Happy Birthday to two bigger-than-life minds and hearts: A. Bronson Alcott and Louisa May Alcott

Father and daughter, polar opposites in temperament. Both brilliant (he metaphysical, philosophical; she practical, from the heart). Both spiritual (Communion with The Spirit vs. "practical Christianity"). Both prolific writers. Both bigger than life. The Alcotts loved celebrating birthdays. Abba wrote back in 1851, "I seldom omit these occasions for showing my children the joy I …

The rise and fall of Bronson Alcott, in his own words

In pulling together my research for my biography on Elizabeth Alcott, I found the need to comb through Richard Herrnstadt’s enormous volume containing the vast majority of Bronson Alcott’s letters.* It requires a great deal of time to go through anything related to Bronson not only because of the amount of pages but because of …

Chapter XI. Experiments

From the LW 150 blog: This is the second of two takes on the chapter, “Experiments.” This is a truly unique insight!

Little Women 150

By Mark Gallagher

Louisa May Alcott was deeply affected by the Fruitlands experiment. While she eventually wrote a satirical history of it, her first published commentary on her father’s failed utopia appears in Chapter 11 of Little Women, “Experiments,” where the March sisters indulge in the “all play, and no work” lifestyle that led to Fruitlands’ failure and the near ruin of Alcott’s family.

The chapter begins on June 1st, the same day Fruitlands was founded in 1843. Meg is relieved of her governess duties for the summer, while Jo is reprieved by a vacationing Aunt March. Deciding that lounging is the preferred course of inaction, all four sisters abandon their domestic duties for a week of personal freedom. Mrs. March consents, “You may try your experiment for a week, and see how you like it. I think by Saturday night you will find that all play, and no…

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Why Little Women still matters: A review of Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy by Anne Boyd Rioux

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of a classic read by millions around the globe. Written by Louisa May Alcott, a writer under duress fulfilling the assignment of an insistent publisher, Little Women, in the words of Anne Boyd Rioux is the “paradigmatic book about growing up, especially for the female half …

Upcoming presentation on the Alcott connection in Swampscott and Lynn, Massachusetts

From Metaphysics & Christian Science to “Little Women:” The Alcott Family’s Connections with Swampscott & Lynn Presented by Susan Bailey Thursday, May 24 at 7 pm Swampscott Public Library 61 Burrill St., Swampscott, MA 01907 Between 1839 and 1876, Swampscott and Lynn hosted members of Louisa May Alcott’s family. Progressive educator, reformer and philosopher Bronson …

Fruitlands and Brook Farm – a closer look

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 …

Happy birthday! The gifts that keep on giving: Bronson Alcott at 218, Louisa at 185

Note: I originally posted this 2 years ago and thought it worthwhile to mention these things again. Louisa May Alcott had remarked in her journal that memories of her November 29th birthday were not always happy ones. The gift of self-denial There’s the famous story of birthday number 3, celebrated at her father’s Temple School …

Living history – Marianne Donnelly as Louisa May Alcott

“What fun we had this evening when Louisa May Alcott came to visit her childhood home at Fruitlands!” Facebook post from the Fruitlands Museum It was indeed great fun taking in the living history performance by actress and historian Marianne Donnelly at the Fruitlands Museum Vistor’s Center. Her bigger-than-life portrayal of Louisa May Alcott was …

The Alcott daughters as beneficiaries of their parents’ progressive ideas on education

Recently I read an essay called “Women, Menstruation and Nineteenth Century Medicine” by Vern Bullough and Martha Voght which discussed how misinformation regarding women and menstruation prevented them from receiving an education. The essay covered familiar territory with regards to how the world of medicine regarded women’s health in the nineteenth century. (See previous post)  …

Fruitlands through the years in sight and sound

Recently a reader (thank you Michelle!) sent me a wonderful interview with Richard Francis, author of Fruitlands: The Alcott Family and Their Search for Utopia. Francis does an excellent job of clarifying a complex situation (anyone who has studied the Fruitlands experiment in depth knows what I mean!). It was presented on The Woman's Hour …

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