Karen Grassle was born and raised in Berkeley, California, where she was the valedictorian at Ventura High School and eventually attended UC Berkeley, where she received a degree in drama and English. Shortly after college, she earned a scholarship to the London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where she became the head of the Voice Department. Grassle eventually returned to the States, where she went on to appear the New York stage. In 1974 she was cast in her first television role, and the medium has been her home ever since. Appearances on the kooky cruise ship comedy "The Love Boat" and acclaimed western "Gunsmoke" peppered her acting resume, but it's her role as matriarch Caroline Ingalls on the long-running family drama "Little House on the Prairie" that she is most recognized for. The show ran from 1974 to 1982 and brought Grassle's smiling face into the homes of millions over the years. Towards the end of the show's run she did some one-off work on the heralded Angela Lansbury detective drama "Murder, She Wrote" and in some TV movies, but "Little House" was always Grassle's main gig. After the show ended, she returned to the theatre.