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tv   Orchard House and Louisa May Alcott  CSPAN  July 15, 2017 11:40am-12:01pm EDT

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richard nixon didn't have charisma. lbj didn't have charisma. but jack kennedy had charisma. i think that could have possibly tipped the balance in some people's minds. complete american history tv schedule go to c-span.org. in concord, massachusetts, we take you to orchard house, the home where louisa may alcott wrote her most famous work, little women. concordwe are in massachusetts, on the lexington road, where the redcoats marched into the north bridge on april the 19th of 1775, starting the american revolution. this house was standing event. eventually much later it becomes the home of amos brownson all
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caught and his family. one of the daughters, louisa may, in this house writes a book that changes a lot of the way people think about children, the way they think about women, the way they think about mature women. it was a progressive book or its day. frankly in many ways it still remains this. because it is a simple true to life story for young women and their parents. at al qaeda was an educated cott was al progressive thinker. they were in boston when he met ralph waldo emerson and they struck up a friendship. thinking that
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brownson belonged here. you had the political revolution in 1775 and there was a literary revolution in the 1800s. mr. emerson really wanted brownson all caps move here -- amos brownson to live here. look at this fireplace. this was an expression of his lifelong belief. the hills are reared in the seas are scooped in maine. of course it is an elaborate way of saying, never stop learning. you're never too young to start and you are never too old to keep going. that was very important. dedicated his life to education and his educational ideas were extremely unusual for the day. it was an era when most teachers were concerned primarily with
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order in the classroom. they would use the rod. were --the expressions spare the rod and spoil the child. thought of the rod is more of a staff to guide. he would allow questions in the classroom which was frowned upon by most teachers. the teacher knows what you have to know so why would you encourage questions? yet a lot of difficulty with people getting nervous about unusual techniques he had not heard of. but the children were learning more and they loved him. the right thing. he was 100 years ahead of his time. his lifelong dream had been to teach adults as well. he found that he could finally in 1879.n this room
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over here we have one of the cofounders of the school of philosophy, that is what mr. alcott chose to call his adult learning opportunity that he started in this room in 1879. mr. emerson once said of him that, mr. alcott is the foremost genius of our day. these two gentlemen were the closest of friends. they walk together on a daily basis and they supported each other in everything. it is not a surprising he helped to cofound this school of philosophy in concord. the first year it began in this room but it soon was overflowing. people opened the windows and stood outside so they could hear. one of the attendees donated $500, which was a princely sum in those days, and asked that a small lecture hall be billed. that is the building up on the
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hill. barn, never meant to be a it was meant to be a lecture hall. when it comes to finances, the tts had a-- the alco saying that they had the thinking fund. it seems that their finances got worse and worse. mr. alcott was not always paid very well. it was not that he was not working hard but he was too innovative and people didn't appreciate what he was doing. one time very poignantly he said, promises were not always kept. my coat was stolen and i had to buy a shawl but i opened up -- i will be better another time. he was always trying hard but not necessarily doing well financially. sometimes it meant that all the women in the household were pitching in a way that in that era was not considered very ladylike. it was supposed to be the man doing all of the earning and the
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women tidying up the house in cooking and cleaning and raising children. they were unusual financially that way. they were deftly struggling a lot of the time. here we are in the dining room. they took meals here. cott's china is right here. the initial am is for her maiden name, may. that was not a made-up name. that was her maiden name. this is english china. they were struggling financially a lot of the time so once she said, "we will always be a family because we have our fine china." she was teasing. serious about that. she was pleased to have it though. over in this direction we have
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wonderful portraits. this one, is particularly interesting of the louisa may all caps -- louisa may alcott. she looked less well in this portrait then she did a few years earlier because she is 38 years old here. she had been in the civil war as a union army nurse, contracted to haifa's and pneumonia was treated with heavy doses of mercury. today we know that that is not good to ingest. .ack then it was a medication they thought the disease was leaving you as you are also losing your teeth and hair and everything else. she managed to recover. much to the amazement of many people because others who were as sick as she was did not recover. who was a famous portrait artist at that time louisa that the famous
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may out caught was in italy at the same time he was. little women had become an international hit. thatne recently said to me louisa may all cut in that day was more famous than j.k. rowling. probably because there was not as much competition with sports figures. she was an international sensation. asked, if he could paint her. we have this painting in our dining room. the only other dining room in america with the -- with a george healey and it is in the white house. a big painter day who was summoned to paint presidents. it was quite an honor that she was painted by him. however she was disappointed. she said she looked like a smoky relic from the boston fire.
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there it been a fire in 1872 and it was a terrible disaster in boston. she thought she looked like she'd stepped out of that fire. she said she should hang it behind the door. have a likeness of elizabeth alcott. she is the model for best in little women. whose nameonly one does not change in the little women account. this is the only likeness we have of her. she died just before they moved into this house. they spent a whole year fixing this house up and she came many times, she saw the work. they were excited. the finest on for them. this is the place they lived the longest. she sort of new because she was so ill that perhaps she would not be living here. she even said, she thought sleepy hollow might be new -- might be her new home. and that is what happened. if you see this archway, the girls, even as young women were
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still putting on plays as they had done in their early years. they hung a curtain between these two rooms. with a the tiny portion table moved out of the way could become their stage. they had many wonderful sets and scenery and costumes. they worked hard on them. the audience would sit here. , toward themen beginning of the book, the girls are going to put on a play as a christmas present. it is going to be called the bandit's bride. ,hat is a play that luisa wrote she played the role of roderigo. in the dining it room. it one point in little women, it describes the audience sitting on a cot that collapses. these things really happened. may, thatays louisa kept it going.
