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Louisa May Alcott

The kids in front of the Alcotts' Orchard House in Concord, MA
On our recent trip to Boston, our friend Grace was able to join us.  Knowing that Grace is something of a literature lover, I wanted to incorporate some field trips to the homes of Louisa May Alcott, the writer of "Little Women" and many other books.

First we explored Orchard House, where Miss Alcott lived with her father, mother and sisters in Concord, Massachusetts.  It was there that she wrote Little Women - the book that made her famous.  The house reminded me of the one in the movie.  We were able to take a tour and see the many artifacts and furnishings that belonged to the Alcotts.

The tour guide told us many memorable tales about life in the Alcott family.  My favorite story involved a now famous Louisa dressing as a maid to tell the reporters that Louisa was not at home.  Apparently, she disliked her celebrity.

I also enjoyed hearing about how a neighbor child repeatedly got into trouble because he was whittling turnips and other root vegetables instead of concentrating on his work at school.  Louisa's sister May (Amy in Little Women) was an accomplished artist, able to study in Europe because of Louisa's financial success.    The neighbors hired May to teach their "wayward" son art, and particularly sculpting.  That boy went on to carve many famous sculptures - the most famous being Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial.  His name was Daniel Chester French.

Jor Man not into the Orchard House.  Oh well.  Not everything is a big hit.  We did watch the movie "Little Women" before going and read part of "Fruitlands".  But he was not into it.  Grace and I loved it.  :)

Grace (on the path) and the girls (on the bench) in front of the Alcotts' Fruitlands home
The following day we explored the Fruitlands Museum.  This is more difficult to describe.  It is a collection of museums that seemingly have little to nothing in common.  We went because it is located at the site where the Alcott family were part of a failed experiment in living off the land.  Louisa's father was an "intellectual" in the Transcendental movement.  I say that in quotes because he was apparently brilliant to the point of repeatedly putting his family in need due to his (IMHO) ridiculous philosophical and religious requirements of them.  Ralph Waldo Emerson was said to have repeatedly paid their bills, rescuing the family, while having a high regard for his friend's intellect.

Campster attempts to throw the Native American weapon while Big Dad and the museum docent look on.
Fruitlands was a communal effort to homestead - the Alcott's along with a few others.  Unfortunately, these homesteaders decided to be vegan.  (I have myself been vegan, although I am not now.  Nothing against vegans.)  They also wanted to only eat vegetables and fruits that grow up (as opposed to root vegetables - the easiest to grow and store for the winter).  Most of the residents preferred philosophical conversation to hard work, so they were not really willing to put into their gardens what was necessary to feed themselves.  They also refused to use any animal products (like manure) or animal work (to till the soil).  Eventually, they gave in and did till with a neighbor's ox.

Jor Man's turn to throw the spear.
But I digress.  Mr. Bronson Alcott, Louisa's dad, was revolutionary in his educational philosophy.  He is attributed with creating recess.  He went against the thought of the day, and wanted his students to ask questions, instead of remaining quiet.  He encouraged his girls (and wife) to think and achieve beyond what was considered acceptable in their day for women.  His wife was the first paid female social worker in Boston.  And his girls were the first women to vote in the local school board election.  Anna (Meg) was an actress.  Louisa (Jo) was a writer.  And May (Amy) was an artist.  All these were not considered appropriate occupations for women at that time.  He also taught the letters of the alphabet with students using their entire bodies to make the shape of the letters.  The first kinesthetic learning.

Sher Bear enjoying the rock sculpture
Other areas of the Fruitlands Museum have nothing to do with the Alcott family.  It is simply a group of exhibits put together by Clara Endicott Sears in Harvard, Massachusetts in 1914.  In addition to the Fruitlands house, there are a couple of art galleries, lots of outdoor sculptures, a Shaker house, and a collection of Native American artifacts.  The kids especially enjoyed the Native American exhibit and the outdoor sculptures.  The docents were wonderful and always prepared for kids.  Jor Man, Campster and Big Dad got to throw spears - a highlight!

Grace and I enjoyed the Hudson School paintings, and the Fruitlands house.  I counted seven fireplaces in the house, and a couple were huge.  I do not have indoor pictures as they were not allowed.

The museum complex is situated on a hill with magnificent views.  Afterwards, we had lunch in the Alcott restaurant.  Thankfully, it serves meat and root veggies!  Very delicious, and a great kids menu.

Wish you were here!

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