Katherine MacGregor, the Meddlesome Harriet Oleson on 'Little House on the Prairie,' Dies at 93

NBC/Photofest
Katherine MacGregor with Richard Bull on an episode of 'Little House on the Prairie'

The veteran stage actress appeared on all nine seasons of the long-running NBC drama.

Katherine MacGregor, who portrayed the gossipy Harriet Oleson on the long-running NBC drama Little House on the Prairie, has died. She was 93.

MacGregor died Tuesday at the Motion Picture and Television Fund's retirement home in Woodland Hills, a spokeswoman confirmed.

From 1974 to 1983, MacGregor appeared as Harriet, the wife of mild-mannered Mercantile general store owner Nels Oleson (Richard Bull), on 153 episodes of Little House on the Prairie, covering all nine seasons of the series that was set in the 1870s and '80s in Walnut Grove, Minnesota.

"I look for the humor of Mrs. Oleson," she told the Santa Cruz Sentinel in 1981. "She was originally painted as just black-and-white mean. Anyone that mean has to be a fool. So I began mixing farce into it. I think the audience counts on seeing Mrs. Oleson fall on her fanny."

Melissa Gilbert, who starred as Laura Ingalls Wilder on the series, paid tribute to MacGregor on Twitter.

After Little House on the Prairie ended, MacGregor appeared onscreen only once more, in a 2014 short film. She was said to be on a pilgrimage in India during the filming of the post-series TV movie The Last Farewell in 1984.

Born Dorlee Deane MacGregor on Jan. 12, 1925, she was raised in Fort Collins, Colorado, attended Denver University and graduated from Northwestern. She moved to New York in 1949 and studied under Sanford Meisner, Stella Adler and N. Richard Nash, who cast her on Broadway in 1958's Handful of Fire.

Billed as Scottie McGregor, she appeared in a national tour of The Seven Year Itch in the mid-1950s and played a longshoreman's mother in Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront (1954). She later had guest-starring roles on such series as East Side/West Side, Mannix, Emergency!, All in the Family and Ironside.