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tv   Orchard House and Louisa May Alcott  CSPAN  July 15, 2017 12:36pm-12:55pm EDT

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was a deliberate effort he made to organize higher thought in america particularly in the 1840s and 50s. he was an activist intellectual. because the study survives intact. that was ellen's work, she wanted it to stay the way he left it. that was a privilege and the responsibility that we want to live up to. as long as it is the same as it was, keep it the same as it was. >> c-span is in concorde, massachusetts, reading about it literary themes. we take you inside orchard house where louisa may alcott wrote her most famous work, little
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women. >> here we are in concorde, massachusetts, where the redcoats marched into the northbridge on april 19, 1775, starting the american revolution. this house, eventually much later than that becomes the home of amos bronson alcott and his family. one of the daughters, louisa may alcott, in this house, writes a book the changes a lot of the way people think about children, the way they think about young women and mature women. it was a very progressive book for its day and in many ways today it still remains this because it is just a simple true to life story of four young women and their parents. mister alcott was an educator in
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the early days. a very progressive thinker who was deeply in love with mister alcott. they were in boston when mister alcott met ralph waldo emerson and struck up a deep friendship. he was well ensconced, he thought bronson alcott belongs here and the town had something special to offer, a political revolution in 1775 and a literary revolution in the 1800s but mister emerson really wanted bronson alcott to move here. here in mister alcott's study, focus on what is above the fireplace, this is an expression of mister alcott's lifelong belief that hills are weird, the seas are scooped in vain, learning vanished from the plane. this is a very elaborate way of
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saying never stop learning. you are never too lung -- young to start or too will to keep going and that was very important. mister alcott dedicated most of his life to education. in his early years he educated the young added educational ideas were extremely unusual for the day. it was an era when most teachers were concerned primarily with ordering the classrooms, some of the expressions we find a little funny today must not have been funny to the children because one of them was if a boy is not bad now he is about to be, just go ahead and strike. mister alcott thought of it as a staff to guide a walking stick. he would not strike the students, he allowed questions in the classroom which were frowned upon by most teachers because it would promote rudeness, the teacher knows what you have to know so why are you encouraging these questions? he had a lot of difficulty with people getting nervous about
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these unusual techniques and yet the children were learning more and loved mister alcott. it was the right thing, about 100 years ahead of its time. his lifelong dream had been to teach adults as well and he found he could do that in this room at 1879. here we have one of the cofounders of the political philosophy that bronson alcott took to an opportunity that started in this room in 1879, mister emerson once said of bronson alcott that mister alcott is the foremost genius of our day. these two gentlemen were closest friends as they walked together on a daily basis and supported each other in everything. it is not a surprise that he helped this concord school of
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philosophy as mister alcott called it. it began in this room but overflowing these walls, people opened the windows and stood outside so they could hear and one of the attendees donated $500 which was a grotesque sum in those days and the small lecture hall to be built up on the hill. many people -- it was never a barn, it was always meant to be a rustic looking structure but a lecture hall. when it comes to finances, the alcotts had a saying that they had the alcott sinking funds. it seems their finances got worse and worse and worse. mister alcott was not always paid very well, not that he wasn't working hard but was a little too innovative and people didn't appreciate what he was doing. one time, very poignantly he said promises were not always
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kept, my overcoat was stolen and i had to buy a shawl. i will be better another time. always trying hard but not necessarily doing well financially and sometimes it meant all the women in the household were pitching and in a way that was not considered very ladylike. it was supposed to be the man doing all the earning and the woman tightening up the house and cooking and raising the children. they were a little bit unusual that way. they were struggling a lot of the time. here we are in the alcott's dining room. mrs. alcott's china was the service used, this was their best china and the initial m is for her maiden name, may which is interesting because we have louisa may alcott and abigail mayer, that was not a made up name, that was her maiden name
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and this is english china. a funny expression, they were struggling a lot of the time so, we will always be a respectful family who have our fun in china. she was teasing. but she was very pleased. and over in this direction we have some wonderful portraits. this one is particularly interesting of louisa may alcott. she looks less well in this portrait and she did a few years earlier because she is 38 years old here and she had been in the civil war as a union army nurse, contracted typhus and ammonia and was treated with mercury and today we know mercury is not good to ingest but back then it
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was a medication. you were losing your teeth and hair and everything else. she managed to recover from all of this much to the amazement of many people, others as sick as she was did not recover. george healy, a very famous portrait artist at that time learned the famous miss olcott within italy at the same time he was. little women has become an international hit. someone recently said to me louisa may alcott was more famous than jk rowling. probably because there wasn't as much competition with sports figures and movie stars and such, but she was a huge international sensation. george healy asked miss alcott if he could paint her. i am proud that we have this george healy painting, the only other dining room with george
