Friends and biographers of Anna Alcott Pratt are so busy singing her praises as a loving and selfless daughter, wife and mother that is was hard to find more substantive information. That is, until I came across Little Women Letters from the House of Alcott. Co-authors Jessie Bonstelle and Marian deForest offered journal entries from Anna’s childhood revealing more of her inner life.
Anna’s passages were direct and sweet (I made sure to copy them exactly rather than correct spelling or grammatical errors). Always her father’s daughter, she demonstrated his (and her) love of all of God’s creatures: “We watched a little spider and gave it some water to drink.”
What made Anna tick?
“Mother went to Boston and Louisa and I cleaned house all day. I love order above all things and I take great pleasure in seeing all neat about the house.”
“I find I accomplish so much more when I have a plan and certain times for certain things. I never can do things without order. I like to have something planned for every moment of the day, so that when I get up in the morning I may know what to do.”
May wasn’t the only sister to appreciate beauty
Like Meg, Anna appreciated beauty in many forms. In this entry, referring to a book called Miss Bremer’s Brothers and Sisters, Anna writes,
“It is most beautiful such a happy family. I think Miss Bremer would make a lovely mother the mothers in her books are so sweet and she has beautiful ideas about family’s. I love to read natural stories.”
“I read one of Krummacher’s parables in German. I think they are very beautiful, the language is so elegant. I love to hear beautiful words and these stories are told so simply and are full of such sweet thought.”
Vanity, vanity …
A touch of vanity is revealed as she lamented about turning old someday:
“I think it is a dreadful thing to grow old and not be able to fly about . . . it is horrid to think about being an old woman wrinkled and blind. I wish I could keep young forever. I should love to live among those I love and be with them all the time.”
I can see here why Louisa would keep her potboilers a secret from all members of her family:
” . . . Louisa read me a very silly story called “The Golden Cup.” I think there is a great deal of nonsense written now a days, the papers are full of silly stories.”
Dreams and …
Anna, like many pre-teen girls, had her dreams:
“I sometimes have strange feelings, a sort of longing after something I don’t know what it is. I have a great many wishes. I spent the day in the usual manner, sewing and studying. In the evening Louisa and I walked through the lane and talked about how we should like to live and dress and imagined all kinds of beautiful things.”
In a separate entry,
“As for me I am perfect in nothing. I have no genius. I know a little of music, a little of French, German and Drawing, but none of them well. I have a foolish wish to be something great and I shall probably spend my life in a kitchen and die in the poor-house. I want to be Jenny Lind or Mrs. Seguin and I can’t and so I cry.”
A woman of her time
Anna did end up becoming a “household drudge” (her words) but embraced the life willingly. She grew into a graceful, serene and loving wife and mother, fitting easily into the life of women of her time. Memoirs penned by friends (Clara Gowing, Llewellyn Frederick Willis) emphasized again and again her giving nature, her value as a friend, her loyalty as a daughter, and her commitment to her boys.
Love above all
Whether she was raising her children, caring for her aging father and ailing sister, or dealing with a public eager to see “Miss Alcott” or learn from the Sage of Concord, Anna did it all with great love and without complaint, earning the esteem of all who knew her.
Anna ultimately lived the life she chose to live.
If you want to learn more about Anna Alcott Pratt, here are some interesting links:
- Anna’s biography on the Orchard House website
- A letter from Anna to fans of Little Women (from Alcott in Her Own Time by Daniel Shealy)
- “A Visit with Anna Alcott Pratt” (snippet view – you would to get a copy of Alcott in Her Own Time by Daniel Shealy to read the whole letter)
- Anna’s obituary from the New York Times
Were you surprised at Anna’s ambitions? Do you think the character of Meg March does her justice?