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Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind 'Little Women'

Alcott’s reputation as a morally upstanding New England spinster, reflecting the conventional propriety of mid-19th century Concord, Massachusetts, is firmly established.  Raised among reformers, iconoclasts and Transcendentalists, the intellectual protégé of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, Alcott was actually a free thinker, with democratic ideals and progressive values about women – a worldly careerist of sorts.  Most surprising is that Alcott led, anonymously and under the pseudonym A.M. Barnard, a literary double life not discovered until the 1940s.  As Barnard, Alcott penned some thirty pulp fiction thrillers, with characters running the gamut from murderers and revolutionaries to cross-dressers and opium addicts – a far cry from her better-known works featuring fatherly mentors, courageous mothers and impish children.

Originally broadcast in 2009, American Masters — Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind ‘Little Women’ is the first film biography about the celebrated author and reveals a remarkable woman, ahead of her time, who was much more than a writer of children’s books. Combining elements of documentary, drama and animation, the film stars three-time Obie winner Elizabeth Marvel (HomelandHouse of Cards) as Alcott and Tony and two-time Emmy winner and Oscar nominee Jane Alexander (The Great White HopeWarm Springs) as Alcott’s first biographer Ednah Dow Cheney. With dialogue taken exclusively from writings or firsthand reports of conversations, the film is shot on locations including Orchards House in Concord, Emerson’s house in Concord, and Fruitlands in Harvard, site of the Alcott’s utopian experiment. Interwoven with dramatic scenes are interviews with Alcott scholars Sarah Elbert, John Matteson, Joel Myerson, Daniel Shealy, Madeleine Stern, Dr. Leona Rostenberg, Jan Turnquist, and novelist Geraldine Brooks.

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Announcer: The National Endowment for the Humanities -- bringing you the stories that define us.

♪♪ ♪♪ Woman: I SCRAMBLED UP TO CHILDHOOD, FELL WITH A CRASH INTO GIRLHOOD, AND CONTINUED FALLING OUT OF TREES, OVER FENCES, UPHILL AND DOWN STAIRS, TUMBLING TILL THE TOPSY-TURVY GIRL SHOT UP INTO THE TOPSY-TURVY WOMAN.

Man: FOR MANY YEARS, PEOPLE BELIEVED THAT LOUISA MAY ALCOTT WAS JUST A WRITER OF CHILDREN'S BOOKS.

BUT THEN PEOPLE DISCOVERED SHE WAS DEEPLY INTERESTED IN THE DARKER SIDES OF HUMAN CHARACTER AND EMOTIONS.

I DON'T ENJOY WRITING MORAL PAP FOR THE YOUNG.

I DO IT BECAUSE IT PAYS WELL.

Man: LOUISA WROTE POETRY, SHORT STORIES, AND PUBLISHED OVER TWO DOZEN BOOKS.

BUT SHE BECAME FAMOUS AS THE AUTHOR OF 'LITTLE WOMEN.'

'LITTLE WOMEN' HAS SPOKEN ACROSS CULTURES AND ACROSS GENERATIONS.

Woman: IT'S BEEN TRANSLATED INTO OVER 50 LANGUAGES, TELEVISION, MOVIE ADAPTATIONS.

Man: ADAPTATIONS FROM HIGH TO LOW CULTURE.

Woman: MUSICALS. OPERAS. BALLETS. ANIME.

TAKE-OFFS. AND A LOT OF MERCHANDISE.

AFTER LOUISA DIED, HER SISTER ENTRUSTED EDNAH DOW CHENEY, A FAMILY FRIEND, TO WRITE LOUISA'S OFFICIAL BIOGRAPHY.

LOUISA MAY ALCOTT'S WORKS ARE A REVELATION OF HER LIFE.

IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO UNDERSTAND THEM FULLY WITHOUT KNOWING HER LIFE STORY.

FORTUNATELY, I CAN LET HER SPEAK FOR HERSELF.

Man: IN HER BIOGRAPHY, CHENEY MADE LOUISA MAY ALCOTT AN UNCOMPLICATED FIGURE.

Woman: BUT AS YOU GO DEEPER INTO THE OTHER STORIES SHE WROTE AND THE FACTS OF HER LIFE, SHE WAS AN IMMENSELY COMPLEX WOMAN.

Woman: WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT ALL HER HEROINES, WHO STRUGGLED TO CURB THEIR TEMPERAMENT AND DISCIPLINE THEMSELVES, YOU GET A SENSE OF THE WRITER HERSELF.

I HAD LOTS OF TROUBLES.

SO I WRITE JOLLY TALES.

Woman: 'LITTLE WOMEN' IS THE STORY OF FOUR SISTERS... Woman: IN A TIME OF CRISIS.

Man: IN CIVIL WAR-ERA NEW ENGLAND.

Woman: JO MARCH IS THE HEROINE.

Man: SHE WAS IMPETUOUS, RAMBUNCTIOUS, AMBITIOUS.

Woman: MOODY. Woman: PASSIONATE.

Woman: AND DETERMINED TO BE A WRITER, NO MATTER WHAT.

I READ 'LITTLE WOMEN' FIRST WHEN I WAS ABOUT 10 YEARS OLD.

MY MOTHER GAVE ME THE BOOK.

SHE SAID, 'YOU MUST READ THIS.'

LIKE THOUSANDS OF GIRLS ALL OVER THE WORLD, I WANTED TO BE JO.

I THOUGHT I WAS JO.

LOUISA VERY CLOSELY MODELS THE CHARACTERS OF 'LITTLE WOMEN' ON HER OWN SISTERS.

JO, OF COURSE, IS LOUISA HERSELF, WHO HATES SOCIAL STRICTURES THAT ARE IMPOSED ON WOMEN.

I WANT TO BE A KINDLY INFLUENCE.

WILL YOU NOT LET ME?

BETH IS THE TRAGIC AND DOOMED REAL SISTER ELIZABETH.

AMY WAS MAY, WHO BECOMES A BRILLIANT PAINTER.

AND ANNA BECOMES MEG, THE DUTIFUL OLDER SISTER.

I LIKE TO HEAR BEAUTIFUL WORDS AND THOUGHTS.

'BEAUTIFUL' IS MY FAVORITE WORD.

ANNA IS TOO LAZY TO DO ANYTHING BUT DRUM ON THE SERAPHINE TILL WE ARE ALL STUNNED WITH HER NOISE.

I HAVE A DEVIL TO PLAGUE AND TRY MY PROWESS.

Louisa: I MUST HAVE BEEN A DEER OR A HORSE IN SOME FORMER STATE, BECAUSE IT WAS SUCH A JOY TO RUN.

Bronson: 'V.'

'V'! 'V,' 'V'! Woman: LOUISA AND HER OLDER SISTER, ANNA, WERE BORN IN GERMANTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA.

'W'! 'W'! Woman: MR. ALCOTT HAD A SCHOOL.

AND WHEN THE BENEFACTOR OF THAT SCHOOL PASSED AWAY, THE FAMILY MOVED TO BOSTON.

Bronson: I RECORDED THE PROGRESS OF MY LITTLE GIRLS FROM THE DAY OF BIRTH.

Woman: IT'S A VERY MINUTE ACCOUNT.

HE'S TRYING TO KEEP A SCIENTIFIC RECORD OF CHILD DEVELOPMENT THAT REVEALS CHILDREN'S SOULS.

Bronson: LOUISA HAS THE WILD EXUBERANCE OF A POWERFUL NATURE, FIT FOR THE SCUFFLE OF THINGS.

[ Crash ] Louisa: OW!

SHE HAS A VIOLENCE THAT IS AT TIMES ALARMING.

ANNA ACTUALLY NEEDS PROTECTION.

OW!

SOME DISCIPLINE WILL BE NECESSARY TO REDUCE HER TO TAMENESS.

[ SIGHS ] RUNNING AWAY WAS A DELIGHT OF MY EARLY DAYS.

ON ONE OCCASION A BIG DOG WELCOMED ME SO KINDLY THAT I FELL ASLEEP WITH MY HEAD PILLOWED ON HIS CURLY BACK AND WAS FOUND THERE BY THE TOWN CRIER.

THE NEXT DAY I WAS TIED TO THE ARM OF THE SOFA TO REPENT AT LEISURE.

LOUISA ADDS TO HER VOCABULARY DAILY, PRODUCES EVERY PART OF SPEECH!

SHE'S A MERRY LITTLE PUSS.

Man: BRONSON AND ABBY CAME FROM VERY DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS.

BRONSON WAS A SELF-EDUCATED CONNECTICUT FARMER'S SON.

ABBY CAME FROM A STAUNCH NEW ENGLAND FAMILY, WEALTHY, INFLUENTIAL IN BOSTON.

Man: IN THE 1830s, THERE WAS A GREAT FOMENT OF REFORM IN BOSTON -- RADICAL THINKERS ARGUING FOR EXPANDED FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND FREEDOM OF WORSHIP.

WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON AGITATING FOR ABOLITION.

Elbert: THE ALCOTTS ESPOUSED NOT ONLY EMANCIPATION FOR SLAVES, BUT ABSOLUTE SOCIAL EQUALITY.

THEY ESPOUSED EDUCATION FOR WOMEN AND THE VOTE FOR WOMEN.

IT'S BEEN SAID OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT THAT WHEN SHE WAS GROWING UP, SHE DID NOT KNOW A SINGLE PERSON WHO WAS LESS THAN A GENERAL IN THE ARMIES OF REFORM.

IN THE 1830s, EDUCATION WAS A DREARY EXPERIENCE.

Brooks: THE TEACHER'S MISSION WAS TO BREAK THE WILL AND SUBDUE THE SPIRIT.

