“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:

Description

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.

Location

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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Merry Christmas from Orchard House (and from me!) – a look back over an extraordinary year, and a look ahead

2017 has been a banner year for Alcott fans (and more is promised in 2018 and 2019 as the 150th anniversary of the publication of Little Women looms). As a result it has also been quite the year for this blog! Especially within the last several months, the growth of readership has been extraordinary. I have so enjoyed all of your comments as our community continues to grow.

High points of 2017

Undoubtedly the news of the year is the new BBC One/Masterpiece series on Little Women. Those lucky viewers in Great Britain will get to see the series over Christmas while those of us in the states will have to wait until May 13 and 20. It bodes well for the series that Jan Turnquist, Executive Director of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House was brought in as consultant.

No doubt the biggest thrill of 2017 has been the discovery of the photograph of Anna Alcott Pratt and the coverage in the Boston Globe. The best part was working with such dedicated people to bring this photograph and those of John Bridge Pratt to the public. I have been asked to contribute an article to the January newsletter for the Louisa May Alcott Society.

Another even more important discovery this year was acquistion by the Concord Library of working manuscripts by Louisa May Alcott. For the first time scholars can see the edits made by the author written in the margins of the manuscripts as they were prepared for publication. It affords a tremendous opportunity for study of Louisa’s writing process.

Another milestone is the creation of the new Facebook discussion group sponsored by the Louisa Alcott Society and Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House. This is a great place to get together and chat about all things Louisa May Alcott.

A wonderful novel based on the life of May Alcott Nieriker (and her relationship with Louisa) was released this year and has attracted lots of attention, It was written by Elise Hooper and is called The Other Alcott.

Looking ahead to 2018

2018 promises new books on Little Women as a result of the 150th anniversary of its publication. Coming in August will be Anne Boyd Rioux’s much anticipated  Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters. It is available on Amazon for pre-order.

And speaking of books, over the course of 2017  I have made progress on my book on Elizabeth Sewall Alcott. While I cannot reveal any further information at this time, things appear to be moving in the right direction. You will be the first to know when I say more.

Orchard House’s Summer Conversational Series will be focusing on Little Women; it takes place the week of July 15-19. Details can be found at louisamayalcott.org.

I have been offered a public speaking engagement by the Grafton (MA) Historical Society in partnership with the Public Library. It will take place on February 8 at 7pm at the Grafton Community Barn. If you are local to the area, I hope you can come! The topic is:

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

Author, blogger and Alcott aficionado Susan Bailey explores the often back-breaking work of the typical Victorian housewife through the experiences of Louisa May Alcott and her family. Having moved some 30 times before setting in Orchard House in 1858, the Alcotts dwelled in a variety of homes, from rural to city, from slum to mansion. Until the publication of Little Women in 1868, they lived in poverty. Through their varied experiences Ms. Bailey explores the love-hate relationship between 19th century housewives and the endless chores of cooking, cleaning, sewing and laundry.

A Christmas greeting

Finally, I could not think of a more appropriate way to wish you all a Merry Christmas than to feature this article by Lis Adams, education director at Orchard House.. Louisa May Alcott is truly a Christmas author who inspires her readers to give of ourselves to those around us. She knew the true meaning of the season.

Season’s Greetings to all of you, and Happy New Year!

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As the Masterpiece Theater production of Little Women approaches, a key question is posed

We just passed the 149th anniversary of the publication
of part one of Little Women.

Happy Anniversary!

And we have an exciting year ahead of us, particularly with the three-part Masterpiece Theater production of Little Women coming up in the Spring (with Jan Turnquist, Executive Director of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House acting as consultant!).

In anticipation, the producers put together a podcast of various women answering the all-important question: What does Little Women mean to you? Continue reading

You can never tour Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House too many times

Recently I took in a tour of Orchard House (I’ve lost count how many times I’ve toured this wonderful home) and learned some fascinating new information with regards to the renovations made to the house.

Merging the main house with a cottage

The tour guide disclosed information from the Fox family whose ancestors had owned the cottage that had been on the property of Orchard House, and which Bronson merged with the home. The kitchen and 3/4 of the dining room along with May’s bedroom was part of this separate cottage which Alcott and Thoreau pushed down on logs over snow to attach to the main house.

Continue reading

Summer Conversational Series 2017 at Orchard House wrap-up

As promised, here is a summary of the Summer Conversational Series presented between July 16 and the 20th. The theme this year is “‘Noble Companions and Immortable Labors'” the Alcotts, Thoreaus, and the Quest for Social Justice.”

Lis Adams, Education Director of Orchard House

I was only able to attend two sessions, on Tuesday and Wednesday. At the end of this post is a link to my notes from the presentations. Unfortunately my evil tablet did not properly save my notes from Wednesday so I only have notes from the first presentation of that day. I tried to summarize the other two and provided links for further information.