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healy on it, at the white house where there is a wonderful portrait of abraham lincoln by george healy. he was in that day the big painter summoned to paint presidents. it was an honor she was painted by mister healy that she was very disappointed. i look like a relic from the boston fire. there had been a fire in 1872, a terrible disaster in boston. she thought she looked like she stepped right out of that fire. she said we should hang it behind the door and we have an interesting likeness of elizabeth alcott, the actual model for best in little woman and the only one whose name does not change in the little women accounts. this is the only likeness we have of her and she is the one who died before going into this house, they spent a whole year fixing the house up and she came many times and saw the work they
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were doing, the finest home for this. she was so ill, perhaps she would not be living here and thought sleepy hollow might be her new home and that is what happened. if you look at this archway leads into the parlor, the girl even as young women, putting on plates as they had done through their early years and hung the curtain between these two rooms so the tiny portion with the table moved out of the way became their stage and they had many wonderful sceneries and costumes, they worked hard on these and the audience would sit here and in little women toward the beginning of the book the girls are going to put on a christmas present called roderigo, that is a play that
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louisa did right, she did perform, play the role of roderigo, performed it right in that dining room and at one point in little women it describes the audience sitting on a cot that collapses, these things happened, act like nothing is wrong, keep going. she was one who loved the dramatic impulse and that shows that hurley experience, these dramas with her sister helped to inform her writing style. she often made them up out loud and they walked along taking a walk around walden pond with henry david thoreau but she would do a lot of things to writing as well. she was probably writing almost
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every day. she loved it. it was a release for her, and outlet. she didn't have a tremendous amount of success at first but she had some success almost from the beginning in the sense she had short stories and poems published early on. that was enough to keep her going. at one juncture when she was teaching school in boston and james fields, a famous publisher and his wife, annie, she showed mister fields some of her writing, very hopeful that she was living in that house and maybe he would take an interest. he told her stick to your teaching, miss alcott, you cannot write. that made her more determined. much later, after little women had been published, she pay back a loan he had given her to help with her first little school and she said with all do respect
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life i will stick to my writing as it pays rather better than my teaching. she had come full-circle, a big financial success eventually. now coming up to the second floor we have the parents bedroom. may alcott, the youngest sister and in this room the most popular and important to most people, where louisa may alcott rose little women, this is her bedchamber. originally she shared it with her sister, anna who was called maggie in the story. this is where at a little half-moon desk built for louisa by her father she said and penned little women. it is important to note that in that era it was commonly thought
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brainwork such as writing would ruin a woman's health. doctors had even written articles that they had proven this and even if you weren't concerned medically, people thought it wasn't seemly for a woman to write seriously, to write for a publication. find to write letters but this was something you should reserve for men. the fact that louisa's family supported her this way was amazing. the building of this desk was more than a convenience, it was important for louisa may alcott. she made her a scribbling suit, and to concentrate, closed herself off, gave louisa a pen and wrote a note saying inspire
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when wrapped in your inspire. she had wonderful support from her family. little women with a simple story, a family story. she made notes in her journal that had lived most of it. her publisher looked at it, gave it to his lease that loved it. loved it more than anything she witnessed. the publisher decided to go with this, started with a small number but the first edition was 2500 books. people then as now might have been a little surprised, it was way ahead of its time in many
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ways and walked a fine line between leading people into more progressive thought like the idea that a woman could be independence, a woman could have ideas of her own, but she could have a temper and not be a villain, all of these human qualities to suppress, and joe march, the family was not perfect at all, they all have flaws and struggled in many ways and supported each other, loved each other, and such a ne'er-do-well, won't do anything. this is a very inspiring role model for people especially young women for whom it was intended. little women succeeded beyond
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louisa's wildest imagining, made her a superstar for the day. this changed everything, her honest publisher, not thomas niles, they later become little brown, wouldn't advise louisa to keep the copyright which was wonderful advice which meant she could really make money on this book, and became quite wealthy. by the standards of the day, that of course made the family very comfortable and allow their depth to be repaid, and kindnesses for others, and should do it and often helping others, when she was young by ralph waldo emerson, under a
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tablecloth and something like that, they find it later and not able to say wait a minute, and the same sort of thing. they were near her. the literary history of concorde is so multifaceted and depending on one's interest, you could bypass that office home because you could read the book. there is something about this particular book and this particular house, as far as i know is the only piece of literature, not only maintained its importance to so many people, never been out of print, widely translated, over 50 translations, varied by people of all cultures, written and set in a house that is now open to
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the public. when people walk through this house, this is like walking through the book. if you could really go to hogwarts after you read harry potter but it is not a real place and this is. >> designated a national historic landmark in 1962, walden pond is considered the birthplace of the conservation movement. for two years, writer henry david thoreau live on its shores inspiring his book walden. up next, concorde museum curator david wood describes thoreau's reasons for living at the pond and his experience there.


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