BRONSON'S APPROACH WAS THE OPPOSITE.

Louisa: MY FATHER TAUGHT IN THE WISE WAY, WHICH UNFOLDS WHAT LIES IN THE CHILD'S NATURE AS A FLOWER BLOOMS, RATHER THAN CRAMMED IN LIKE A STRASBOURG GOOSE WITH MORE THAN IT COULD DIGEST.

THE CHILD MUST BE TREATED WITH REVERENCE, AS A FREE, SELF-GUIDING, SELF-CONTROLLING BEING.

Man: THE SCHOOL ATTRACTED PUBLICITY.

PROMINENT BOSTONIANS SUCH AS RALPH WALDO EMERSON WOULD COME BY TO OBSERVE.

Man: I THOUGHT THE TEMPLE SCHOOL EXPERIMENT SUCCESSFUL.

ALCOTT IS THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY MAN AND THE HIGHEST GENIUS OF THE TIME.

Man: IN 1836, EMERSON PUBLISHED 'NATURE,' WHICH WAS BOOK THAT ESTABLISHED TRANSCENDENTALISM AS A LITERARY AND PHILOSOPHICAL AND SOCIAL MOVEMENT.

Brooks: EMERSON RELIED QUITE HEAVILY ON BRONSON'S JOURNAL WHEN HE WAS WRITING 'NATURE.'

Myerson: TRANSCENDENTALISTS BELIEVE GOD IS PRESENT IN NATURE AND IN HUMANKIND.

Brooks: BRONSON ALCOTT BELIEVED THAT YOU APPROACH GOD PARTICULARLY WITHIN THE SOULS OF CHILDREN.

LOUISA WAS TOO YOUNG TO ATTEND THE TEMPLE SCHOOL, EXCEPT AS AN OCCASIONAL VISITOR.

MY PUPILS CELEBRATED MY BIRTHDAY.

THEY CROWNED ME -- AND LOUISA, BEING 3 YEARS OLD -- WITH LAURELS.

Cheney: MR. ALCOTT AND HIS DAUGHTER LOUISA SHARED THE SAME BIRTHDAY -- NOVEMBER 29th.

I STOOD UPON A TABLE TO DISPENSE CAKES TO EACH CHILD.

BY SOME OVERSIGHT, THE CAKES FELL SHORT.

IF I GAVE AWAY THE LAST, I SHOULD HAVE NONE!

I KNOW MY LOUEY WILL NOT LET THE LITTLE FRIEND GO WITHOUT.

THE LITTLE FRIEND RECEIVED THE DEAR PLUMMY CAKE AND I A KISS, AND MY FIRST LESSON IN THE SWEETNESS OF SELF-DENIAL.

THE WHOLE CELEBRATION GAVE MUCH PLEASURE.

BIRTHDAYS ARE ALWAYS DISMAL TIMES TO ME.

Brooks: BRONSON SPENT A LOT OF THE SCHOOL DAY IN CONVERSATIONS WITH HIS PUPILS THAT RANGED ALL OVER PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY.

Matteson: BRONSON DECIDED TO TALK ABOUT THE BIRTH OF JESUS.

THIS STARTED TO LEAD INTO SOME QUESTIONS OF THE FACTS OF LIFE THAT PERHAPS SOME OF THE CHILDREN WERE NOT QUITE READY FOR.

Brooks: HE WAS ENCOURAGED TO PUBLISH THESE CONVERSATIONS.

THE BOOK CAME OUT, TO UNIVERSAL HORROR.

HE TALKED ABOUT BIRTH WITH THE CHILDREN, AND WORDS LIKE 'CONCEIVE' AND 'SEED.'

THE SCHOOL WAS IN ADVANCE OF PUBLIC OPINION AND WAS DENOUNCED BY THE NEWSPAPERS.

Brooks: THE LAST STRAW WAS WHEN HE ENROLLED A YOUNG AFRICAN-AMERICAN GIRL IN THE CLASS.

Elbert: HE PRETTY SOON IS ONLY TEACHING SMALL BLACK GIRL AND HIS OWN CHILDREN.

AND IT'S SIMPLY ALL DOWNHILL FROM THERE.

Brooks: AT THAT VERY LOW POINT, HE RECEIVED WORD HIS METHODS HAD BEEN TAKEN UP BY AN ENGLISH SCHOOL -- ALCOTT HOUSE.

THEY INVITED HIM TO VISIT.

Man: WHILE THERE, HE MET CHARLES LANE.

LANE AND BRONSON DEVISED A PLAN TO COME BACK TO AMERICA AND ESTABLISH A UTOPIAN COMMUNITY.

Myerson: IN THE 1840s AND 1850s, OVER 100 COMMUNITIES PROVIDED ALTERNATIVE LIFESTYLES.

Elbert: FRUITLANDS WAS THE ALCOTTS' UTOPIAN EXPERIMENT.

Myerson: LANE PROVIDED THE MONEY.

ALCOTT PROVIDED INTELLECTUAL BACKING.

Brooks: THEY MOVED THERE WITH VERY FEW AGRICULTURAL SUPPLIES.

HOWEVER, BRONSON DID FIND ROOM ON THE CART FOR HIS BELOVED BUST OF SOCRATES.

[ CROAKS ] IN THIS SERENE AND SEQUESTERED DELL, WE INITIATE A FAMILY IN HARMONY WITH THE PRIMITIVE INSTINCTS OF MAN.

THE SOUL EXPANDS IN SUCH A REGION!

OUR DIET IS STRICTLY OF THE PURE AND BLOODLESS KIND.

I LIKE IT, BUT NOT THE SCHOOL PART OR MR. LANE.

I HOPE THE EXPERIMENT WILL NOT BEREAVE ME OF MY MIND.

Brooks: THEY INTENDED TO LIVE OFF THE FRUITS OF THE LAND.

Elbert: THEY HAD SOME VERY STRANGE IDEAS -- FOR INSTANCE, THAT CROPS THAT GREW BELOW THE GROUND, LIKE CARROTS AND POTATOES, WERE NOT AS GOOD FOR YOUR SOUL AS CROPS THAT SAW THE LIGHT OF GOD DIRECTLY.

Myerson: BRONSON HAD A VERY ILL-ASSORTED GROUP OF PEOPLE JOIN HIM AT FRUITLANDS.

IT WAS A GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO COULD DO EVERYTHING EXCEPT FARM.

THE FRUITLANDS EPISODE WAS TOLD IN 'TRANSCENDENTAL WILD OATS' WITH LIGHT AND KINDLY SATIRE.

A NEW DRESS WAS INVENTED, OF LINEN.

COTTON, SILK, AND WOOL WERE FORBIDDEN AS THE PRODUCT OF SLAVE-LABOR, WORM-SLAUGHTER, AND SHEEP-ROBBERY.

A BEARDED ENGLISHMAN EXPECTED TO BE SAVED BY GOING WITHOUT CLOTHES.

A SUNSTROKE UNFORTUNATELY SPOILT HIS PLAN.

ONE YOUTH BELIEVED LANGUAGE OF LITTLE CONSEQUENCE IF THE SPIRIT WAS RIGHT.

GOOD MORNING, DAMN YOU.

Elbert: BRONSON AND HIS FRIEND CHARLES LANE WERE FOREVER GOING OFF TO TALK WITH OTHER INTELLECTUALS ABOUT THE IMPORTANT REFORMS OF THE DAY.

Emerson: THE SUN AND THE EVENING SKY DO NOT LOOK CALMER THAN ALCOTT AND HIS FAMILY AT FRUITLANDS.

THEY LOOK WELL IN JULY.

LET US SEE HOW THEY FARE IN DECEMBER.

Brooks: BY THE TIME WINTER SET IN, THEY WERE FACING STARVATION.

ONE BY ONE, CONVERTS TO THIS WAY OF LIFE PEELED OFF.

I ROSE AT 5:00, AND AFTER BREAKFAST WASHED THE DISHES AND THEN HELPED MOTHER WORK.

Lane: THE FAMILY IN ITS HIGHEST, DIVINEST SENSE DISDAINS ALL ANIMAL SENSUALITIES.

THERE IS BUT ONE BEAST OF BURDEN HERE -- A WOMAN.

Turnquist: LOUISA WROTE A POEM THAT BECAME A TOUCHSTONE IN HER RELATIONSHIP WITH HER MOTHER.

'I HOPE THAT SOON, DEAR MOTHER, 'YOU AND I CAN BE IN THE QUIET ROOM 'MY FANCY HAS SO OFTEN MADE FOR THEE.'

Matteson: LOUISA SAW ABIGAIL WORKING INCESSANTLY.

SHE THOUGHT THE GREATEST THING THAT SHE COULD DO IN LIFE WOULD BE TO CREATE EASE AND COMFORT FOR HER MOTHER.

THE EVILS OF LIFE ARE PERSONAL, AND ONLY PERSONAL REFORM CAN ERADICATE THEM.

Brooks: LANE BECAME OBSESSED WITH THE IDEA OF CELIBACY.

CAN A MAN ACT CONTINUALLY FOR THE UNIVERSAL GOOD WHILE HE COHABITS WITH A WIFE?

THE SHAKERS BRING TOGETHER THE TWO SEXES IN A NEW RELATION.

THE RESULTS ARE MORE HARMONIC THAN FAMILY ARRANGEMENTS.

BUT WITHOUT SEX, NATURE COULD NOT BE.

BUT, BRONSON, A DIVIDED HEART IS AN IMPOSSIBILITY.

[ SLAMS DISH DOWN ] ALL LANE'S EFFORTS HAVE BEEN TO DISUNITE US.

Louisa: FATHER AND MOTHER AND ANNA AND I HAD A LONG TALK.

