This past winter, I visited Louisa May Alcott’s Museum at Concord, Massachusetts. Concord is a friendly and scenic town, 40 minutes away from Boston by train. After around a 20 minute walk from the station, I encountered Louisa May Alcott’s family house next to a small road. The house itself is more modest than I imagined. In her book Little Women, Louisa described the March family house as a place full of action and constant movements, with many things happening at once. So I imagined Louisa’s own home, the Alcott house, would also be a huge establishment. The house looked bigger as I walked on towards it. Through the visitor door I went, inside was a very cozy environment. The gift shop is right next to the entrance, with a treasury of books related to Louisa May Alcott and the making of Little Women, as well as aprons, postcards, tote bags, and drawings.
On the guided tour around the museum, it consists of the Alcott’s kitchen, dining room, living room, the study of Mr. Alcott, Mr. Alcott and Mrs Alcott’s bedroom, Louisa’s bedroom, and her sister May’s (the model for Amy in Little Women) room. In the kitchen, the tour guide pointed towards a drawing on the cutting board to us, showcasing May’s artwork and her passion for drawing in classical and modern forms. The tour guide stated that this was an excellent example to show the Alcott family’s character, that they pushed through hard times by never forgetting to have fun and also to create beauty however possible, even if they only have limited resources. This little detail really showed us their family integrity. I could see this spirit many times as we moved around the house. In the living room, I saw Elizabeth’s (the model for Beth) tiny, highly decorated piano and her portrait above it. I was very moved because it was just like what I imagined what kind of piano Beth would be playing by reading the book. The living room was a place full of happy memories: the family had a lot of friends that came by, so they entertained by putting on plays as the guests relaxed there. In front of the window of the living room, it was where Anna (the model for Meg) and her husband John (the model for John) got married.
I felt so excited when I walked up the stairs to Louisa’s bedroom. It was a room with a tall ceiling, a fireplace, a desk near the window, and a lot of May’s drawings (There was an owl drawn by Anna to comfort and encourage Louisa while she was sick). I was most excited to see Louisa’s desk, where she wrote Little Women. We also learned a lot about May’s art along the tour. She was a very talented artist, traveling to Europe like how Amy did in the book. There, her work was exhibited in Paris. She was also an art teacher; one of her students, Daniel Chester French, became the sculptor of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Mr. and Mrs. Alcott was very supportive of their children. Mr. Alcott built the deck in Louisa’s room in a time when not a lot of women were encouraged to write. He also built May her studio to create her art at home. This was a family that also endured a lot of hardships. Anna’s husband John died 10 years after their marriage. May died at age 39 after giving birth to her daughter. Elizabeth died very young from having scarlet fever. However, the family, with all their love and integrity, showed that despite encountering a lot of complicated obstacles in life that their unbreakable, united bond has lasted generations and became a powerful story that deals with what it means to be a strong woman, the power of family, and that in order to pursue your goals you must make every opportunity count.
I bought a drawing of the house to put on my desk and a pin of Louisa May Alcott before I left. Seeing the house was a wonderful experience. Before coming here, I knew very little about the Alcott family. I came to see the house that Little Women was based on, and not only did I see a lovely house with beautiful memories, but I also learned the stories of Louisa and her family. This valuable experience makes me appreciate the book and its persistent author even more.
Girl Museum Inc.