Beginning the book on Elisabeth Sewall Alcott, and taking you on the journey

I have begun work on a biography of Elisabeth Sewall Alcott and will be sharing updates and thoughts the writing of this book through this special blog dedicated to Lizzie. I invite you to subscribe to the blog — click “Subscribe” located on the menus at the top of the page.

The Littlest Woman: The Life and Legacy of Lizzie Alcott, the Real Beth March

I have begun work at last on a biography of Elisabeth* Sewall Alcott; she is best known as the real life prototype of Beth March of Little Women, written by her older sister, Louisa May Alcott. After spending nearly 8 years researching her life, I am ready to write about it.

Diary of a biography

Writing such a book can take years to complete and the enormity of the task is overwhelming at times. This plus the fact that I am learning so many interesting aspects of writing biography inspired me to create this diary so that you can share in the experience. As I work through the steep learning curve of writing this book, I am hoping these posts will offer information that aspiring biographers will find helpful. It is also a way to hold myself accountable to you – to work in a disciplined manner and to…

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XX. Confidential

From the LW150 blog: What a wonderful post by NY Times best-selling author of the Penderwick family novels Jeanne Birdsall!

Little Women 150

By Jeanne Birdsall

Louisa settled at her desk, preparing to slog through another chapter of Little Women, this book she was writing only for the money. It was meant to be read by girls, which meant she needed to stay away from high drama and thunder, her usual ways to advance a story. She rubbed her temples—a headache threatened—unwittingly mussing her hair. Who was she to write for girls? A woman who’d never been a conventional girl, who barely knew what such girls talked about and wished for.

Stop fussing, she told herself, and get to work. Where was she in the story? The mother of the March family, Marmee, had just rushed home from Washington, where she’d been nursing the girls’ father, to find that Beth had miraculously escaped death from scarlet fever. The chapter needed to begin with quiet joy and gratitude. Louisa picked up her pen…

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Chapter XVIIII. Amy’s Will

from the LW 150 blog: “Amy’s Will” – very interesting account of Amy’s Catholic moment.

Little Women 150

By Monika Elbert

I am interested in Catholicism and the rosary’s presence within this very New England novel. In “Amy’s Will,” the Gothic momentarily intrudes in Aunt March’s household, where poor Amy is a captive slave in her role as attendant to the old woman. Aunt March’s maid, Esther, the “French woman” who is forced to change her name from the more Frenchified “Estelle”—“on condition that she was never asked to change her religion”—brings a sense of exoticism with “odd stories of her life in France” (192) and with her Catholic customs. Amy goes through Aunt March’s treasure trove of jewelry and chances upon a rosary, which she mistakes for a fine piece of jewelry. Indeed, it is the piece she most desires: she looks “with great admiration at a string of gold and ebony beads, from which hung a heavy cross of the same” (193). Esther concedes that she “covets” it as well…

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XVIII. Dark Days

From the LW150 blog: When “no” means “no” and “yes” means “yes:” Jo’s directness teaches an important lesson.

Little Women 150

By Marlowe Daly-Galeano

As an adult reader, I think the most important relationship in the “Dark Days” chapter is Jo and Beth’s. The anguish that Jo experiences during Beth’s illness stems from her awareness that she may lose the companionship of her dear sister. When Beth finally pulls through the threatening fever, Jo and Meg “[rejoice] with hearts too full for words.” Yet, when I was a young reader, the sisters’ relationship in this chapter mattered far less to me than the relationship between Jo and Laurie. In fact, if you had asked my junior-high self what was significant about “Dark Days,” I would have rolled my eyes and answered, “The most important part is the kissing.

For years, I thought of this as the chapter that revealed the chemistry between Jo and Laurie, the proof (in those few kisses) that they belong together. And, yes, I know you…

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XVII. Little Faithful

From the LW150 blog: “Little Faithful:” The cost of ambition; the cost of faithfulness

Little Women 150

By Anindita Bhattacharya

Louisa May Alcott has immortalized American girlhood in her nineteenth century novel Little Women. The narrative reflects Louisa’s own very ambivalent views on womanhood with a curious juxtaposition of didacticism, sentimentalism, and feminism. Whether it is Jack and Jill: A Village Story or Behind a Mask, her ‘women’ are always struggling to strike a balance between fulfilling their womanly duties and nurturing their ambitions, and also being sufficiently punished for such predilections.

The seventeenth chapter of Little Women represents this conflict through the episode with Beth. It begins with the girls giving themselves a little ‘holiday’ from all the household chores and responsibilities in the absence of Marmee. Meg promises to watch over her sisters, Jo agrees to help everyone and refrain from her brash manners, Beth avows complete faithfulness to the little duties at home, and Amy pledges obedience in Chapter Sixteen when Marmee leaves for…

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Lecture by John Matteson for the 150th anniversary of Little Women

From the Concord Free Public Library: Engaging and informative lecture by Professor John Matteson for the Concord Festival of Authors, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women! Be sure to check out the full lecture here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xwSshdEfWo

Little Women and the meaning of agape love by Dr. Cathlin Davis

Dr. Cathlin Davis, a perennial favorite at the Summer Conversational Series gave a sermon at her church about Little Women! A rare discussion about the religious element of the Louisa May Alcott classic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKRddg9-TLM