“Housekeeping ain’t no joke …” Victorian Huswifery with the Alcotts

Coming up on Thursday, February 8 from 7 to 8:30 pm at the Brigham Hill Community Barn in Grafton, MA (my hometown), I will be giving a presentation on the Victorian housewife as seen through the experiences of the Alcotts:


I will explores the back-breaking work of the typical Victorian housewife through the experiences of Louisa May Alcott and her family. The Alcotts dwelled in all kinds of homes, from rural to city, from slum to mansion. Through their experiences I examine the love-hate relationship between 19th century housewives and the endless chores of cooking, cleaning, sewing and laundry.

The presentation will include a slideshow of pictures of various homes where the Alcotts lived, along with various tools they would have used in daily housework.

It is sponsored by the Grafton Historical Society in partnership with the Grafton Public Library.


The Brigham Hill Community Barn is found on 37 Wheeler Road in  Grafton. It’s a beautiful setting for this presentation.

Email me at louisamayalcottismypassion@gmail.com or call 508-839-0000 for more information.

Hope to see you there!

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12 Replies to ““Housekeeping ain’t no joke …” Victorian Huswifery with the Alcotts”

    1. Thanks for your interest. I actually have something else planned for the Conversations (if we get accepted, partnering with someone) but I am going to make an audio recording of the presentation which I will eventually post as a podcast.

  1. Dear Susan, This sounds so very interesting. I wish i could be there!

    I thought you might like a sneak preview of the BBC new Little Women series which was on here in the UK over Christmas and which I thoroughly enjoyed,with a few reservations….!

    BBC Little Women 2018, Review

    I loved it! However, It is a lot more earthy than any previous versions I have seen and this will not be to everyone’s cup of tea.

    The girls are not overly pretty and Marmee is definitely pretty worn out with her struggle against poverty. This gives the production an air of reality, which some versions have lacked in the past and which some people may not like.

    When we love a book so much, it is inevitable that our preconceptions of each character will be either shattered or confirmed, when we have our own ideas of the lovely March girls and their world and these do not match up to the Director’s. Because of this I admit I had to adjust and “stick with it” in the first episode before I appreciated the whole series.

    Individual performances were terrific – Angela Lansbury as Aunt March is superb, as is Jonah Hauer-King as Laurie.

    Some of the scenes, although mostly faithful, are a little too truncated and rushed for my liking, but with cut budgets and a belief that audiences can’t concentrate for longer than a few minutes, I suppose we have to swallow that one.

    All in all, I think this is a brave and honest – and highly entertaining – attempt to recreate our lovely March family. I hope you enjoy it when it comes to yr screens! Hilary Field, Bristol, England

    Sent from my iPad


    1. Thanks for that, I can’t wait to see it! I think the only decent Laurie until now was Christian Bale in the 1994 movie. I look forward to Hauer-King’s performance. And I will definitely keep an open mind. Right away I like that they are faithful to the Orchard House setting which was done in the 1933 Katherine Hepburn version (which I just saw over Christmas and liked very much).

  2. What could be cooler? Don’t forget the nutmeg grater that fell apart at first use, the labor-saving soap that took the skin off one’s hands, and fabulous glue that stuck to nothing but the fingers. And the commodity of daylight being in short supply most of the year.

    Sent from my Windows Phone ________________________________

  3. I will be interested in the podcast, since I can’t attend! I’ve read about Victorian housekeeping and I don’t wonder that more women didn’t go mad from the work, but then they were brought up with a hard life in the first place. Have you read Christopher Kimball’s FANNIE’S LAST SUPPER, in which he and his assistants attempt to cook a full course dinner in a Victorian-era kitchen? Harrowing!

    1. That sounds like a fun read! The bulk of my research comes from Susan Strasser’s book, Never Done The History of American Housework. Holy cow, talk about harrowing! I hope to have an audio version of the talk (if I can remember to turn on the digital voice recorder!) but I will definitely be posting my presentation as a PDF file with bibliography and footnotes.

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