FATHER ASKED US IF WE SAW ANY REASON TO SEPARATE.

I WAS VERY UNHAPPY, AND WE ALL CRIED.

I PRAYED GOD TO KEEP US ALL TOGETHER.

I INTEND TO TAKE MY CUBS AND RETREAT.

Brooks: ABIGAIL SAID BRONSON COULD STAY OR GO WITH LANE TO A SHAKER COMMUNITY, BUT SHE AND THE GIRLS WERE OUT OF THERE, AND THEY WERE TAKING THE FURNITURE.

BRONSON SANK INTO THE GREATEST DESPOND OF HIS LIFE AND REFUSED TO EAT.

Louisa: HE LAY DOWN UPON HIS BED, TURNED HIS FACE TO THE WALL, AND WAITED WITH PATHETIC PATIENCE FOR DEATH.

Emerson: VERY SAD, INDEED, IT WAS TO SEE THIS HALF-GOD DRIVEN TO THE WALL.

MR. ALCOTT'S CONJUGAL AND PATERNAL INSTINCTS WERE TOO STRONG FOR HIM.

HE COMES AWAY CONVINCED THAT MR. LANE AND HE WERE NEVER TRULY UNITED.

Young Louisa: I WISH I WAS RICH, I WAS GOOD, AND WE WERE ALL... Adult Louisa: 'I WISH I WAS RICH, I WAS GOOD, AND WE WERE ALL A HAPPY FAMILY THIS DAY.'

LITTLE LU BEGAN EARLY TO FEEL THE FAMILY CARES AND PECULIAR TRIALS.

I NEVER FORGOT THIS EXPERIENCE.

MY LITTLE CROSS BEGAN TO GROW HEAVIER FROM THIS HOUR.

THE ALCOTTS WERE ABLE TO AFFORD A HOUSE IN CONCORD FOR THE SIMPLE REASON THAT SOMEBODY ELSE PAID FOR IT.

RALPH WALDO EMERSON ADVANCED $500.

Turnquist: AND MRS. ALCOTT WAS ABLE TO TAP IN TO HER INHERITANCE.

THOSE CONCORD DAYS WERE THE HAPPIEST OF MY LIFE.

Teen Louisa: I HAD AN EARLY RUN BEFORE THE DEW WAS OFF THE GRASS.

THE MOSS WAS LIKE VELVET, AND I SANG FOR JOY.

MY HEART WAS SO BRIGHT AND THE WORLD SO BEAUTIFUL.

A VERY STRANGE AND SOLEMN FEELING CAME OVER ME.

IT SEEMED AS IF I FELT GOD AS I NEVER DID BEFORE.

Adult Louisa: WE HAD CHARMING PLAYMATES IN THE LITTLE EMERSONS, CHANNINGS, HAWTHORNES, AND GOODWINS, WITH THE ILLUSTRIOUS PARENTS AND THEIR FRIENDS TO SHARE OUR EXCURSIONS AND ENJOY OUR PRANKS.

AH, LOUIS, WHY ART THOU HERE?

SOME DANGER MUST HAVE BROUGHT THEE; TELL ME, DEAR BROTHER.

SISTER DEAREST, THOU CANST NOT HELP ME.

I CAME TO SAY FAREWELL, THERESA.

FAREWELL?

OH, BROTHER, DO NOT LEAVE ME!

THY LOVE IS ALL NOW LEFT TO CHEER MY LONELY LIFE.

WHEREFORE MUST THOU GO?

I CHARGED THY HUSBAND WITH NEGLECT AND CRUELTY, AND I AM BANISHED!

BUT I SHALL RETURN AND KEEP MY VOW TO FREE THEE FROM HIS POWER!

ANNA WANTS TO BE AN ACTRESS, AND SO DO I.

WE COULD MAKE A LOT OF MONEY, PERHAPS.

LOUISA IS SO INTERESTING AND FUNNY THAT OTHER GIRLS SEEM COMMONPLACE.

I THINK SHE'LL WRITE SOMETHING GREAT ONE OF THESE DAYS.

[ CHUCKLING ] Matteson: FOR LOUISA, LIFE IN CONCORD WAS AN EXPERIENCE OF INCREDIBLE INTELLECTUAL RICHES.

IT WAS A MECCA FOR DISTINGUISHED THINKERS AND WRITERS.

Myerson: YOU HAVE RALPH WALDO EMERSON ACROSS THE STREET.

YOU HAVE NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE DOWN THE ROAD.

YOU HAVE HENRY DAVID THOREAU LEADING YOU THROUGH THE WOODS.

Louisa: I USED TO VENTURE INTO MR. EMERSON'S LIBRARY AND ASK WHAT I SHOULD READ.

I RECALL THE SWEET PATIENCE WITH WHICH HE LED ME AROUND THE BOOK-LINED ROOM.

THIS IS A VERY INTERESTING BOOK.

Louisa: HIS KIND HAND OPENED TO ME THE RICHES OF SHAKESPEARE, DANTE, AND CARLYLE.

WAIT A LITTLE FOR THAT.

MEANTIME, TRY THIS, AND IF YOU LIKE IT, COME AGAIN.

Louisa: I LEFT WILDFLOWERS ON THE DOORSTEPS OF MY 'MASTER,' SUNG MIGNON'S SONG IN VERY BAD GERMAN BENEATH HIS WINDOW, AND WROTE LETTERS TO HIM, BUT WAS WISE ENOUGH NOT TO SEND THEM.

Elbert: HENRY DAVID THOREAU TOOK HER AND HER SISTERS WALKING IN THE COUNTRYSIDE AND TAUGHT THEM BOTANY AND BIOLOGY.

Louisa: SPENT A PLEASANT AFTERNOON ASKING QUESTIONS, AND GETTING ANSWERS -- NOT DRY FACTS, BUT THE DELICATE TRAITS AND CURIOUS HABITS OF THE SWEET THINGS THE SPEAKER KNEW AND LOVED.

LOOK AT THIS, LOUISA.

IN PINES, A THIN MEMBRANE... Elbert: EMERSON WAS THE FAMILY PHILOSOPHER.

THOREAU WAS THE FAMILY HERO.

WITH A HANDLE FOR THE WIND TO CATCH... Elbert: IT WAS THOREAU WHO HAD, AFTER ALL, SPENT A NIGHT IN JAIL IN CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE AGAINST THE MEXICAN WAR.

MORE EXTENSIVE AND REGULAR.

Elbert: LATER IN HER LIFE, SHE PUTS THOREAU INTO HER NOVEL 'MOODS' AS THE MAN OF ACTION.

Louisa: ADAM WARWICK WAS THE MANLIEST MAN SHE HAD EVER SEEN, LIVING OUT HIS ASPIRATIONS AND BELIEFS AT ANY COST.

Elbert: SHE ALSO PUTS EMERSON INTO HER NOVEL, AS THE PHILOSOPHER.

Louisa: GEOFFREY MOOR HAD A MOST ATTRACTIVE FACE, WITH ITS BROAD BROW, SERENE EYES, AND CORDIAL SMILE ABOUT THE MOUTH.

Elbert: THE HEROINE IS ATTRACTED TO BOTH OF THEM AND CAN'T QUITE CHOOSE BETWEEN THEM.

BUT WHEN SHE DOES CHOOSE, SHE CHOOSES THE MAN OF ACTION, AND THAT'S THOREAU.

WHAT ARE THE MOST VALUABLE KINDS OF SELF-DENIAL?

APPETITE.

TEMPER.

AND HOW IS SELF-DENIAL OF TEMPER KNOWN?

IF I CONTROL MY TEMPER, THEN I AM RESPECTFUL AND GENTLE, AND EVERYONE SEES IT.

HOW SHALL WE LEARN THIS SELF-DENIAL?

BY RESOLVING, AND THEN TRYING HARD.

WHAT, THEN, DO YOU MEAN TO DO?

RESOLVE AND TRY.

Elbert: THE DESIRE TO PLEASE HER FATHER, AND ALSO A REBELLION AGAINST HER FATHER, FUELED HER YOUNGER YEARS.

SHE WAS NOT HIS FAVORITE CHILD.

BUT SHE WAS HER MAMA'S GIRL.

[ CRYING ] AND THEY WERE BOTH TEMPESTUOUS.

THEY BOTH GAVE HIM A HARD TIME.

I CALLED ANNA MEAN.

FATHER TOLD ME TO LOOK IT UP IN THE DICTIONARY, AND IT MEANT 'BASE, CONTEMPTIBLE.'

I'M SO ASHAMED!

I WAS PLEASED YOU BORE YOUR FATHER'S REPROOF SO MEEKLY.

I'VE MADE SO MANY RESOLUTIONS, AND WRITTEN SAD NOTES, AND CRIED OVER MY SINS, AND IT DOESN'T SEEM TO DO ANY GOOD.

IT'S NOT EXPECTED THAT CHILDREN SHOULD ALWAYS DO RIGHT.

FATHER SAYS, 'ANNA'S JOURNAL IS ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE, LOUISA'S ABOUT HERSELF.'

ANNA IS SO GOOD!

HOPE AND KEEP BUSY, DEAR, AND IN ALL PERPLEXITY AND TROUBLE COME FREELY TO YOUR MOTHER.

I WILL, FOR YOU ARE THE BEST WOMAN IN THE WORLD.

Brooks: THE ALCOTTS WERE MUCH POORER THAN THE MARCHES IN 'LITTLE WOMEN.'

THEY RELIED ON CHARITY AND HANDOUTS.

MR. ALCOTT CANNOT BRING HIMSELF TO WORK FOR GAIN, BUT WE HAVE NOT LEARNED TO LIVE WITHOUT MONEY.

