CFP: Legacy Forum on Work (1873)

 Legacy Forum

In honor of the 150th anniversary of Louisa May Alcott’s novel Work (1873) we invite short essays (2,000 to 3,000 words) that reflect on the intersections of labor, precarity, and organizing in nineteenth-century American women’s writing for an upcoming forum in Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers.

Drafted and pitched as a semi-autobiographical novel in the early years of the 1860s, but not published until after Alcott’s blockbuster success with Little Women (1868), Work follows the protagonist through a range of jobs in which she gathers a community of laboring women, examining the gendered tolls of labor across class and racial lines. In our current moment of rising labor action in education and the arts, how can Work and related texts help us think through labor solidarity, especially in industries associated with gendered and intellectual work, as well as caregiving, reproduction, and other invisibilized forms of gendered labor? We invite close readings of Work and other texts that engage with themes of labor and labor organizing, as well as presentist and theoretical arguments that engage such themes.

We encourage writers to consider questions like, What might Alcott’s Work suggest about the role of sex workers in labor organizing? How might Black women’s writing about work as a political opportunity open new conversations about the symbolism of labor? What do tales of women’s mental illness or disability arising from labor reveal about nineteenth century models of health? What might it mean for an author to see herself as an organizer, and what would that look like on the page? What can contemporary laborers and organizers learn from these historical insights?

We especially welcome essays by and about women writers of color that consider the racialization of femininity and work. How, for example, did literature in the era of the Page Act negotiate gender and race through labor? How did survivors of enslavement represent labor, and how did free Black writers understand labor in its wake? We further encourage consideration of queer/ed workers engaging in labor that challenged gendered boundaries, from women doctors to the street “fairy.” 

Please submit essays to Max Chapnick ( and Eagan Dean ( by October 1st. Contributors will be selected by November 31st. Final essay drafts will be due by February 15th, 2024. We welcome inquiries about essay fit and topic ahead of the deadline.