A Little Women summer with Louisa May Alcott

By Trix Wilkins

From Conversations about Little Women and meeting awesome authors to reading, rowing, and enjoying sumptuous lobster dinners, it was going to be a lovely summer getaway without the kids…

I had hoped to get to Boston and neighboring Concord this July with my husband. In between business I was to pay homage at Little Women-related houses, museums, libraries, and my husband was to trawl history-laden Boston for paraphernalia with which to wow his students related to the abolition of slavery, the civil war, and his favorite ship the USS Constitution.

It was going to be a week-long utterly romantic nerdy date without the kids.

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Boston Street Scene by Edward Mitchell Bannister, courtesy of WikiMedia

Alas, the trip was cancelled – so I will have to be satisfied with letting you know what I had hoped to have done in the hope you will have the joy of these experiences. (If you do go on these ramblings, please do post a comment and/or a link to your blog about your adventures and finds, would love to hear about them!)

Take some day trips into Concord to attend the Louisa May Alcott Summer Conversations

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Photos courtesy of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House

In two weeks, Orchard House in Concord will be hosting the annual Louisa May Alcott Summer Conversations from July 16-20, 2017 – and this year the theme is Quest for Social Justice. I’m especially intrigued by the sound of these sessions:

Louisa May Alcott’s Virtuous Men: Friends, Mentors, and (Fictional) Lovers – Laura Dassow Walls (July 17, 13:15-14:30). Doesn’t the title say it all? Keen to know about the characters of the influential men in Louisa’s life, and who might be reflected in what shape and form in Little Women! Especially curious about Samuel Joseph May and Alf Whitman.

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Photo of plaque memorializing Reverend Samuel Joseph May courtesy of D.A.Sonnenfeld

From Story to Action: Social Justice in Louisa May Alcott’s Fiction – Cathlin Davis (July 18, 9:30-10:45). I’ve always felt Little Women openly espoused social justice issues, it’s one of the reasons I love it! Fascinated to see the process in which Louisa’s real life experiences and observations of others involved in justice causes transferred to the pages of her novels.

Bread, Roses, and One-Liners: Jokes and Feminism from Louisa May Alcott to Tina Fey – Gabrielle Donnelly (July 18, 11:00-12:15). Gabrielle being a journalist and author of The Little Women Letters, I would probably have been keen to hear her no matter what the session was called – but I admit I’m particularly wondering why Louisa and Tina Fey are in the same title.

For those interested in what else is on the table for discussion at Summer Conversations, here’s the full schedule. And for those keen to attend, you can register online here.

Talk to an Orchard House staff member who has been there forever

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Photo courtesy of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House

I am assuming I would have met at least one person who has worked for or volunteered with Orchard House for over ten years, and I would have loved to pick their brain! I would’ve asked about their favorite Little Women sister, when did they first read the novel and who did they want to grow up to be when they were sixteen, did they ever at any point have a crush on Theodore Laurence, Friedrich Bhaer, or John Brooke?

Get a print of Norman Rockwell’s painting of Jo March writing in the garret

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Photo courtesy of Louisa May Alcott is my Passion

I collect art for our ballroom (ballroom being our dining room/library, and art consisting of prints of our favorite paintings or puzzles in Ikea frames – but I love it all nonetheless!). Would haved loved to add this to the collection and talk to my daughter about the story of the young woman in the painting.

Take photos of all the different Little Women covers I can find, especially the old ones

Little Women old books PIC
Some of the covers that showed up in Google Search

Two weeks ago I found and purchased yet another copy of Little Women which I didn’t need, but couldn’t resist. It had been printed in Edinburgh in 1923 and the lady who sold it to me said she was certain it had been kept for mere display and never been opened (which I thought was a sad fate for a book, and resolved to read it as soon as I got home). While having books for mere display is not my thing, I wouldn’t sneeze at a photo collection of rare and old book covers!

Meet Gabrielle Donnelly and ask her to sign my The Little Women Letters

Does this make me a groupie? Maybe! I really enjoyed The Little Women Letters. I also like writing notes and finding messages in my books. Sometimes I will buy a second hand book just because of someone’s notes. And of course would have loved to chat to Gabrielle about writing!

Read and write in an old Harvard library

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Photo of Houghton Library, Harvard University, courtesy of WikiMedia

I think Laurie went to Harvard for college in Little Women, so thought it would be fantastic to find a sandstone library with high ceilings, walls lined with books, and read like a March sister or just write…a leisurely and suitably scholarly occupation while my husband is off excitedly touring war-related museums.

Eat a lobster dinner

Where is a good place to have lobster in Concord or Boston? As in once-in-a-lifetime this-is-the-best-meal-of-my-life type of lobster? Whilst reminiscing and laughing over our past culinary disasters and the anticipation of more to come… (Lobster is related to Little Women because a) Jo failed to cook it b) Laurie still ate it and c) Amy failed to hide it).

Row a boat in Boston Common

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View of the Water Celebration, on Boston Common, October 25 1848. Lithograph by P. Hyman and David Bigelow, courtesy of WikiMedia

Admittedly, this sounds like we planned to live out Little Women scenes – in my defence, this pastime is not exclusive to Jo and Laurie! We have our own sentimental rowing memories from our honeymoon (though he will tell you that he did most of the work, which is probably true, given that I wasn’t all that tired after two hours of kayaking…).

Go to a ball

The Ball PIC
The Ball by Victor Gabriel Gilbert, courtesy of Fine Art America

There’s a ball in Concord this summer, right? Long dresses, petticoats, waltzes, bowing, curtseying, long gloves, walking in on the arm of one’s debonair partner…And it would be really lovely to have one next year, 2018 marking 150 years since the first publication of Little Women 🙂

P.S. For an extended Little Women Trail

The Palace Beautiful
Pleasant Meadows in Massachusetts

What are your favorite Little Women pastimes? Where would you go to enjoy Little Women with friends?

Author and book sale PIC

3 thoughts on “A Little Women summer with Louisa May Alcott

  1. Oh, we could have met! 😦 I’m going to a couple of day’s worth of the conversational series and will be taking in some of the talks you mentioned (Cathlin’s and Gabrielle’s). Gabrielle is a treasured friend, sharp with such a great sense of humor, a joy.

    Liked by 1 person

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