Brooks: ABIGAIL IS MORE VOLATILE THAN THE SO-DUTIFUL, SO-PERFECT MARMEE IN 'LITTLE WOMEN.'

SHE WAS MUCH ANGRIER AT THE LOT OF WOMEN IN GENERAL, AND HERSELF, OCCASIONALLY, IN PARTICULAR.

GIVE ME ONE DAY OF PHILOSOPHY.

IT'S WORTH A CENTURY OF SPECULATION AND DISCUSSION.

I DON'T SEE WHO IS TO CLOTHE AND FEED US ALL, WHEN WE ARE SO POOR NOW.

Brooks: LOUISA'S BIOGRAPHERS HAVE MADE HAY OUT OF THE FACT THAT THE FATHER IS ABSENT IN 'LITTLE WOMEN.'

THEY'D SAY THAT IT WAS BECAUSE OF DIFFICULTY IN HER RELATIONSHIP WITH HER OWN FATHER.

BUT I THINK, AS A NOVELIST, THE FATHER IS ABSENT BECAUSE HE HAS TO BE, FOR STORY REASONS.

THAT'S WHEN THE GIRLS HAVE TO STEP FORWARD AND TAKE MORE RESPONSIBILITY.

Turnquist: LOUISA DID SEWING, MAKING DOLL CLOTHES.

EVERYONE IN THE FAMILY DID THEIR BEST TO BRING SOME INCOME IN.

Myerson: EVEN RAISING THEIR OWN FOOD, IT BECAME IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE ALCOTTS TO STAY IN CONCORD.

Turnquist: WITH WINTER COMING ON, MOVING TO BOSTON GAVE THEM MORE OPTIONS.

Louisa: I FOUND THE PROSPECT RATHER GLOOMY, BUT THE HOPEFUL HEART OF 15 GAVE THE GRAY CLOUDS A SILVER LINING, AND I SAID DEFIANTLY... I WILL SOMETHING!

TEACH, SEW, ACT, WRITE, ANYTHING TO HELP THE FAMILY.

AND I'LL BE RICH AND FAMOUS AND HAPPY BEFORE I DIE.

SEE IF I WON'T!

Teen Louisa: SINCE COMING TO THE CITY THE BUSTLE AND DIRT SEND ALL LOVELY IMAGES AND RESTFUL FEELINGS AWAY.

I THINK HOW POOR WE ARE HOW MUCH WORRY IT IS TO LIVE AND HOW MANY THINGS I LONG TO DO I NEVER CAN.

Shealy: ABIGAIL BECOMES THE PRIMARY SOURCE OF FUNDS.

SHE OPENS AN EMPLOYMENT OFFICE FOR THE POOR.

BRONSON ALCOTT CONDUCTS CONVERSATIONS, OR TALKS, NOT MAKING VERY MUCH MONEY.

Turnquist: LOUISA DID VIRTUALLY EVERY KIND OF WORK THAT A RESPECTABLE WOMAN COULD DO.

Matteson: SHE WAS A SEAMSTRESS, A WOMAN'S COMPANION, A TEACHER, THE LAUNDRESS, THE GOVERNESS.

Turnquist: SHE WENT OUT TO SERVICE AND WAS HUMILIATED.

Louisa: THE ROUGHEST WORK WAS MY SHARE.

I SPLIT KINDLING, MADE FIRES, AND SIFTED ASHES LIKE A TRUE CINDERELLA.

I'M GOING TO TAKE FATE BY THE THROAT AND SHAKE A LIVING OUT OF HER!

Teen Louisa: ANNIE GOES TO LENOX AS A NURSERY GIRL TO MRS. TAPPAN.

I TAKE ANNA'S SCHOOL IN CANTON STREET WITH 20 PUPILS.

I AT LOVERING'S AS GOVERNESS.

WE ALL HAVE SMALLPOX.

MOTHER AT WORK AT THE OFFICE.

THE PERIOD BETWEEN 1848 AND 1858 WAS A HUNGRY DECADE FOR THE ALCOTT FAMILY.

AT THE LOWEST POINT, THEY WERE DESTITUTE, LIVING IN A BASEMENT APARTMENT ON THE FRINGES OF THE WORST SLUM IN BOSTON.

MOTHER NEEDS CHEERING UP.

WHAT A HARD LIFE SHE'S HAD SINCE SHE MARRIED, SO FULL OF WANDERING AND WORRY.

SHE'S TOO TIRED TO BE WEARIED BY MY MOODS; I HAVE TO MANAGE THEM ALONE NOW.

Elbert: ABIGAIL MAY ALCOTT DID NOT THINK THE COST OF BEING A REFORMER WAS GOING TO BE AS PERSONALLY GREAT.

SHE REALLY KNEW NOTHING ABOUT POVERTY.

SHE WAS A LADY.

I HAVE LABORED HAND AND BRAIN FOR THE SUPPORT OF OUR FAMILY -- LABOR SO OPPRESSIVE TO ME.

I HAVE TO COVER UP THE COLD NEGLECT AND SILENT REPROACH OF THOSE WHO DESIRE TO HELP US.

I HOPE THAT SOON, DEAR MOTHER, YOU AND I MAY BE IN THAT QUIET ROOM MY FANCY HAS SO OFTEN MADE FOR THEE.

I'M TRYING TO TURN MY BRAINS INTO STORIES.

MY WITS ARE GETTING SHARPENED.

I SEW LIKE A STEAM ENGINE WHILE I PLAN MY WORKS OF ART.

Shealy: LOUISA'S FIRST STORIES WERE SENTIMENTAL TALES IN POPULAR NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES.

I CAN DO IT FAST, AND IT'S A GOOD DRILL FOR FANCY AND FOR LANGUAGE.

I ENJOY ROMANCING, THOUGH MY TALES ARE SILLY.

Myerson: YOUNG LADIES, SHOPGIRLS, SAW IN THESE STORIES A WONDERFUL MEANS OF ESCAPING FROM THEIR OWN LIVES, WHICH WERE OFTEN VERY DRAB.

Louisa: I WROTE MANY TALES FOR THE FOR $10 APIECE.

I THINK THAT -- THOUGH AN ALCOTT -- I CAN SUPPORT MYSELF.

SHE HAD A RICH WINTER IN THE WELL-KNOWN BOARDING HOUSE OF MRS. DAVID REED IN CHAUNCY STREET.

COUSIN LU GAVE ME THIS SCARLET SHAWL FOR THEATERGOING, AND, AS IT IS A VERY FINE AFFAIR, I FEEL ILLUMINATED WHEN I GET IT ON.

PERHAPS IT'S ACTING THAT I'M MEANT FOR.

MR. BARRY AGREED TO LET ME ACT AT THE BOSTON THEATRE.

IT WAS ALL A SECRET.

I WAS TO DO WIDOW POTTLE IN 'THE JACOBITE,' AS THE DRESS WAS A GOOD DISGUISE.

[ GASPS ] WHAT'S THEE DOING ON THY KNEES TO MY DAUGHTER, THOU IMPUDENT VARLET!

RAGAMUFFIN!

THAT'S HOW THEE LOOKS FOR CORKS, IS IT!

[ LAUGHS ] THE DEAR, RESPECTABLE RELATIONS WERE HORRIFIED WHEN IT WAS FOUND OUT.

MR. BARRY BROKE HIS LEG, SO I HAD TO GIVE IT UP.

Turnquist: THE ALCOTTS MOVED 30 TIMES BEFORE THE FAMILY MOVED BACK TO CONCORD.

ONCE AGAIN, THE PURCHASE OF A HOME WAS POSSIBLE BECAUSE OF MRS. ALCOTT'S INHERITANCE AND RALPH WALDO EMERSON.

Louisa: THE WANDERING FAMILY IS ANCHORED AT LAST.

Cheney: MR. ALCOTT HAD HIS LIBRARY AND WAS VERY HAPPY THERE, BUT LOUISA'S HEART NEVER CLUNG TO IT.

SHE WRITES OF CONCORD, 'THE PEOPLE ARE KIND AND FRIENDLY AND IT LOOKS PLEASANT,' BUT SHE SAID SHE FOUND 'NO INSPIRATION IN THAT DULL PLACE.'

IN THE MID-1850s, BETH CONTRACTED SCARLET FEVER.

Elbert: THE SCENE IN 'LITTLE WOMEN' PEOPLE REMEMBER IS BETH'S DEATH.

Turnquist: BETH'S DEATH IN 'LITTLE WOMEN' IS ROMANTICIZED.

IN REALITY, IT WAS GRUESOME.

SHE BEGGED FOR ETHER, THOUGH THE EFFECT WAS GONE.

WHAT SHE SUFFERED WAS SEEN IN HER FACE.

AT 23 SHE LOOKED LIKE A WOMAN OF 40, SO WORN, AND ALL HER PRETTY HAIR GONE.

SO THE FIRST BREAK COMES, AND I KNOW WHAT DEATH MEANS -- A LIBERATOR FOR HER, A TEACHER FOR US.

IN OUR NEW HOME, SHE CAN BECOME MORE TRULY WHAT WE OFTEN CALLED HER, 'OUR ANGEL IN THE HOUSE.'

Shealy: THIS WAS A DIFFICULT TIME FOR LOUISA.

SHE COULDN'T FIND A JOB.

SHE BEGAN TO DESPAIR.

Louisa: WENT TO BOSTON ON MY USUAL HUNT FOR EMPLOYMENT... EVERYONE CARED SO LITTLE WHETHER I GOT WORK OR JUMPED INTO THE RIVER THAT I THOUGHT SERIOUSLY OF DOING THE LATTER.

