Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Welcome to the Louisa May Alcott Society!

Please use the tabs above to navigate this site. Scroll down to read our recent and past newsletters.

We were active last week in Boston and Concord! 

Below are photos of society members and guests celebrating our tenth anniversary as an author society, presenting two panels at the annual conference of the American Literature Association, and holding our annual business meeting. 


The Louisa May Alcott Society celebrates ten years as an author society!

Our host for this event was none other than Louisa May herself, who graciously welcomed us to her home and lawn at Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts!

Free books! Donated by our members, Miriam Reed and Mary De Jong


The society sponsors two recent panels at this year's annual conference of the American Literature Association

Left to right: Marielena James, Helen Deese, Katie Kornacki, and Phyllis Cole

  Conversations: Fuller, Alcott, and Others

(co-sponsored with the Margaret Fuller Society)

 "'A Loving League of Sisters': The Legacy of Margaret Fuller's Boston Conversations in Louisa May Alcott's Work: A Story of Experience," Katie Kornacki, University of Connecticut

"The Ideals of Companionate Marriage: A Conversation Between Louisa May Alcott and Margaret Fuller," Marielena James, University of Pretoria, South Africa

"Caroline Healy Dall and the Mantle of Margaret Fuller," Helen Deese, Massachusetts Historical Society

Left to right: Charlene Avallone, Beverly Clark, Ellen Campbell, and Chris Doyle

 Transatlantic Alcott

“Picturing Europe in Little Women,” Beverly Lyon Clark, Wheaton College

"Revising the Marriage Plot in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda,” Ellen Campbell, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

“Alcott Rewrites George Sand: Moods and Jacques,” Charlene Avallone, Kailua Hawai’i

Our annual business meeting drew the society's largest crowd in our ten-year history!

Left to right: President Sandy Petrulionis, Treasurer Melissa Pennell, President-Elect Anne Phillips, Secretary Marlowe Daly-Galeano, and new Advisory Board member Wes Mott

Traveled the greatest distance to attend! Left to right: Marielena Davis (Pretoria, South Africa) and Kristeena West (London, U.K.)



May 24, 2014, American Literature Association Conference Panels. Washington, DC

Session 1: Louisa May Alcott’s Woman in the Nineteenth Century: Moods at 150
Chair: Anne Phillips, Kansas State University
Left to right: Christine Doyle, Mary Shelden, Daniel Shealy, Anne Phillips
“‘Playing with edge tools’: Teaching Louisa May Alcott’s Moods,” Daniel Shealy, University of North Carolina-Charlotte
Moods: ‘The Oversoul’ and Oysters,” Christine Doyle, Central Connecticut State University
“'Shakespeare’s Tragedies Became Her Study’: Women’s Genius and the Marriage Question,” Mary Lamb Shelden, Virginia Commonwealth University

Session 2: “I Want Something To Do”: Alcott, Whitman, and Nursing in the Nation’s Capital

  Chairs: Ed Folsom, University of Iowa, and Sandra Harbert Petrulionis, Penn State Altoona

Left to right: Sandy Petrulionis, Emily Waples, J. D. Isip, Ed Folsom, Soeren Froehlich

“Nursing’s Domestic Grotesque: Alcott, Whitman, and the Civil War Wounded,” Emily Waples, University of Michigan
“The Pail Tells the Tale: Blood, Nursing, and the Remade Nation,” Sören Fröhlich, University of California San Diego
“‘This Heart’s Geography’s Map’: Alcott and Whitman Sketching an Affective Landscape,” J.D. Isip, Texas A & M University-Commerce

2013, American Literature Association Conference

"Celebrating the Sesquicentennial of Hospital Sketches: A Teaching Round Table"

(left to right: Society President Mary Shelden, Paul Medeiros, Marlowe Daly-Galeano, James Hewitson, Daniel Shealy)

"Re-visioning Alcott: Her Impact on the Work of Later Writers and Artists"

left to right:

