Analysis and reflection by Susan Bailey on the lives and works of Louisa May Alcott and her family. Member/supporter of Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House, the Louisa May Alcott Society and the Fruitlands Museum.
I have two articles I’d like to share with you regarding utopian communities involving the Alcotts.
The first is a list, compiled by Alcott scholar Joel Myerson, of the archives at the Fruitlands Museum. You will see that there are several unpublished papers from Abba and Anna along with a list of books the museum holds from their time at the farm. My thanks to Joel Myerson for allowing me to share his work with you.
We had a wonderful turnout last night for my presentation, ‘”Housework ain’t no joke …’ Victorian Huswifery with the Alcotts.” Hosted at the beautiful Community Barn in my hometown of Grafton, MA by the Historical Society and the Grafton Public Library, 50-60 people turned out for my talk outlining the domestic life through the lens of the Alcotts spanning 80+ years of the 19th century.
I am pleased to present a guest post by Julia Gordon-Bramer, a scholar of Sylvia Plath. This post is an excerpt from her upcoming book titled The Magician’s Girl: the Mysticism of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Bramer writes, “It is my goal to teach the world more about Plath’s transcendentalism, where it comes from, etc. Alcott was a small part of it!”
Before presenting Bramer’s post, I must share something. In emails back and forth with Julia, I found out that my path has crossed the path of Sylvia Plath’s in several places although not in the same time period. I grew up in Wellesley, Massachusetts as did she. We both went to the same grammar school. We both attended Wellesley High School and had the privilege of being taught by Mr. Wilbury Crockett, Plath’s mentor. Furthermore, Plath lived on Elmwood Road, the same road where a brilliant musician (one of my all time favorites) who also died young, Mindy Jostyn (a classmate of mine at Wellesley High) lived.
Too many coincidences. Time for me to get to know Sylvia Plath! Here is the connection that Bramer draws between Plath and Alcott. Continue reading →
In anticipation of my presentation of “Victorian Huswifery with the Alcotts,” I thought I would share with you portions of my talk. The essence of the talk outlines the life of the family covering more than eighty years of the nineteenth century. Their wide variety of living arrangements as they struggled through poverty to eventual wealth (thanks to Louisa May Alcott’s success as an author) gives us enticing glimpses into the world of the Victorian housewife.
In this segment I discuss Louisa’s infamous work as a domestic servant for James Richardson and his invalid sister which spawned the essay, “How I Went Out to Service.”
In honor of the 150th publication anniversary of Louisa May Alcott’s novel, Little Women, Orchard House (Concord, MA USA) is being featured in a special exhibit at the 17th annual quilt festival in Tokyo, Japan that runs 25 – 31 January 2018. The Alcott quilts and examples of needle arts along with several other artifacts from the Orchard House collection have never before been displayed outside the United States, while 18 talented quilt artists were inspired by the characters and scenes in Little Women as well as artifacts in the Orchard House collection to create unique new quilt designs. Continue reading →
I am currently preparing for a presentation I will be giving about Victorian domestic life as seen through the living experiences of the Alcotts. For me the most fascinating period of that part of their history are the Boston years (1848-1855) where they essentially existed as nomads. Their dwellings ranged from cheap rented rooms and small houses in the South End slums to mansions owned by rich family relations. Eve LaPlante in her book, Marmee and Louisa, stated that the family moved so often during those years that the girls no longer unpacked their trunks (pages 153-154). In her short story, “Recollections of My Childhood,” Louisa described their move to the city in this way:
“My sisters and I had cherished fine dreams of a home in the city; but when we found ourselves in a small house at the South End with not a tree in sight, only a back yard to play in, and no money to buy any of the splendors before use, we all rebelled and longed for the country again.”