IN FACT DID GO OVER THE MILL DAM AND LOOK AT THE WATER.

'SHE WATCHED THE BLACK WATER ROLLING SLUGGISHLY BELOW.

'SOMETHING WHITE SWEPT BY -- ONLY A BROKEN OAR -- 'BUT SHE BEGAN TO WONDER HOW A HUMAN BODY WOULD LOOK 'FLOATING THROUGH THE NIGHT.

'SHE SEEMED TO SEE THE PHANTOM SHE HAD CONJURED UP, AND IT WORE THE LIKENESS OF HERSELF.'

I WENT HOME, SET MY TEETH, AND VOWED I'D MAKE THINGS WORK IN SPITE OF THE WORLD, THE FLESH, AND THE DEVIL.

IT SEEMED SO COWARDLY TO RUN AWAY BEFORE THE BATTLE WAS OVER.

Matteson: AFTER LOUISA'S SUICIDE FEELINGS, SHE WROTE A VERY REVEALING STORY CALLED 'LOVE AND SELF-LOVE.'

Louisa: 'THE CHILD...LAY DEAD 'BENEATH THE RIPPLES OF THE RIVER, BUT THE WOMAN ROSE UP FROM THAT BED OF SUFFERING.'

Matteson: JUST AS THE CHARACTER IS PULLED OUT OF THE STREAM WHERE SHE'S TRIED TO DROWN HERSELF, LOUISA UNDERGOES A REBIRTH.

'LOVE AND SELF-LOVE' WAS MORE THAN A PIECE OF THERAPY FOR LOUISA.

IT WAS ALSO ONE OF HER FIRST MODEST LITERARY SUCCESSES.

Louisa: PEOPLE SEEM TO THINK IT'S A GREAT THING TO GET INTO THE MY $50 WILL BE VERY HAPPY MONEY.

Turnquist: JOHN BRIDGE PRATT MET ANNA BRONSON ALCOTT WHEN THE TWO OF THEM WERE CAST IN A PLAY TOGETHER.

THEY FELL IN LOVE AND GOT MARRIED.

[ SIGHS ] I MOURN THE LOSS OF MY ANNA, AND AM NOT COMFORTED.

MR. EMERSON KISSED HER, AND I THOUGHT THAT HONOR WOULD MAKE EVEN MATRIMONY ENDURABLE.

Brooks: LOUISA CHOSE NOT TO MARRY.

THIS WAS A TIME WHEN WOMEN HAD TO GIVE UP AN IMMENSE AMOUNT OF AUTONOMY.

Louisa: MR. CONDIT, I HAVE DECIDED THAT IT BE BEST FOR ME TO DECLINE YOUR PROPOSAL.

IN HASTE, L. M. ALCOTT SHE LOVED ACTIVITY, FREEDOM, AND INDEPENDENCE.

SHE FELT SURE SHE SHOULD GET TIRED OF HER HUSBAND IF SHE MARRIED.

A LOVELY DAY, THE HOUSE FULL OF SUNSHINE, FLOWERS, FRIENDS, AND HAPPINESS.

VERY SWEET AND PRETTY, BUT RATHER BE A FREE SPINSTER AND PADDLE MY OWN CANOE.

Elbert: ALCOTT WAS BORN INTO A CIRCLE OF THE MOST RADICAL ABOLITIONISTS.

THEY NOT ONLY SAW SLAVERY AS SIN, THEY SAW IT AS SIN.

Brooks: THE ALCOTT HOME WAS A STATION ON THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD.

Louisa: FUGITIVE SLAVES WERE SHELTERED UNDER OUR ROOF.

I WAS AN ABOLITIONIST AT THE AGE OF 3.

Elbert: BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR, SHE WRITES STORIES ABOUT THE RELATIONS BETWEEN BLACK AND WHITE.

IN 'M. L.,' SHE HAS A BLACK MAN AND WHITE WOMAN ACTUALLY MARRY AND HAVE CHILDREN.

AND THE IN 1861, WOULD NOT ACCEPT IT SIMPLY BECAUSE IT WOULD OFFEND THE SOUTH SO DEEPLY.

[ GUNSHOT ] Cheney: MISS ALCOTT COULD NOT HELP FEELING DEEPLY THE EXCITEMENT OF THE HOUR WHEN WAR BROKE OUT.

Louisa: I LONG FOR BATTLE LIKE A WARHORSE WHEN HE SMELLS POWDER.

BUT I CONTENT MYSELF WITH SEWING VIOLENTLY ON PATRIOTIC BLUE SHIRTS.

I'VE DECIDED TO GO TO WASHINGTON AS A NURSE.

IF YOUR STRENGTH IS ADEQUATE TO THE TASK, YOU COULD NOT BETTER SERVE YOURSELF OR YOUR COUNTRY.

I MUST LET OUT MY PENT-UP ENERGY!

I AM SENDING MY ONLY SON TO WAR.

I HAVE OFTEN LONGED TO SEE A WAR, AND NOW I HAVE MY WISH.

Elbert: THE ONLY PARTICIPATION IN THE WAR THAT WAS FORMALLY OPEN TO WOMEN WAS A BRAND-NEW OCCUPATION CALLED NURSING.

Louisa: UP AT 6:00, DRESS BY GASLIGHT, RUN THROUGH MY WARD, THROW OPEN WINDOWS AS IF LIFE DEPENDED UPON IT.

A MORE PERFECT PESTILENCE-BOX I NEVER SAW.

THOUGH I'M OFTEN HOMESICK, HEARTSICK, AND WORN OUT, I LIKE IT.

Elbert: SHE ARRIVED ON THE EVE OF ONE OF THE BLOODIEST BATTLES OF THE CIVIL WAR.

Man: IN THE BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG, I'VE SEEN ONE FIGURE OF AT LEAST 10,000 WOUNDED, AND MAYBE AS MANY KILLED.

IT WAS A DEBACLE OVER SEVERAL DAYS.

[ GUNFIRE, HORSE WHINNYING ] [ MEN YELLING ] Louisa: STRETCHERS, EACH WITH ITS LEGLESS, ARMLESS, ENTERING MY WARD.

[ MAN GROANING ] SHH.

Louisa: THE SURGEONS BEGAN THE AMPUTATIONS.

DR. P. -- WHOSE AIDE I WAS -- SEEMED TO REGARD A DILAPIDATED BODY AS I WOULD A DAMAGED GARMENT.

ETHER WAS NOT THOUGHT NECESSARY.

Cheney: WITH ALL ITS HARDSHIPS, MISS ALCOTT FOUND IN THE HOSPITAL THE VARIED AND INTENSE HUMAN LIFE SHE HAD LONGED TO KNOW.

Louisa: JOHN SUHRE, THE PRINCE OF PATIENTS... [ EXHALES ] NO DYING STATESMAN WAS EVER FULLER OF REAL DIGNITY THAN THIS VIRGINIA BLACKSMITH.

DO YOU THINK I'LL PULL THROUGH, SIR?

I HOPE SO, MY MAN.

THERE'S NOT THE SLIGHTEST HOPE.

YOU'D BETTER TELL HIM. I LEAVE IT TO YOU.

Elbert: SHE WRITES HIS LAST LETTER FOR HIM, TO HIS MOTHER.

AND EVERYONE ON THE WARD WEEPS.

LET ME HELP YOU BEAR IT, JOHN.

THANK YOU, MA'AM, THIS IS RIGHT GOOD.

THIS IS MY FIRST BATTLE.

DO THEY THINK IT'S GOING TO BE MY LAST?

I'M AFRAID THEY DO, JOHN.

Matteson: SHE WRITES ABOUT HIM AND ONE GETS A SENSE OF YEARNING... BUT IT CANNOT BE.

Louisa: TO THE END, HE HELD MY HAND SO CLOSE, I COULDN'T DRAW IT AWAY.

IT WAS UNSAFE FOR DEAD AND LIVING FLESH TO LIE SO CLOSE TOGETHER.

MY HAND WAS STRANGELY COLD AND STIFF, AND FOUR WHITE MARKS REMAINED ACROSS ITS BACK.

Shealy: ONLY WEEKS AFTER BEING THERE, SHE CONTRACTED TYPHOID FEVER.

Hirschhorn: LOUISA WAS TREATED WITH CALOMEL, WHICH IS A FORM OF MERCURY.

IT WAS USED FOR TUBERCULOSIS, TYPHOID, MELANCHOLIA, DEPRESSION.

THEY THREW IT AT EVERYTHING THAT THEY COULD.

Abby: LIE STILL, MY DEAR.

LIE STILL.

WE MAY BE THANKFUL SHE'S AWAY FROM THAT INFECTED PLACE.

IT WAS FORTUNATE I WENT FOR HER.

Abby: POOR LOUEY -- SHE LEFT US A BRAVE, HANDSOME WOMAN AND RETURNED ALMOST A WRECK OF BODY AND MIND.

LIE STILL, MY DEAR.

Louisa: I'LL NEVER FORGET THE STRANGE FANCIES THAT HAUNTED ME.

I HAD MARRIED A HANDSOME SPANIARD WITH VERY SOFT HANDS, CONTINUALLY SAYING, 'LIE STILL, MY DEAR,' AND THREATENING ME ALL NIGHT LONG.

A MOB AT BALTIMORE BREAKING DOWN THE DOOR TO GET ME.

BEING HUNG FOR A WITCH.

BURNED, STONED.

MALTREATED.

TEMPTED TO JOIN DR. WINSLOW AND TWO NURSES WORSHIPPING THE DEVIL.

TENDING MILLIONS OF SICK MEN WHO NEVER DIED OR GOT WELL.

