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