Charlotte Stewart, the actress who played Miss Beadle in Little House on the Prairie, has had a very interesting life indeed. And that extends to Stewart’s romantic relationships too. You see, just a year after her husband had passed away, the actress opened the door to a member of her extended family and was immediately smitten by him. And what followed has made for quite the sweet love story.
Little House on the Prairie was a beloved, wholesome family TV show based on the bestselling books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. At the center of proceedings, moreover, was Stewart’s Miss Beadle – the schoolteacher to young Laura and Mary Ingalls. And while Stewart initially thought that she would only be on board the series for a single episode, she was wrong.
Yes, Miss Beadle was to be a continuing role. And, naturally, Stewart was over the moon that she would be a principal member of Little House on the Prairie’s cast. But while the teacher she played was undeniably upstanding, the actress herself had a skeleton in her closet.
Prior to her time on Little House, Stewart had terminated a pregnancy – a big deal at the time, as abortion hadn’t yet been legalized in the United States. She had been married to Tim Considine, her first husband, when it happened. “I’m sure I’m not the only woman who went through that at that time and had to hide it,” Stewart told Smashing Interviews in 2016. “I didn’t tell my parents. I didn’t tell anybody. Tim and I kept it to ourselves.”
Something even more serious happened to Stewart before she joined the show: a suicide attempt. She and her husband had been falling further and further into substance abuse, and she simply couldn’t quit. Stewart therefore attempted to end her life by overdosing on Miltown, an anti-anxiety drug popular at the time; thankfully, though, she survived.
Stewart went on to divorce Considine in 1972; she also left Little House on the Prairie in 1978. Following her time on the show, however, she found herself in even more of a downward spiral. The star embarked on somewhat of a rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, meeting many famous people and even having a brief relationship with Jim Morrison of The Doors. However, drink and drugs took a huge toll on her, and she ultimately ended up penniless and homeless.
“That was a really horrible time for me,” Stewart told the Star Tribune in 2016. “In the early ’80s, my business manager had managed to put a lot of my money up his nose, and I wasn’t getting jobs. I was spending too much time playing. People were trying to help me, but I didn’t want to hear what they were saying. That’s common with addicts.”
Luckily, rehab and the support of her loved ones stopped anything worse from happening to Stewart, and gradually her life and career got back on track. In 1990, for example, she began working with David Lynch – who had earlier directed her in Eraserhead – for his cult TV series Twin Peaks. Then, two years later, she married her second husband, David Banks.
But while Twin Peaks brought Stewart a whole new generation of fans, that success was tempered by yet another blow. In 1991, while working on the show, she was diagnosed with cancer and had to have two operations to remove a tumor from her breast and lymph nodes from underneath her arms. Fortunately, after weeks of radiation, the cancer was eradicated.
After that scare, however, Stewart’s personal life became stable and successful. In the ’00s she and Banks moved to Napa to be nearer to family. Stewart also started a business where she recycled old clothing and other materials. The bags she created were called “Beadle Bags,” and 10 percent of her takings went to breast cancer charities.
But, unfortunately, another tragedy was to come for Stewart. Her husband’s health deteriorated due to emphysema, leaving her to become his carer. And Banks sadly died in February 2012, aged 75, with Stewart at his side. “David, you made Charlotte happy for some many years. We all miss you,” read a memorial message left in May 2012 on his Find a Grave page.
Still, although Stewart was reaching old age by this point, she wasn’t fated to spend the rest of her life alone. One year after her husband’s death, she was staying at her brother’s house and opened the front door to find someone she knew there. He was Michael Santos, her former brother-in-law; his sister had been married to Stewart’s brother.
“I opened the door, and there was an old friend,” Stewart told Oprah: Where Are They Now? in 2016. “Michael was standing there and my brain went, ‘Yahoo!’ I think his did the same thing.” The pair had something in common too: both had lost their spouses and were currently single.
And Santos and Stewart went on to tie the knot on August 30, 2015 – when Stewart was 74 years of age. Describing the whole happy affair to Where Are They Now?, she said, “We’re coming up on our first year anniversary, and we’re going to spend it in France with a Little House on the Prairie reunion!”
“I’ve been through a lot in my life,” Stewart continued. “I had cancer, I had a real down period in my life.” But things had gotten better. She added, “I have many, many up periods, I have fallen into circumstances that were unbelievable.” And it seemed that with her new marriage, the actress was now definitely into one of the up periods.
Meanwhile, the reaction to the Where Are They Now? video was positive, with several people leaving comments of praise and congratulations for Stewart. “Loved you in Little House episodes. So very happy for you on your marriage. Very inspirational. Glad you are happy,” a fan wrote directly to the star.
Then, in 2016 Stewart began giving interviews about her new memoir, entitled Little House in the Hollywood Hills: A Bad Girl’s Guide to Becoming Miss Beadle, Mary X, and Me. And the autobiography provided a fascinating look at all that Stewart had been through in her life.
While promoting the book that year, Stewart also spoke to Smashing Interviews about the death of her second husband. “That was very hard. Thank God we decided to go through it together. He knew he was terminal, and we were able to spend at least the last three years of his life in a lovely place with comfort and with close friends and family,” she said.
And when the interviewer asked the actress what her plans for the future were, she was more than forthcoming. “My husband and I are flying to Richmond, Virginia, in a few weeks to do an event called the Great Southern, which is a Twin Peaks celebration,” she said. In fact, that same year Stewart was asked by David Lynch to return for a Twin Peaks revival.
Plus, in the same interview, Stewart spoke about just how well her life was going. “My health is terrific! I’m perfectly fine and happily remarried. I’m starting a brand new phase of my life, and I’ve never been busier. Things are better, better than ever!” she said. And after her chaotic early life, she certainly deserves it.