Chair:  Beverly Lyon Clark
Society Secretary Anne Phillips ("'Certainly Reminiscent of Alcott’s Little Women': The Marches, the Penderwicks, and the Family Story as Genre'")
Lauren Rizzuto ("'Jo March Is Pregnant and Laurie's the Father': Fanfiction and Little Women")
Gregory Eiselein ("Louisa May Alcott, Patti Smith, and Punk Aesthetics")


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Newsletter Spring 2013

The Portfolio
Newsletter of the Louisa May Alcott Society

Number 14 Spring 2013

Contributor Daniel Shealy reports on a Recent Auction of a Letter from Alcott to her Publisher Regarding Li t t l e W o me n :

As most scholars of Louisa May Alcott know, few manuscript letters from the author to Roberts Brothers concerning the publication of Little Women in 1868 have been located. Recently, however, an important letter, from Alcott to her editor Thomas Niles, has surfaced. The letter, written sometime in the summer [likely mid to late June] of 1868, was sold at Skinner, Inc. on 1
June 2013 in Boston. The bifolium, inscribed in
Alcott’s hand on all four sides, sold for $10,000, with a
$2,000 buyer’s premium, bringing the total cost to
$12,000. The letter’s content reveals hitherto unknown information regarding Alcott’s thoughts on the novel’s title and May Alcott’s work on the illustrations.
On 16 June 1868, Niles had written Alcott proposing the title of the book, including subtitles, and asking her if she liked it. (The letter is located in the Roberts Brothers correspondence to Alcott in the Houghton Library, Harvard University, bMS Am
1130.8 [1-144].) The recently auctioned, undated letter appears to be Alcott’s reply to her editor.
The letter begins with Alcott writing in the first paragraph that she is “send[ing] the design with May’s alterations.” She notes, “She cannot do much but has put a snood [a net to hold back hair] on to Meg, & shaded here and there.” Although Alcott does not identify the illustration, she most likely refers to “Meg at Vanity Fair,” as the author had previously sent the drawing, noting “the engraver may see many faults, & will please point out such as my sister can mend” (Selected Letters of LMA117).
The more interesting information, however, is Alcott’s response in the second paragraph to Nile’s suggestion for the title. She replies: “About the title, we [LMA and May?] think that if a second one is needed
‘Meg, Jo, Beth & Amy’ simply, is enough, for it is n’t the story of thier [sic] lives, & any thing like ‘the story of’ a year of thier [sic] times is suggestive of Leslie Goldthwaite.” Here, Alcott refers to the popular children’s author Mrs. A[deline] D[utton] T[rain] Whitney (1824-1906), who had published A Summer in Leslie Goldthwaite’s Life in late 1866. Although Roberts Brothers advertised Little Women in the 1 September
1868 American Literary Gazette under Nile’s original suggested title, Little Women; Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, the Story of Their Lives, the publisher obviously acceded to Alcott’s desire.
An even more intriguing statement closes the letter’s second paragraph. Alcott writes: “My sister does not want to be identified as one of the little women & prefers to have it stand—‘illustrated by May Alcott.’” Why did May not want to be known as one of the little women? Did she simply think it would be more professional to be listed as the illustrator? Did she not want to be identified as Amy, the sister who comes off the worse in the first part of the novel? We may never know. The title page carried the credit Alcott suggested.
The letter ends with a third paragraph telling Niles to “excuse this untidy note but my small nephew is in my lap recovering from a tumble & his gambols are not conducive to elegance of handwriting.” She closes: “Yours in haste, L. M. A.” Letters such as this show us Alcott actively engaged with her publisher as they ready a book for press.