THIS WAS OUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE WAR -- ONE WE WOULD NOT HAVE MADE SO EASILY, HAD WE KNOWN THE DANGERS AND THE SACRIFICE.

Matteson: THE EXPERIENCE SHOWED BRONSON LOUISA WAS PREPARED TO MAKE THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE IN A WORTHY CAUSE.

HE REGARDED HER FROM THEN ON AS DUTY'S FAITHFUL CHILD.

Louisa: AFTER THREE WEEKS OF DELIRIUM, I DIDN'T KNOW MYSELF WHEN I LOOKED IN THE GLASS.

I HAD ALL MY HAIR CUT OFF.

FELT BADLY ABOUT LOSING MY ONE BEAUTY.

Elbert: THOSE OF US WHO HAVE READ 'LITTLE WOMEN' KNOW THAT JO'S ONE GREAT BEAUTY IS HER LONG CHESTNUT HAIR.

AND ALCOTT FELT THE SAME WAY ABOUT HER OWN HAIR.

LOUISA'S LETTERS FROM UNION HOSPITAL WERE SO INTERESTING SHE WAS PERSUADED TO PUBLISH THEM.

Matteson: 'HOSPITAL SKETCHES' WAS LOUISA'S BREAKTHROUGH WORK.

IT WAS ONE OF THE FIRST ACCOUNTS AVAILABLE OF WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE IN THE UNION ARMY HOSPITALS.

Myerson: IT GAVE LOUISA HER VOICE.

IF SHE COULD WRITE ABOUT WHAT SHE HAD EXPERIENCED, SHE COULD BE A VERY SUCCESSFUL WRITER.

MISS ALCOTT RECEIVED $200 FOR THE BOOK, A WELCOME SUM.

Myerson: THE PUBLISHING WORLD OF THE 1860s FOUND AN ENTIRELY NEW AUDIENCE INTERESTED IN PULP FICTION.

Louisa: I CAN'T AFFORD TO STARVE ON PRAISE WHEN RUBBISHY TALES ARE WRITTEN IN HALF THE TIME.

Matteson: LOUISA WROTE THRILLERS, WHAT SHE CALLED 'BLOOD-AND-THUNDER' TALES.

FEW PEOPLE IN HER LIFETIME KNEW THAT THEY WERE THE PRODUCT OF HER PEN.

Shealy: SHE COULD WRITE SEVEN, EIGHT IN A YEAR AND EARN A FAIR AMOUNT OF MONEY.

Louisa: I THINK MY NATURAL AMBITION IS FOR THE LURID STYLE.

Elbert: SHE ALLOWS HERSELF TO TALK ABOUT DOING THINGS THAT ARE NOT RESPECTABLE.

THE MOST FAMOUS OF HER THRILLERS IS 'BEHIND A MASK,' IN WHICH JEAN MUIR REALIZES THAT SHE'S GETTING TOO OLD TO PLAY THE FEMME FATALE AS AN ACTRESS.

COME, THE CURTAIN IS DOWN, SO I MAY BE MYSELF, IF ACTRESSES EVER ARE THEMSELVES.

Elbert: SO SHE GOES AS A GOVERNESS TO A VERY RESPECTABLE FAMILY WITH THE AVOWED INTENTION OF MAKING SOME YOUNG MAN IN THAT FAMILY FALL IN LOVE WITH HER AND PROPOSE MARRIAGE.

I'LL NOT FAIL -- IF THERE'S POWER IN A WOMAN'S WIT AND WILL!

Elbert: SHE ALLOWS HERSELF TO TALK ABOUT THE PASSION FOR REVENGE, FOR JEALOUSY -- THE DARKER SIDE OF HUMAN NATURE.

I INDULGE IN GORGEOUS FANCIES.

'AN ANIMATED FLAME OF FIRE SEEMED TO DART INTO THE ROOM.

'SUPPLE, SINEWY, AND SLIGHT WAS THE THREATENING FIGURE... ''GO!' HE SAID, WITH AN AIR OF COMMAND.

'WHILE I GO FLING THIS BODY INTO THE RIVER, DESTROY ALL TRACES OF THE DEED.'

Myerson: LOUISA WROTE HER STORIES EITHER ANONYMOUSLY OR UNDER ANOTHER NAME, BECAUSE PROPER YOUNG WOMEN DID NOT PUBLISH IN THESE MAGAZINES.

Shealy: SHE ONCE SAID, 'WHAT WOULD MR. EMERSON THINK, OR MY DEAR FATHER?'

Elbert: SHE ALLOWS HERSELF TO ESCAPE A GENTEEL CAGE AND TALK ABOUT WOMEN'S SEXUAL PASSIONS.

Louisa: 'ROSE ST. JUST WAS AS BEAUTIFUL AS HER SPANISH MOTHER, BUT HAD INHERITED THE PRIDE OF HER ENGLISH FATHER.'

I AM MAD, FOR I, TOO, HAVE TAKEN HASHISH.

I HAD HOPED IT WOULD MAKE ME SOFT AND LOVABLE, LIKE OTHER WOMEN.

I'M TIRED OF BEING A LONELY STATUE.

Louisa: 'HE STRETCHED HIS HAND TO HER AND SAID ARDENTLY, 'HEAVEN BLESS HASHISH, IF ITS DREAMS END LIKE THIS!'' Matteson: AFTER LOUISA DIED, THE THRILLERS WERE BASICALLY FORGOTTEN.

Elbert: THERE WERE IN ALCOTT'S JOURNALS REFERENCES TO PARTICULAR STORIES THAT WE COULD NEVER FIND.

Matteson: MANY DECADES AFTER HER DEATH, THEY WERE REDISCOVERED.

Elbert: LEONA ROSTENBERG AND MADELEINE B. STERN UNCOVERED A CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN LOUISA MAY ALCOTT AND HER PUBLISHER.

WE ARE CALLED LITERARY SLEUTHS BECAUSE WE ARE LITERARY SLEUTHS.

I WAS WORKING ON A BIOGRAPHY OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT SOME 50 YEARS AGO.

I PULLED OUT A DOSSIER, SORT OF TIED TOGETHER WITH A STRING, AND I NEARLY STAGGERED.

THE FIRST LETTER WAS ADDRESSED TO MISS ALCOTT FROM JAMES R. ELLIOTT, EDITOR OF THE BOSTON.

AND IN IT HE STATED THAT HE WISHED ANY ONE OF HER STORIES WRITTEN UNDER HER PSEUDONYM, A.M. BARNARD, SUCH AS 'YOUR RECENT STORY' -- 'BEHIND A MASK.' 'BEHIND A MASK.'

AND HE WISHED FOR MORE STORIES.

WELL, I MUST SAY, SILENCE PREVAILED IN HOUGHTON LIBRARY -- IT IS A VERY SACRED SPOT OF RESEARCH.

I LET OUT A YELL -- [ Laughs ] AND SHOOK THE ROOM.

MORE STORIES EXIST.

THERE ARE CLUES IN HER JOURNAL, STILL, TITLES THAT HAVE NOT BEEN LOCATED.

IT MAY BE THAT ALCOTT'S COMPLETE LITERARY CANON MAY NEVER BE FINALIZED.

Louisa: MONEY IS THE END AND AIM OF MY MERCENARY EXISTENCE.

MONEY, 'CAUSE THE -- MORE THAN MONEY.

TRASH LITERATURE BROUGHT IN MORE, PROBABLY, THAN GOOD PROSE.

I OBJECT TO 'TRASH LITERATURE.'

IT'S NOT TRASH, DEFINITELY NOT TRASH.

EXCUSE ME.

IN LATE 1864, LOUISA MAY ALCOTT FINALLY PUBLISHED HER FIRST NOVEL, 'MOODS,' A VERY FRANK DISCUSSION OF LOVE, MARRIAGE, AND DIVORCE.

Elbert: AND IT GOES THROUGH MANY, MANY DRAFTS.

SHE HAS A LOT OF TROUBLE GETTING IT PUBLISHED.

THE REVIEWS OF 'MOODS' WERE GENERALLY MIXED, ALTHOUGH MOSTLY FAVORABLE.

THE ONE REVIEW THAT STUCK IN LOUISA'S MIND, THOUGH, WAS BY HENRY JAMES, JR.

'THE TWO MOST STRIKING FACTS WITH REGARD TO 'MOODS' ARE --' JAMES'S REVIEW -- UNDESERVING.

'THE TWO MOST STRIKING FACTS WITH REGARD TO 'MOODS' ARE 'THE AUTHOR'S IGNORANCE OF HUMAN NATURE, AND HER SELF-CONFIDENCE IN SPITE OF THIS IGNORANCE.'

THE BLAME OVERBALANCES THE PRAISE.

I WROTE STRAIGHT OUT OF MY OWN OBSERVATION, EXPERIENCE, AND INSTINCT.

IT WAS SPOILT BY SHORTENING!

YOU ARE IN THE VESTIBULE OF THE TEMPLE, BUT THE HIGH ALTAR IS NOT FAR OFF.

'THERE IS NO REASON WHY MISS ALCOTT SHOULD NOT WRITE 'A VERY GOOD NOVEL, PROVIDED SHE WILL BE SATISFIED TO DESCRIBE ONLY THAT WHICH SHE HAS SEEN.'

MISS ALCOTT WAS VERY FOND OF NEW SCENES AND A VARIETY OF PEOPLE, AND THE LONGING FOR A JOURNEY TO EUROPE BECAME HER RULING DESIRE.

Shealy: IN 1865, LOUISA WENT TO EUROPE AS A COMPANION TO ANNA WELD.

Louisa: I TRIED MY BEST TO SUIT AND SERVE HER.

HARD WORK WITH A FRETFUL INVALID, BUT I ENJOYED MUCH.