Jan Turnquist, Executive Director of Orchard House, could not be with us this year as she is in Ireland acting as consultant to the new BBC Little Women series. Education Director Lis Adams did a wonderful job of running the series and introduced the speakers.

On Tuesday the presentations included:

Dr. Cathlin Davis

Cathlin Davis “From Story to Action: Social Justice in Louisa May Alcott’s Fiction”
Dr. Davis is the leading expert on Louisa’s juvenile tales. She led us through a series of stories that outlined Louisa’s approach to social justice, an approach which is just as timely today as illustrated through an organization she highlighted, The Heifer Project.

Gabrielle Donnelly, author of The Little Women Letters

Gabrielle Donnelly “Bread, Roses, and One-Liners:
Jokes and Feminism from Louisa May Alcott to Tina Fey”

Ms. Donnelly’s presentation was thought-provoking as well as humerous as she linked together feminism and humor (just as Louisa did; she cited an example of Jo March in Little Women). What made the presentation particularly interesting was the fact that one of the attendees is a standup comedienne who performed for many years in Las Vegas with headlines such as Wayne Newton. She provided many colorful stories.

Gabrielle based on her presentation on a song called “Bread and Roses” (she asked me to sing the song and I gladly complied). Here is a video of the song from the movie, “Pride:”

Jane Sciacca and Michelle Blees

Michelle Blees and Jane Sciacca “The Alcotts at Hillside: Their Beliefs and Actions”
Michelle and Jane are tour guides for the Minuteman National Park Service at The Wayside (known as Hillside when the Alcotts lived there). They gave a fascinating account of the history of The Wayside with its storied authors, and its link to the National Underground Railroad. These are photos of the displays — just click on the thumbnail to see the larger photo.

On Wednesday the presentations included:

Jason Giannetti

Jason Giannetti “Concord’s Transcendental Conscientious Objector”
Mr. Gianetti discussed the activism of famous Transcendentalists such as Henry David  Thoreau and Bronson Alcott. He called on us to be today’s Transcendental Conscientious Objectors which sparked a lengthy, spirited conversation which Bronson would have approved of wholeheartedly.

NOTE: the following two presentations are the ones where my notes were sadly lost. I did include a summary in the notes available at the end of this post.

Dr. Kristina West

Kristina West “Growing Tomorrow: A Transcendental Education”
Dr.  West hails from London and lives right across the way from the original location of Alcott House in Ham. She described the teaching techniques of Henry David Thoreau and Bronson Alcott which so endeared them to children. She then highlighted Louisa’s contribution.

Jennifer Schünemann “Save the Mother, Save the Child:
The Pandemic Exploitation of Women and Its Effect on the World.”

Jennifer Schünemann of Durga Tree International

Ms. Schünemann heads the New England chapter of Durga Tree International, an organization working tirelessly to help victims of human trafficking. This presentation was quite sobering but Ms. Schünemann was able to provide hope and answers beginning with how we behave as consumers, making sure we are more conscious of who actually makes our products and how they are treated. My notes contain website information so you can find out more and even become involved. This is a program I would highly recommend.

Here are my notes from the series that you can download. Summer Conversational Series 2017 Tuesday

As always, such a joy to attend! I’ve made many wonderful friends through this series and agree wholeheartedly that each year it is like going to summer camp!

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Louisa May Alcott too?
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and River of Grace!

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The Palace Beautiful: The Little Women trail #5

This is a wonderful tour of the places where Jo March and family members dwelled through the real-life Alcott family members. My thanks to the “Much Ado about Little Women” blog.

Much ado about Little Women

By Trix Wilkins

There is something intriguing about the history of a home – who designed it and why, what accomplishments occurred under its refuge, who might have met within its walls and what precious moments might have consequently transpired? This trail follows the homes from the life of Louisa May Alcott that appear to make cameo appearances in Little Women – from their humble homes in Concord to the Hancock family manor in Boston.

The March sisters’ plays: Hillside House (now known as The Wayside)

“In a suburb of the city…an old brown house, looking rather bare and shabby, robbed in of the vines that in summer covered its walls, and the flowers which then surrounded it.”

According to Louisa’s teacher, Henry David Thoreau, Hillside was haunted by one of its previous owners. Despite this, Louisa spent happy early teenage years here and it became one of the homes…

View original post 1,298 more words

Call for proposals for 2017 Summer Conversational Series

“Noble Companions and Immortal Labors”*:
The Alcotts, Thoreaus, and the Quest for Social Justice

Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House SUMMER CONVERSATIONAL SERIES
Sunday, July 16 – Thursday, July 20, 2017

thoreauTranscendental neighbors and thinkers Amos Bronson Alcott and Henry David Thoreau shared ideals and hopes for changing society.  Ever interested in improving the world to make it a better place to live in, they and their families worked publicly and also behind the scenes to stand up for social justice and put themselves on the line for others.  The women as well as the men were committed to furthering the cause of justice, freedom, and equality in their communities and in the world at large. Continue reading