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dramaticne who loved impulse. that shows in her writing today. her early experience doing these plays, these dramas with her sisters help to inform her writing style. louisa may loved making up stories. she loved making them up out loud as they walked, taking a walk in the area around walden pond with henry david thoreau. she would also record and do a lot of writing as well. she was probably writing every day. she loved it. it was a release for her as well. an outlet. she did not have a tremendous amount of success at first but she had some success almost from the beginning in the sense that she had short stories and poems published early on. those enough to keep her going. at one juncture when she was teaching school in boston and fields, ad with james
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famous publisher and his wife annie, she showed him some of her writing. she was hopeful that -- he was living in the household and maybe he would be interested. he told her, stick to your , you can'tiss alcott write. that made her more determined. on she paid him back a loan that he at kindly given her and said, with all due respect, i think i shall stick to my writing as it pays rather better than my teaching. she really did come full circle with it and became a big financial success eventually. coming up to the second floor, we have the parents bedroom. the youngest sister, who was amy in the book.
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this room is the most important. wrotelouisa may alcott little women. this was her bedchamber. she originally shared it with her sister. where at a little half-moon desk, built by her father, louisa may alcott sat and penned little women. one thing that is important to note is that in that era, it was commonly taught that brain work such as writing would ruin a woman's health. doctors had written articles. weren't concerned medically, people thought it was not seemly for a woman to write seriously for a publication.
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it was fine to write letters but this was something that you should reserve for a man. the fact that her family supported her in this way was quite amazing. the building of this desk was more than just a convenience. it was really a wonderful support psychologically for louisa may alcott. her mother was equally supportive and she made a scribbling suit and a hat. she also gave her a pen and wrote a little note saying, may this pen, your muse inspire, when wrapped in poetic spires. jet wonderful support from her family. story.women was a simple it was really the family story. she did not think much would come of it when she first sent it off. she made note in her journal that they had really lived most of it and if it would succeed
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that would be the reason. it andlisher looked at didn't think much of it either but he gave it to his niece who loved it more than anything she had ever read. the publisher decided to go with it. conservatively start off with a small number but the first edition, about 500 books, sold out very fast. more copies were printed. people then as now, might have been surprised, such a simple story, but it was way ahead of its time in many ways. yet it walked a fine line between leading people into more progressive thought, the idea that a woman could be independent or have ideas of her own. that she could have a temper and not be considered a villain. all of these human qualities that women were told to suppress .ame out in the person of jo
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the family was not perfect at all. they all have flaws. they struggled in many ways. yet they supported each other and love each other and they went on. they never felt sorry for themselves and sat around and, i'm such a ne'er-do-well i can't do anything. they kept going. this was a very inspiring role model for people to read this book especially young women for whom was intended. little women succeeded beyond imaginings. a made louisa may alcott superstar of the day. this changed everything. thomas, advised her to keep the copyright which was wonderful advice. that meant that she could really make money on this book.
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she became quite wealthy. by the standards of the day. you probably would think of her as a millionaire today. made the family comfortable. it allowed all their debts to be repaid and they could then feel at ease in that regard. and louisa was so generous she was always doing kindnesses for others. if someone needed something and she could, she would often be helping others. in much the same way they had been help when she was young -- they had been helped when she was young, in particular ralph waldo emerson, he was always slipping a $10 bill under a tablecloth. he was always trying to help them. note of that and did the same sort of thing. she made a difference in everyone's life who is anywhere near her. it is interesting, the literary history of concorde is so multifaceted and depending upon
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one's interest you can easily bypass an author's home because you can read the books. there is something about this particular book and this particular house that is unique in the sense that as far as i know, it is the only piece of literature that not only has maintained its importance to so many people, it has never been out of print, widely translated, well over 50 translations, very beloved by people of all cultures. it was written and set in a house that is now open to the public. and people walk through this house they will say to me, this is like walking through the book. someone once said, it is as if you could go to hogwarts after you read harry potter. but that is not a real place and this is. >> our staff recently traveled to massachusetts to learn about
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its rich history. learn more about concord and other spots on the tour at c-span.org/cities tour. you are watching american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span3. sunday on q&a, -- wasn a country which absolute monarchy, speaking about the distribution of welcome the corruption, that could get you arrested. women's rights activists talk about time in prison after challenging the ban on women's -- women drivers in saudi arabia. >> you never see women driving in the street. , and they can't drive. we wanted to change this by this movement. the movement is going on. it never stopped. we are still campaigning for the right to drive. is us, the right to drive
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more of civil disobedience. women are not supposed to jive -- to drive, we show that we are capable of driving along life and being in the driver seat of our own destiny. >> sunday night at 8 p.m. eastern on q&a. up next on the presidency, discussesewis lehrman fdr and churchill and how they won world war ii. he spoke at the new york historical society where he is also a member of the board of press -- the board of trustees. this is just under one hour. thrilled to welcome

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