“Housekeeping ain’t no joke …” Victorian huswifery with the Alcotts (presentation with audio)

This presentation was given on February 8, 2018 at the Community Barn in Grafton, MA. It was co-sponsored by the Grafton Historical Society and the Grafton Public Library.

February 8, 2018 — “Housekeeping ain’t no joke …”
Victorian huswifery with the Alcotts

©2018 Susan W. Bailey

Abstract: Louisa May Alcott’s immediate family spanned nearly the entire nineteenth century. They lived for many years in poverty due to Mr. Alcott’s inability and/or refusal to earn a living wage; thanks to Louisa’s commercial success as an author, their lives ended in wealth. With thirty moves over twenty-seven years the Alcotts lived in every imaginable circumstance, from tenements on the outskirts of the South End slums in Boston, to ramshackle farmhouses in the country, to mansions owned by Abigail May Alcott’s rich relations, and finally to Orchard House where the family settled for some twenty years. Thanks to both the many personal letters and journals penned by family members and the autobiographical nature of Louisa’s writing, we are offered a look into their everyday lives providing a rare opportunity to learn of domestic life in New England during the nineteenth century.  In this presentation given to the Grafton Historical Society, I use their personal experiences along with sources dedicated to Victorian huswifery to describe the life of the Victorian housewife through the lens of this unique family.

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