The Alcott Society sponsored two sessions at the

2013 American Literature Association conference in Boston.

“Celebrating the Sesquicentennial of Ho s p i t a l Ske t c h e s : A Teaching Roundtable”: Moderator Daniel Shealy provided the publication history and cultural context for Hospital Sketches, noting that during the Civil War, suffering and death were on the minds of many Americans. While Louisa May Alcott never understood the success of Hospital Sketches, it “showed her style,” “winning the ear and touching the heart of the public.” Mary Lamb Shelden noted that Hospital
Sketches is an anomaly in the American literature canon, for example, appearing out of sequence in the Heath Anthology. Shelden and her students have found it productive to contrast Frederick Douglass’s “outbound” journey from Baltimore to New England with the “inbound” and geographically similar one taken by Tribulation Periwinkle to Hurly Burly House in Hospital Sketches. She and her students have found it fruitful to consider as well their psychological and spiritual parallels. James Hewitson includes Hospital Sketches within the context of literature about nursing, grouping Alcott with Clara Barton, Mary Wolsey Howell, and others. He traces the political and social implications of the war, noting that circumstances offered individuals the opportunity to renegotiate gender: often, male patients were characterized in feminine terms, while nurses were associated with masculinity. He also demonstrated that nurses are significant in Alcott’s later works, including Work and Little Women. Marlowe Daly-Galeano, like Shelden,
noted the difficulty in positioning writers such as Alcott in terms of the “Romanticism”/“Realism” or antebellum/postbellum binaries, finding that Hospital Sketches, while a popular and productive text, eludes
easy categorization. She suggested the relevance of the concept of “Passing,” defining it in terms of “personally and socially constructed identities” and as “a way to transmit knowledge, information, and
history.” In response papers, her students have considered the way women “pass” as ‘soldiers’ in the work; as doctors; as “pure”; as wives, lovers, daughters (standing in for them with patients); as masculine; as Christian (particularly in terms of the challenge of balancing Christian values with the death/destruction of war). Paul Madeiros has included Hospital Sketches within an “Introduction to Ethics” course, finding that Hospital Sketches offers a response to the “problem of
egoism”: that we ought to pursue our own goals, not to serve ourselves but to help others in need. He also focuses on the way that Tribulation Periwinkle distinguishes between acting on principle and acting from impulse or feeling. He acknowledges the
influence in this text of Kant and Thoreau, also noting the author’s own feminist desire for autonomy. Ensuing discussion continued to consider the work’s genre and position within the canon, noting that it can be paired effectively with such texts as Whitman’s Drum Taps and Twain’s Innocents Abroad. Those present also continued to consider how Hospital Sketches compares with the journalism of the period, and with Alcott’s sketches and other works where she has fictionalized her family’s experiences, such as Transcendental Wild Oats.
National Book Award presenter. Birdsall acknowledges having borrowed “the idea of four sisters” from Alcott, and Phillips traces parallels between the Penderwicks and Marches. However, even the episodes and overall plot are so closely aligned with the events of Little Women that Phillips makes a case for The Penderwicks as adaptation. While Birdsall’s novel can stand alone and entertain a reader unfamiliar with Little Women, a knowing reader will find much that is familiar. The Penderwicks contrasts talent and genius; like Little Women, it may raise troubling questions about what it means to be female and artistic. Lauren Rizzuto addresses (primarily online) fan fiction written in response to Little Women, surveying not only the surprising substitutions made by some of these authors but also other fan fiction participants’ reactions to and suggested revisions for these re-envisionings. As might be expected, the relationship between Laurie and Jo is the inspiration for much of the fan fiction. Although many of the authors create versions of Little Women that might prompt outrage, Rizzuto appreciates the close readings of the text and the immersion in Alcott’s fictional world that has inspired and guided much of
this “thoughtful and nuanced” work.

“Re-visioning Alcott: Her Impact on the Work of Later Writers and Artists,” moderated by Beverly Lyon Clark.

Punctuating his presentation with excerpts from lyrics and songs, Gregory Eiselein traced the effect of Little Women on legendary punk rocker Patti Smith. In Just Kids, Smith described reading Alcott’s novel and responding in particular to Jo March. Eiselein cited Alcott’s and Smith’s common artistic traits, including their merger of high art with popular forms; their intense, unabashed amateur energy; their lurid style; their artistic flow (where he alluded to Jo’s “vortex”); and their intense, joyful state of creation/control. He concluded by celebrating “Jo March, the Great- Godmother of Punk.” Anne Phillips addressed the influence of Little Women and the March sisters on the
2005 recipient of the National Book Award for Young People’s Fiction, Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy. Birdsall’s novel has been compared to Alcott’s classic by reviewers, readers, and even the

Summary of actions taken at the Louisa May Alcott Society business meeting, held on 23 May,

