Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Louisa May Alcott Part 1



Did anyone watch the special on Public Broadcasting station on Louisa May Alcott?
She was an amazing women. If you didn't I wanted to share this with you.

PART 1
Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888) was an American novelist. She is best known for the novel Little Women, set in the Alcott family home, Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts and published in 1868. This novel is loosely based on her childhood experiences with her three sisters.
Alcott was the daughter of noted transcendentalist and educator Amos Bronson Alcott and Abigail May Alcott. She shared a birthday with her father on November 29. In a letter to his brother-in-law, Samuel Joseph May, a noted abolitionist, her father wrote: "It is with great pleasure that I announce to you the birth of my second daughter...born about half-past 12 this morning, on my [33rd] birthday." Though of New England heritage, she was born in Germantown, which is currently part of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the second of four daughters; Anna Bronson Alcott was the eldest, Elizabeth Sewall Alcott and Abigail May Alcott were the two youngest. The family moved to Boston in 1834, After the family moved to Massachusetts, her father established an experimental school and joined the Transcendental Club with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

In 1840, after several setbacks with the school, the Alcott family moved to a cottage on 2 acres (8,100 m2) of land, situated along the Sudbury River in Concord, Massachusetts. The Alcott family moved to the Utopian Fruitlands community for a brief interval in 1843-1844 and then, after its collapse, to rented rooms and finally to a house in Concord purchased with her mother's inheritance and financial help from Emerson. They moved into the home they named "Hillside" on April 1, 1845.

Alcott's early education included lessons from the naturalist Henry David Thoreau. She received the majority of her schooling from her father. She also received some instruction from writers and educators such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller, who were all family friends. She later described these early years in a newspaper sketch entitled "Transcendental Wild Oats." The sketch was reprinted in the volume Silver Pitchers (1876), which relates the family's experiment in "plain living and high thinking" at Fruitlands.

As an adult, Alcott was an abolitionist and a feminist. In 1847, the family housed a fugitive slave for one week. In 1848, Alcott read and admired the "Declaration of Sentiments" published by the Seneca Falls Convention on women's rights.

Poverty made it necessary for Alcott to go to work at an early age as an occasional teacher, seamstress, governess, domestic helper, and writer. Her first book was Flower Fables (1849), a selection of tales originally written for Ellen Emerson, daughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson. In 1860, Alcott began writing for the Atlantic Monthly. When the American Civil War broke out, she served as a nurse in the Union Hospital at Georgetown, D.C. for six weeks in 1862-1863. Her letters home, revised and published in the Commonwealth and collected as Hospital Sketches (1863, republished with additions in 1869), garnered her first critical recognition for her observations and humor. Her novel Moods (1864), based on her own experience, was also promising.

She also wrote passionate, fiery novels and sensation stories under the nom de plume A. M. Barnard. Among these are A Long Fatal Love Chase and Pauline's Passion and Punishment. Her protagonists for these tales are willful and relentless in their pursuit of their own aims, which often include revenge on those who have humiliated or thwarted them. Following a style which was wildly popular at the time, these works achieved immediate commercial success.

Alcott also produced wholesome stories for children, and after their positive reception, she did not generally return to creating works for adults. Adult oriented exceptions include the anonymous novelette A Modern Mephistopheles (1875), which attracted suspicion that it was written by Julian Hawthorne, and the semi-autobiographical tale Work (1873).Alcott's literary success arrived with the publication of the first part of Little Women: or Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, (1868) a semi-autobiographical account of her childhood with her sisters in Concord, Massachusetts. Part two, or Part Second, also known as Good Wives, (1869) followed the March sisters into adulthood and their respective marriages. Little Men (1871) detailed Jo's life at the Plumfield School that she founded with her husband Professor Bhaer at the conclusion of Part Two of Little Women. Jo's Boys (1886) completed the "March Family Saga."

Most of her later volumes, An Old Fashioned Girl (1870), Aunt Jo's Scrap Bag (6 vols., 1871–1879), Eight Cousins and its sequel Rose in Bloom (1876), and others, followed in the line of Little Women.

Alcott based her heroine "Jo" on herself in "Little Women." But whereas Jo marries at the end of the story, Alcott remained single throughout her life. She explained her "spinsterhood" in an interview with Louise Chandler Moulton, "... because I have fallen in love with so many pretty girls and never once the least bit with any man."

In 1879 her younger sister, May, died. Alcott took in May's daughter, Louisa May Nieriker ("Lulu"), who was two years old. The baby had been named after her aunt, and was given the same nickname.

In her later life, Alcott became an advocate of women's suffrage and was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Massachusetts in a school board election.

Alcott, along with Elizabeth Stoddard, Rebecca Harding Davis, Anne Moncure Crane, and others, were part of a group of female authors during the Gilded Age to address women’s issues in a modern and candid manner. Their works were, as one newspaper columnist of the period commented, "among the decided 'signs of the times'" (“Review 2 – No Title” from The Radical, May 1868, see References below).

Alcott continued to write until her death. Alcott suffered chronic health problems in her later years. Alcott and her earlier biographers attributed her illness and death to mercury poisoning: During her American Civil War service, Alcott contracted typhoid fever and was treated with calomel, a compound containing mercury. Recent analysis of Alcott's illness suggests that mercury poisoning was not the culprit. Alcott's chronic health problems are associated with autoimmune disease, not acute mercury exposure. Moreover, a late portrait of Alcott shows rashes on her cheeks characteristic of lupus. Alcott died in Boston on March 6, 1888 at age 55, two days after visiting her father on his deathbed. Her last words were "Is it not meningitis?"

Louisa May Alcott's grave in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts

Stay tuned for Part 2


1 comment:

Vickie said...

I watched it and found it to be very interesting. To think one of my favorite authors has a dark side!