Katherine MacGregor, Little House on the Prairie actress, dies at 93

Katherine “Scottie” MacGregor, the actress who played the villainous Harriet Oleson on the long-running TV show Little House on the Prairie, died Tuesday at her home, PEOPLE confirms. She was 93.

MacGregor is best known as playing the wealthy, haughty, mean-spirited Harriet on the popular TV series that aired from 1974 to 1982.

Born Dorlee Deane MacGregor in 1925, she attended Northwestern University, where she majored in drama. She moved to New York in 1949 and built a career performing in the theater. She later moved to California, where she took guest roles in popular 60s and 70s shows like Ironside and All in the Family. 

In 1974, she landed her signature role on Little House on the Prairie after meeting with producer Michael Landon. To prepare for her role, she read through Laura Ingalls’ popular book series, only to find that Mrs. Oleson was barely mentioned.

She began to create the role for herself, trying to inject humor into the role, rather than making her “black-and-white mean.”

“Anyone that mean has to be a fool,” she once told NBC. “So I began mixing farce into it.”

While Harriet Oleson was originally intended to be an occasional guest character, MacGregor’s performance was so well-received that she became a series regular.

In her last years, MacGregor moved to the Motion Picture Fund Long Term Nursing Care facility in Woodland Hills, California, when she died. She was a devout Hindu.

The Little House cast members are left mourning her death. Her TV daughter, Alison Arngrim, wordlessly tweeted a photo of herself and MacGregor on the set.

“She had an EXTREMELY long, full life and is at peace,” Arngrim later wrote. “But yes, we will all miss her.”

Melissa Gilbert, who starred as Laura Ingalls on the show, paid tribute on Instagram.

“I just got word that Katherine MacGregor passed away yesterday,” she wrote. “This woman taught me so much… about acting… vintage jewelry…life. She was outspoken and hilariously funny. A truly gifted actress as she was able to play a despicable character but with so much heart. Her Harriet Oleson was the woman our fans loved to hate. A perfect antagonist.”

“The thing people outside of our prairie family didn’t know, was how loving and nurturing she was with the younger cast,” she continued. “I really loved her and I find great comfort knowing that she is at peace and, per her beliefs, her soul has moved on to its next incarnation. Farewell Scottie. I hope with all my heart we meet again next time.”

Little House on the Prairie (TV Show – 1974)

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