2013: members approved the Treasurer’s Report submitted by Sandra Petrulionis, including an account balance of $3,149.55. The following officers were elected: President Elect: (2013-2014) Sandy Petrulionis; Secretary (2013-2015) Anne Phillips; Treasurer (2013-
2015) Melissa Pennell; Advisory Board: Katherine Adams (2011-2014); Phyllis Cole (2012-2015); Leslie Wilson (2013-2016). Officers will be examining the By- Laws and drafting revisions in Spring 2014, to be circulated to all members at least one month prior to the 2014 ALA conference in Washington, D.C. All of the changes will reflect the Society’s actual practice: for example, the current By-Laws call for a quorum of 15, and there are rarely 15 members present for the business meetings. The Louisa May Alcott Society members may be interested in participating in an upcoming conference in Halle-Wittenberg, Germany. The theme of this event is “Intercontinental Cross- Currents: Women’s (Net-)Works across Europe and the Americas (1776-1939).” Past President Daniel Shealy was presented with a token of appreciation for his service.

New Publications:

Little Women: An Annotated Edition, edited by Daniel
Shealy (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press,
2013). Lavishly illustrated and impressively annotated, this new edition will appeal to scholars and fans alike. If you’ve ever wondered about the fine details of Little Women, from Faber’s drawing pencils and blanc-mange to pickled limes and scarlet fever, and much more, you’ll find useful and fascinating explanations all through this edition. Congratulations on this scholarly and esthetic accomplishment to Professor Shealy!
Louisa May’s Battle: How the Civil War Led to Little Women (Walker Books, 2013). Author Kathleen Krull has drawn from Alcott’s journals, Hospital Sketches, and “Recollections of My Childhood” in crafting this picture/informational book about Alcott’s experiences as a nurse in Washington, D.C. during the Civil War.
Illustrator Carlyn Beccia has received a Golden Kite honor award and a Cybil Award for previous publications. The book is earning rave reviews from fans of Little

Upcoming Event at Orchard House:

The 2013 Summer Conversational Series and Teacher Institute, Sunday - Thursday, July 14-18: “‘Chaos, Cosmos, and the Oversoul’: The Influence of Transcendental Philosophy on the Life and Writing of Louisa May Alcott.”

“On the 150th anniversary of the publication of Louisa May Alcott’s Hospital Sketches, this year’s Summer Conversational Series will explore her role as an emerging “literary lion” among the distinguished
group of Concord’s Transcendentalist writers . . . . Miss Alcott’s relationships with notables such as the Thoreaus, Emersons, and Hawthornes and their influence on her life and writings will be examined through thoughtful presentations by respected scholars and lively discussion among all participants.”
Presenters include: Kyoko Amano (U. of Indianapolis); Katherine Butler (Arts & Entertainment Writer); Cathlin Davis (Cal. State U.-Stanislaus); Gabrielle Donnelly (Journalist/Author); Anne-Laure François (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense); Jason Giannetti (Dean College); Jayne Gordon (Massachusetts Historical Society); Kathleen Harsy (Riverside-Brookfield High School, IL); Stefanie Jochman (Notre Dame de la Baie Academy, WI); Eve LaPlante (Author); Kristi Lynn Martin (Boston U.); John Matteson (John Jay College); Asako Motohka (Hiroshima University); Tom Potter (Photographer); Eric Sawyer (Amherst College/Composer).
For more information or to reserve a seat,
download the registration form:
Many thanks to Sandra Petrulionis for the photographs of the panelists at the ALA conference!
Please renew your membership for 2013-2014. To use PayPal, click on “Subscriptions and Memberships” at the Society’s web site: Scroll down to
the PayPal link and follow the directions to submit
payment electronically. If renewing by mail, please send your $10 check, payable to the Louisa May Alcott Society, to Melissa Pennell, Department of English, UMass Lowell, 61 Wilder St., Lowell,
MA, 01854.
The Louisa May Alcott Society newsletter, The Portfolio, is published biannually in the spring and fall. Please send your Alcott-related news to the LMAS secretary and newsletter editor, Anne Phillips: