Rob Lowe Questioned Melissa Gilbert’s Decision To Give Her Mother Half of Her Earnings When She Turned 18—’Are You Really Sure?’

Turning 18 is a big birthday for child stars. When Little House on the Prairie actor Melissa Gilbert became a legal adult, her mother sat her down and suggested they continue to be “partners.” Immediately, she agreed to splitting her earnings 50/50. But Gilbert’s boyfriend at the time, Rob Lowe, questioned her decision.

Rob Lowe, Melissa Gilbert, and Melissa Gilbert's Mother Barbara Crane
Rob Lowe, Melissa Gilbert, and Melissa Gilbert’s Mother Barbara Crane | Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Melissa Gilbert didn’t really know how much money she had when she turned 18

In her memoir, Prairie Tale, Gilbert wrote that she had “some inkling that I was financially well-off.” But she didn’t know the extent of it.

Magazines reported my salary at thirty thousand dollars per episode,” she wrote. “Despite my ignorance of the business side of my career, I knew that over twenty-two episodes (a full season), that added up to a pretty good sum of money.”

Only one time did Gilbert and her mother ever discuss money.

“A few years earlier, I went to her and Harold [Gilbert’s former step-father] as we were getting ready to go on our annual Easter trip to the Kahala, and I said, ‘Listen, I want to fly in first class with you guys,'” she wrote. “Even though I was one of the most recognizable actors on TV, I still flew in coach with the kids when we traveled. My mother and Harold flew in first class. I also said that I wanted my own room—and room service, like the other kids in the other families we’d be with.”

“I’ll pay for it myself,” Gilbert told her mother.

The Little House actor wrote that her mother gave her a “bewildered look” and said, “Of course. Whatever you want.”

Melissa Gilbert gave her mother half of her earnings

Until Gilbert turned 18, she’d never questioned her mother’s role in her career. And she wasn’t aware that, upon her birthday, she’d receive her Coogan account, “a percentage of the money I’d earned, which was considerable, that had been put away until I became an adult.”

Melissa and Sara Gilbert with their mother
Melissa and Sara Gilbert with their mother | Kevin Winter/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

But Gilbert’s mother sat her down shortly after her 18th birthday and told her she thought they “should continue to be partners.” Without hesitation, Gilbert said “absolutely.”

“I was surprised by the statement,” wrote Gilbert. “I had never considered any other arrangement.”

“Good, and now that you’re eighteen, we need to make sure this is okay,” Gilbert’s mother continued. “I think it would be a good idea if we drew up papers and, you know, shared everything like partners, fifty-fifty.”

Robe Lowe questioned Melissa Gilbert’s decision

Lowe and Gilbert started dating when they were 17. They had an intense relationship from their very first date.

When Gilbert told Lowe about her and her mother’s arrangement, he couldn’t help but speak up.

Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe
Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe | Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

How Melissa Gilbert Would Sneak Rob Lowe Into Her Bedroom Window Almost Every Night

“Though I didn’t see anything wrong with it, Rob asked, ‘Are you sure you want to agree to that? I mean, are you really sure?'” wrote Gilbert.

But Gilbert was sure. She said she “owe[d] [her] mother everything.”

“My mom was still my mom,” wrote Gilbert. “She was still in charge, the oracle who guided me and who I turned to with questions. Beyond that, she was single, and she deserved to be taken care of. She had sacrificed a lot for me.”

So, Gilbert and her mother signed a contract that gave her mother “half of everything I earned, including my Coogan account, till I turned twenty-five.”