61
About a year after Arngrim, 61 in 2023, concluded “Little House,” she started feeling depressed because of her childhood abuse. The star chose not to take medication but started going to therapy intensively.
The more confident and stronger she got, the more she started looking for ways to help others. After Steve Tracy, her onscreen husband, and Percival Dalton on “Little House” passed away in 1986 due to AIDS, she became an AIDS activist.
In 2019, she was the president of PROTECT, worked on legislative campaigns in different states, influenced federal legislation, and spoke before the California State Senate.
The actress [Alison Arngrim] had found a fulfilling life despite her torrid childhood background.
Her bond with Tracy forever changed her life, and she signed up for the Los Angeles AIDS Project hotline training program to learn all she could. The actress spoke about HIV, and she continues working with APLA today.
At one point, she worked in a fundraiser for AIDS research and visited the original historic sites in Walnut Grove. Her book was released in 2010, and she also started performing a much-loved stand-up comedy routine.
Although she wasn’t in the spotlight as much as she used to be, Arngrim remained passionate about doing good and changing lives. Some of the causes and charities she worked with included the National Association to Protect Children and A Minor Consideration.
The actress was also involved with The Body, AIDS Project Los Angeles, and AIDS Info. and had strong links to the CDC Info and the AIDS National Hotline, which could be contacted at 1-800-232-4636.
Arngrim was private about her personal life but judging by her husband’s posts, they seemed to like cats and enjoyed cooking. The actress had found a fulfilling life despite her torrid childhood background.