“Let the World Know You Are Alive”: May Alcott Nieriker and Louisa May Alcott Confront Nineteenth-Century Ideas about Women’s Genius

I am pleased to share with you a wonderful essay about the professional lives of Louisa  May Alcott and May Alcott Nieriker written by Lauren Hehmeyer, a professor of History and English at Texarkana College. Professor Hehmeyer presented at the May Alcott conference in Paris in June of 2018 (see previous post) and is currently …

Meet the artist to whom May Alcott acted as mentor: Daniel Chester French

Before May Alcott left for Europe to study and become a professional artist, she gave lessons from a studio at Orchard House which her father Bronson made for her. A student of hers created one of the most iconic pieces of sculpture in America: One of his first commissioned works is in Concord: That artist …

A new book on Lizzie Alcott needs a new work place – planning my writing room

Louisa had her special writing space – a desk built by her father which overlooked the front yard of Orchard House. Here is mine – what is yours like?

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

I spent some time over Christmas break beefing up my writing room. The room had previously worked when I wrote my spiritual memoir a few years back. The organization of that book was simple and I’d write on my tablet in a comfy chair and not have to worry about having a lot of space.

It is so different this time around! There are piles of books and papers everywhere. My mind is in overdrive and my emotions raw. The words I have set down so far present a confusing and unfocused account. The story that is so clear in my mind lacks continuity on the screen. I vacillate between being a storyteller, a journalist (“just the facts”) and a lawyer arguing a case. It’s all so chaotic at times.

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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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XVI. Letters

from the LW150 blog: Reading old family letters, whether from our own ancestors or the Alcott family, creates powerful connections.

Little Women 150

By Jean Stevenson

My introduction to Little Women came when I was eleven and “between” books and my regular visit to the public library. My mother rescued me by handing me her copy of the novel, saying, “I was your age when I read this. You might enjoy it.” Like many readers, I found myself captivated by Jo and the March family. My reading of Alcott’s novel coincided with a unit on the Civil War in school, so Jo’s account of the home front, her father’s service to the Union Army as a chaplain, and Marmee’s travel to Washington to care for him when he fell ill became real to me and further fueled my interest in the Civil War.

This led me to explore the trunks in my grandparents’ attic in search of evidence of family involvement in the war. On the top tray in a trunk I came…

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XV. A Telegram

From the LW150 blog: Was the selling of her hair a defiant act by Jo? Interesting take on Chapter 15.

Little Women 150

By Ashley Cook

In the fall of 2006, I enrolled in an American survey course; one of the selections on our course list was Little Women. I had no idea when I picked up that used Norton Critical Edition in the campus bookstore what a place Alcott’s writing would have in my life. Her words provided inspiration for a Maid of Honor toast during a friend’s wedding—thankfully my friend married before she became a “haggard, worn, and moody woman of thirty”—while Eight Cousins became the foundation for my Master’s Project. Some might view Alcott’s work as moral guidance for the young, but I see in it resistance and a desire to change the status quo—a bit of “sticking it to the man,” if you will.

Within the pages of “A Telegram” is a scene that remains etched in my mind even years after my first reading of Little Women

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Chapter XIII. Castles in the Air

from LW 150 blog: Dreaming of “castles in the air” and where they may lead us.

Little Women 150

By Angela Hubler

“Wouldn’t it be fun if all castles in the air which we could make could come true and we could live in them?” says Jo, in chapter 13, “Castles in the Air.” Jo thus encourages utopian dreaming, not only by Laurie and her sisters but by generations of readers, revealing why this text has been a touchstone for artistic and ambitious women for 150 years. Laurie and the March girls express their hearts’ desires, and as the novel progresses each sister achieves—at least to some degree– what she has pined and labored for: Meg is mistress of the “lovely house, full of…pleasant people”; Jo writes books “out of a magic inkstand”; Beth remains “at home safe with father and mother” until she flies in at “that splendid gate”; and Amy goes to Rome and develops her talents as an artist.

Of course, generations of critics have argued…

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