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“Elizabeth, Elspeth, Betsy, and Bess”

Nursery rhyme which plays on the name Elizabeth, which was Laura Ingalls’ middle name.

“I have a sister Laura and I never did like the name…” -Pioneer Girl


For some reason, Almanzo Wilder was said not to like the name Laura, the name of both his eldest sister and his wife. In her Pioneer Girl memoir, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote that when she and Almanzo Wilder were first getting acquainted, he made a decision to call her “Bess” or “Bessie,” a variation of Laura’s middle name, Elizabeth, this after Laura quoted an old nursery rhyme to him. The published These Happy Golden Years makes no mention of this discussion.

The nursery rhyme: “Elizabeth, Elspeth, Betsy, and Bess” refers to one person, as the later three are all diminutives of the name Elizabeth. Therefore, only one child in the rhyme is taking an egg from the nest of five, allowing four eggs to remain. The illustration above is from Walter Crane’s An Alphabet of Old Friends, edition published in 1874. The rhyme is as follows:

Elizabeth, Elspeth, Betsy, and Bess,
They all went together to seek a bird’s nest;
They found a bird’s nest with five eggs in;
They all took one, and left four in.


“Elizabeth, Elispeth [sic], Betsy and Bess” (PG) – The published verse uses the names “Elizabeth, Elspeth, Betsy and Bess”
     Bess / Bessie (PG)