[ CHOPIN NOCTURNE PLAYS ] Cheney: AT VEVEY, SHE MADE THE ACQUAINTANCE OF A YOUNG POLISH LAD, LADISLAS WISNIEWSKI, THE ORIGINAL OF THE CHARMING LAURIE IN 'LITTLE WOMEN.'

Louisa: HE HAD BEEN IN THE POLISH REVOLUTION.

MY HEART WARMED TO HIM AT ONCE.

IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO LONG RESIST LADDIE'S PLEADING EYES.

AH?

Louisa: THE BARRIER OF AN UNKNOWN LANGUAGE DID NOT LONG STAND BETWEEN US.

MOWW-- MOUTH.

MOUFF... OY.

I, I, I AM IMBECILE.

I NEVER CAN -- WILL -- SHALL?

[ LAUGHS ] TO HAVE LEARN YOUR BEAST OF ENGLISH!

[ LAUGHING ] HE TOLD ME TO CALL HIM SAYING IT MEANT 'MY FRIEND' IN POLISH.

[ SPEAKING POLISH ] OH, OH, FRIEND! FRIEND!

[ LAUGHING ] Louisa: LATER I FOUND TO MY DISMAY THAT I HAD BEEN CALLING HIM 'MY DARLING' IN THE TENDEREST MANNER.

Matteson: ANNA WELD HAD NO INTEREST IN ALL OF THE THINGS IN EUROPE LOUISA FOUND MOST EXCITING.

ANNA'S NOT GOING TO TRAVEL AND MY TIME IS TOO VALUABLE FOR FUSSING WITH CUSHIONS AND CARRYING SHAWLS.

I DECIDED TO GO TO PARIS IN MAY.

IT WAS MOST LIKE MISS ALCOTT TO TAKE HER OWN LIFE IN HER HANDS.

THE YOUNG POLISH LAD MET HER AGAIN IN PARIS AND CONTRIBUTED GREATLY TO THE PLEASURE OF HER STAY.

Turnquist: IT WAS A VERY BOLD MOVE FOR LOUISA TO GO TO PARIS UNACCOMPANIED AND SPEND SO MUCH TIME WITH A YOUNG MAN.

Louisa: A GAY LUNCH AT A CAFE, A FIRST BRIEF GLIMPSE OF THE LOUVRE, AND BEST OF ALL, THE EVENINGS, LONG TALKS WITH MUSIC IN THE LITTLE RED SALON, WITH THE GAS TURNED LOW.

I WISH I HAD SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL TO GIVE YOU, LADDIE.

LADDIE SAID, 'GIVE TO ME THE SWEET ENGLISH GOODBYE.'

I KISSED HIM TENDERLY, FEELING THAT IN THIS WORLD THERE WERE NO MORE MEETINGS FOR US.

Turnquist: SHE WAS MORE THAN 10 YEARS OLDER.

I THINK SHE SAW THE GREAT AGE DIFFERENCE AS SOMEWHAT OF A BARRIER.

Louisa: I STILL HAVE A PILE OF MERRY LITTLE NOTES WHICH I USED TO FIND TUCKED UNDER MY DOOR.

HE CALLED THEM CHAPTERS OF A GREAT HISTORY WE WERE TO WRITE TOGETHER.

WE HAD A FINE TIME FOR A FORTNIGHT.

Shealy: AFTER PARIS, SHE WROTE IN HER JOURNAL... Louisa: 'A LITTLE ROMANCE WITH LADDIE.'

Shealy: THEN WROTE SOMETHING ELSE AND, AT SOME LATER DATE, SCRATCHED IT OUT.

SHE ACTUALLY DEFACED THE MANUSCRIPT AND INSERTED... Louisa: 'COULDN'T BE.'

Cheney: JULIAN HAWTHORNE WROTE -- 'DID SHE EVER HAVE A LOVE AFFAIR?

'WE NEVER KNEW; YET HOW COULD SUCH A NATURE SO IMAGINATIVE, ROMANTIC, AND PASSIONATE ESCAPE IT?'

Louisa: HOME IN JULY, FINDING EVERYTHING BEHIND WHEN THE MONEY-MAKER WAS AWAY, AS I EXPECTED.

FELL TO WORK WITH A WILL.

WROTE TWO LONG TALES FOR LESLIE, AND GOT $200 FOR THEM.

ONE FOR ELLIOT FOR WHICH HE PAID ME $75, ALSO A BIT OF POETRY FOR $5.

Shealy: SHE WROTE SO MUCH, SHE WOULD GET CRAMPS, AND SHE WOULD HAVE TO SWITCH HANDS AND KEEP WRITING.

Matteson: LOUISA WROTE COMPULSIVELY.

SHE WENT THROUGH PERIODS OF EXTRAORDINARY PRODUCTIVITY, OFTEN FOLLOWED BY PERIODS OF DEPRESSION.

IT'S BEEN SUGGESTED THAT SHE SUFFERED FROM BIPOLAR, MANIC-DEPRESSIVE DISORDER.

Louisa: JANUARY 1867.

SICK FROM TOO HARD WORK.

DID NOTHING ALL THE MONTH BUT SIT IN A DARK ROOM AND ACHE.

FEBRUARY. DITTO DITTO.

Cheney: HER JOURNAL OF THESE MONTHS IS VERY MEAGER.

SHE WAS NOT WELL.

SHE FELT ANXIOUS AND TROUBLED ABOUT MANY THINGS.

Louisa: MARCH.

GOT A LITTLE BETTER AT ONE TIME BUT TRIED TO WORK AND DOWN I WENT AGAIN WORSE THAN EVER.

APRIL. SLOWLY MENDING.

MAY.

STILL GAINING, BUT FEEBLE.

JUNE. BETTER, AND BEGIN TO WRITE.

Myerson: AFTER THE CIVIL WAR, THE POPULAR PRESS STARTED SELLING MAGAZINES FOR CHILDREN.

Shealy: LOUISA BEGAN -- Myerson: EDITING A MAGAZINE CALLED -- Shealy: Myerson: IT GAVE HER A GUARANTEED SOURCE OF INCOME.

Stern: SHE NEEDED THE MONEY.

Shealy: SHE WAS THE BREADWINNER.

Elbert: ALCOTT LOOKED AT WRITING JUVENILE FICTION AS A WAY TO EARN A LIVING.

Shealy: IT WAS WHAT WAS SELLING.

Louisa: FULLER PAID $500 A YEAR FOR WORK ON LESLIE TAKES ALL I'LL SEND -- MORE WORK THAN I CAN DO.

THE FOR EACH OF THE LITTLE TALES AND WANTS TWO EVERY MONTH.

TWO EVERY MONTH?

I DON'T ENJOY WRITING MORAL PAP FOR THE YOUNG.

I DO IT BECAUSE IT PAYS WELL.

WHEN I BECOME RICH AND GREAT -- I HAVE 30 MORE YEARS, IF I'M SPARED -- I SHALL FOUND A SCHOOL FOR YOUNG ARTISTS, GIRLS UNDER 20 YEARS OF AGE.

MR. NILES WANTS A GIRLS' STORY.

LIVELY, SIMPLE BOOKS ARE VERY MUCH NEEDED FOR GIRLS.

I SAID I'D TRY.

Cheney: SHE SET HERSELF TO DESCRIBE THE EARLY LIFE OF HER HOME.

Turnquist: 'LITTLE WOMEN' WAS WRITTEN IN ORCHARD HOUSE, AT A SMALL DESK BRONSON ALCOTT BUILT FOR HER.

[ GIRLS SHOUTING ] MERRY CHRISTMAS!

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS!

JO! DON'T USE SUCH DREADFUL EXPRESSIONS!

Jo: I DON'T CARE -- I LIKE GOOD, STRONG WORDS THAT MEAN SOMETHING.

Jo: WAIT UNTIL I BECOME A FAMOUS AUTHOR AND MAKE MY FORTUNE.

THEN WE'LL ALL RIDE IN FINE CARRIAGES, DRESSED LIKE FLO KING, SNUBBING AMY'S FRIENDS AND -- AND TELLING AUNT MARCH TO GO TO THE DICKENS.

Louisa: I WAS BORN WITH A BOY'S NATURE, AND HAVE FOUGHT MY FIGHT WITH A BOY'S SPIRIT AND A BOY'S WRATH.

NEVER LIKED GIRLS OR KNEW MANY, EXCEPT MY SISTERS.

COVERING YOUR EYES WITH YOUR HANDS.

RODRIGO, RODRIGO! AHH!

SAVE ME! SAVE ME!

BUT OUR QUEER PLAYS AND EXPERIENCES MAY PROVE INTERESTING, THOUGH I DOUBT IT.

Turnquist: LOUISA'S MOTHER MADE HER WHAT SHE CALLED A GLORY CLOAK, AND SHE SAID, 'NOW, YOU JUST WRAP YOURSELF IN THAT, AND THE STORIES WILL COME.'

Beth: DID YOU HAVE A HARD DAY, MARMEE?

Marmee: NO, VERY PLEASANT, DEAR.

I HAVE A TREAT FOR YOU.

A LETTER FROM FATHER!

'GIVE THEM ALL MY DEAR LOVE AND A KISS.'

Louisa: I'M SO FULL OF MY WORK, I CAN'T STOP TO EAT OR SLEEP, OR FOR ANYTHING BUT A DAILY RUN.

FINISHED 'LITTLE WOMEN' AND SENT IT OFF.

402 PAGES.

MAY IS DESIGNING SOME PICTURES FOR IT.

HOPE IT'LL GO.

Cheney: THE PUBLISHERS PROMPTLY ACCEPTED IT.

