An announcement followed by a discovery

As you can see from the teasers I’ve been posting lately, there is a lot coming down the road! Much of it is coming from an announcement I’d like to make.

The announcement

lizzie alcott2Now that the major work for my two books is behind me, I am dedicating my efforts towards my book on Elizabeth Sewall Alcott. It will be an in-depth biography making use of the many letters and journal entries from Lizzie herself and her family members. It will be about her life as well as her death–this shadow sister will finally emerge from the shadows. I am hoping to show the impact of this unassuming and quiet woman’s life on those around her including a brilliant philosopher and teacher, and a world-famous authoress.

Those of you who have been following this blog know of my love for Lizzie Alcott. I want to afford her a voice as there are so many Lizzies among us–women and men who give of themselves behind the scenes and in the end, leave behind wonderful legacies. Judging from the portrayals of Lizzie in the various Alcott biographies, not much is known about her. When I first started doing my research three years ago, I wondered how much I would actually find. It turns out (as with most things) that everything is in plain view if you are focused on looking for it.

This book will take several years to put together (my goal is to have it published by 2018 or 2019). I will be pursuing a traditional publisher but should it not be accepted, I will consider self-publishing. This is the work of my life.

I have to say that I am so grateful for the encouragement and the support I have gotten from so many of you. All writers doubt themselves and your words and kindly gestures have helped more than you can know.

One of you (and you know who you are, thank you!) bequeathed her Beth doll to me for encouragement and she now sits by my computer:

beth doll combined

Now for the discovery

As I continue my research, I will share things along the way that I find. One of the little things I’ve always wanted to read is the King’s Chapel funeral service that Abba insisted be used at Lizzie’s funeral. Eve LaPlante mentioned some of the details in her book, Marmee and Louisa:

marmee and louisaElizabeth Sewall Alcott’s last rites were held the following afternoon at home. Abigail asked Emerson, now in his fifties, Thoreau, not yet forty, and two younger men, John Pratt and the schoolteacher Frank Sanborn, to bear Elizabeth’s coffin from the house to Sleepy Hollow, a new cemetery that the A1cott girls had known as a picnic place. “We longed for dear Uncle Sam” to preside at the funeral, Louisa told a cousin, “but [Samuel Joseph] was too far away,” traveling in Italy, so the Rev. Dr. Huntington of Boston, for whom Abigail had worked, said the service. At her “urgent request” the minister read the simple King’s Chapel burial service that had been said for her three sisters, her brother Edward, her mother and father, and her grandparents. She expected it would be said for her, too. It includes portions of the Gospel of John, the 39th and 90th Psalms, and Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. Louisa, Anna, and Abby May cast handfuls of earth on Lizzie’s coffin as the minister intoned, “For as much as it hath pleased Almighty God to take unto himself the soul of our deceased sister, we therefore commit her body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; looking for the general resurrection in the last day ….” (pages 184-185)

I recently wrote to King’s Chapel and got in touch with one of their historians who sent me the full text of that service:

page one of King's chapel funeral service
Click to download the King’s Chapel Burial Service from the Second Edition of the Book of Common Prayers According to the Use of King’s Chapel, Boston, 1811

You can download the service by clicking on the link; you can see the entire third edition at archive.org.

women and health in america-512In my next post I will share some of the background reading I’ve been doing to prepare. Obviously I need to become familiar with health care for women in the nineteenth century and I look forward to sharing with you some of what I have learned from a compilation called Women and Health in America, edited by Judith Walzer Leavitt. I found it all quite compelling and look forward to sharing some thoughts with you.

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10 Replies to “An announcement followed by a discovery”

  1. Wow, I am so excited that you are going to share your process and discoveries with us! As I begin my ‘LMA year’ with the Classics Club Women’s Literature Event, you can bet I will be one of your nosiest lurkers 🙂

    1. Hee hee! Just looked at your blog (your avatar of the crow drew me in) – looks lovely – I came into reading so late that I will never in my lifetime be able to catch up but it’s great to see things like your blog to fill in some gaps. How I wish sometimes I read like the wind like my son does – he devoured Book 7 of Harry Potter in 12 hours!

      1. One of the reasons I joined the Classics Club is because I realized how many classics I never actually read. I love that this is not school because I can read them leisurely and do more reading and research on the books and authors who really interest me.

        Oh and I realllllly like crows 🙂

      2. Crows are so smart – my sister tells a story of how a crow up at the family camp in Ashburnham, MA, picked up on the calling of a name, Al (the wife would keep calling the husband) and would call that name!

  2. I have always been interested in this most shadowy of the four sisters, and look forward to seeing your book. One other thing I was curious about is the portrait of Lizzie that you included in your post. For years I didn’t believe one even existed, since it took that long to finally find it in an Alcott biography. Do we know for sure that it is her? Is it a photograph or a drawing?

    1. It is the only known likeness of Lizzie according to Alcott scholars. It is a crayon drawing – I believe Daniel Shealy in his Annotated Little Women said it was done by the same artist who drew Bronson, Caroline Hildreth.

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