Louisa: ''CHRISTMAS WON'T BE CHRISTMAS, WITHOUT ANY PRESENTS,' GRUMBLED JO, LYING ON THE RUG.'

''IT'S SO DREADFUL TO BE POOR,' SIGHED MEG, LOOKING DOWN AT HER OLD DRESS.'

''I DON'T THINK IT'S FAIR FOR SOME GIRLS TO HAVE 'PLENTY OF PRETTY THINGS, AND OTHER GIRLS NOTHING AT ALL,' ADDED LITTLE AMY, WITH AN INJURED SNIFF.'

IT READS BETTER THAN I EXPECTED.

Abby: ''WE'VE GOT FATHER 'AND MOTHER AND EACH OTHER,' SAID BETH CONTENTEDLY, FROM HER CORNER.'

''WE HAVEN'T GOT FATHER, 'AND SHALL NOT HAVE HIM FOR A LONG TIME.'

'SHE DID NOT SAY 'PERHAPS NEVER,' 'BUT EACH SILENTLY ADDED IT, THINKING OF FATHER FAR AWAY, WHERE THE FIGHTING WAS.'

Louisa: ROBERTS BROTHERS TOLD ME TO KEEP THE COPYRIGHT, SO I SHALL.

Shealy: PROBABLY THE WISEST DECISION THAT SHE MADE IN HER LITERARY CAREER.

NOTICES OF LOUISA'S 'LITTLE WOMEN' PLACE HER IN THE FIRST RANK OF WRITERS OF FICTION.

I COULD READ RIGHT THROUGH THREE TIMES, AND IT WOULD BE NICER AND FUNNIER EVERY TIME!

SWEETLY QUIET, RUNNING OVER WITH A HOMELY HUMOR THAT IS DELIGHTFUL.

IT'S AMUSING TO SEE WITH HOW MUCH SPIRIT THIS SIMPLE LITTLE BOOK IS DISCUSSED BY ELDERLY PEOPLE.

THE FOUR YOUNG GIRLS ARE NATURAL, HUMAN CHILDREN, WITH GOOD AND EVIL IMPULSES STRUGGLING FOR MASTERY.

BRONSON ALCOTT'S DAUGHTER IS UNQUESTIONABLY ONE OF THE BEST WRITERS FOR THE YOUNG THAT NEW ENGLAND HAS PRODUCED FOR MANY YEARS.

IT'S SIMPLE AND TRUE, AND WE REALLY LIVED MOST OF IT.

Matteson: 'LITTLE WOMEN' IS ACTUALLY TWO BOOKS.

THE RESPONSE TO VOLUME ONE WAS SO EXTRAORDINARY THAT LOUISA IMMEDIATELY THREW HERSELF INTO WRITING PART TWO.

Louisa: A CHAPTER A DAY, AND IN A MONTH I MEAN TO BE DONE.

MISS ALCOTT DID NOT WISH HER REPRESENTATIVE, JO, TO MARRY, BUT THE DEMAND OF THE PUBLISHER AND THE PUBLIC WAS IMPERATIVE.

GIRLS WRITE TO ASK WHO THE LITTLE WOMEN MARRY, AS IF THAT WAS THE ONLY AIM OF A WOMAN'S LIFE.

Stern: SHE FELT AN INTENSE PRESSURE TO MARRY JO TO LAURIE.

SHE VOWED SHE WOULD NOT DO IT.

I MADE A FUNNY MATCH FOR JO.

Stern: SHE MARRIED JO TO PROFESSOR BHAER, THE GERMAN PROFESSOR WITH THE BROWN BEARD.

I EXPECT VIALS OF WRATH TO BE POURED OUT UPON MY HEAD, BUT RATHER ENJOY THE PROSPECT.

Louisa: 'GENTLEMEN: MANY THANKS FOR THE CHECK 'FOR $8500, WHICH MADE MY CHRISTMAS AN UNUSUALLY MERRY ONE.'

PAID UP ALL THE DEBTS, THANK THE LORD!

YOU CAN REST, DEAR MOTHER, IN THAT QUIET ROOM MY FANCY MADE FOR THEE!

[ KNOCK AT DOOR ] [ Sighs ] PEOPLE COME AND STARE.

REPORTERS HAUNT THE PLACE.

[ KNOCKING ] [ Irish accent ] MISS ALCOTT NEVER SEES REPORTERS, SIR.

YOU CAN'T SEE HER, FOR SHE IS OUT!

Elbert: SHE REALLY BEGINS TO ENJOY PROSPERITY.

SHE COMES TO NEW YORK AND GOES REGULARLY TO THE THEATER AND ENJOYS IT ENORMOUSLY ENJOYS THE FRIENDSHIPS THAT SHE CAN NOW HAVE WITH FAMOUS ACTRESSES ENJOYS BUYING SILK DRESSES ENJOYS A GOOD TABLE.

SHE HAS A WONDERFUL CORRESPONDENCE WITH PEOPLE REALLY ALL OVER THE WORLD ABOUT HER FICTION.

SHE WAS CONSTANTLY CALLED UPON TO ACT FOR CHARITY.

SHE ACTED THE DICKENS CHARACTER MRS. JARLEY MANY TIMES AND WAS ALWAYS SUCCESSFUL IN GIVING LIFE AND VARIETY TO THE PRESENTATION.

Louisa: LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, CAPTAIN KYD IS HERE SPILLING THE HIGHLY CONNECTED BLOOD OF LADY BOADICEA FITZ-BATTLEAXE, WHO IS ENJOYING THAT ONE WOMEN'S RIGHT THEY ARE ALWAYS PERMITTED TO ENJOY, NAMELY MARTYRDOM.

[ AUDIENCE LAUGHING ] Shealy: IN 1870, LOUISA AND HER SISTER MAY SET OUT FOR A GRAND EUROPEAN TOUR.

Louisa: MAY IS IN A STATE OF UNUTTERABLE BLISS.

EVERYTHING IS SO PICTURESQUE, SHE DON'T KNOW WHERE TO BEGIN.

Turnquist: LOUISA TURNED TO MAY FOR COMPANIONSHIP AND TOOK GREAT JOY IN PROVIDING FOR HER YOUNGEST SISTER.

Elbert: THEY BUY LONG WHITE KID GLOVES IN PARIS WITH 17 BUTTONS.

THEY HAVE A WONDERFUL TIME.

Shealy: SHE WENT BACK TO VEVEY, BUT HER YOUTH, SHE FEELS, HAS PASSED AWAY.

SHE WAS 33 WHEN SHE MET LADDIE.

BY THE TIME SHE IS 38, HER PHYSICAL HEALTH IS DETERIORATING.

WHEN I HAD HEALTH, I WANTED MONEY; NOW I HAVE MONEY AND NO HEALTH TO ENJOY IT.

Shealy: SHE FEELS SO POORLY THAT SHE CONSULTS AN ENGLISH PHYSICIAN.

DR. KANE SAID MY LEG TROUBLE AND MANY OF MY OTHER WOES COMES FROM THE CALOMEL THEY GAVE ME IN WASHINGTON.

DR. KANE'S IODINE OF POTASH IS SIMPLE, AND PLEASANT, AND SEEMS TO DO SOMETHING TO THE BONES THAT GIVES THEM EASE, SO I'LL SIP AWAY.

Cheney: IN ROME, MISS ALCOTT WAS SHOCKED AND GRIEVED AT THE DEATH OF HER BELOVED BROTHER-IN-LAW, MR. PRATT.

Louisa: BEGAN TO WRITE A NEW BOOK, 'LITTLE MEN,' THAT JOHN'S DEATH MAY NOT LEAVE ANNA AND THE DEAR LITTLE BOYS IN WANT.

[ BAND PLAYING, CROWD CHEERING ] Louisa: 'LITTLE MEN' WAS OUT THE DAY I ARRIVED.

50,000 WERE SOLD BEFORE IT WAS OUT.

Myerson: SHE WAS ABLE TO INDULGE SO MANY OF THE THINGS SHE HAD ALWAYS WANTED.

BUT DEEP DOWN INSIDE, SHE KNEW SHE WAS GOING TO HAVE TO CONTINUE PURSUING THE CAREER OF A JUVENILE WRITER IN ORDER TO KEEP THAT MONEY ROLLING IN.

Matteson: LOUISA'S OUTPUT IN THE 1870s IS ABSOLUTELY COMPENDIOUS.

NOT ONLY WAS SHE WRITING THE ADULT NOVEL 'WORK,' BUT SHE PRODUCED 'AN OLD FASHIONED GIRL,' 'LITTLE MEN,' 'EIGHT COUSINS,' 'ROSE IN BLOOM,' 'UNDER THE LILACS,' AND THE LIST GOES ON.

BUT SHE FELT TRAPPED WRITING JUVENILE FICTION.

Myerson: LOUISA GAVE UP A LOT OF HERSELF NOT TO MOVE ON AS AN ARTIST, AS SHE ORIGINALLY HAD WANTED.

SHE BECAME A BRAND.

Shealy: LOUISA HAD A NUMBER OF FORMAL PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN AS SOUVENIRS FOR HER JO WORSHIPPERS.

Louisa: WHEN I DON'T LOOK LIKE THE TRAGIC MUSE, I LOOK LIKE A SMOKY RUIN OF THE BOSTON FIRE.

YOU CAN'T MAKE A VENUS OUT OF AN OLD LADY.

Myerson: AUDIENCES WOULD SURROUND HER WHEN SHE WENT OUT IN PUBLIC.

Louisa: I ASKED FOR FAME, AND THEY GAVE ME A STONE IN THE SHAPE OF A PEDESTAL.

Myerson: THERE WAS ONE INSTANCE WHERE SHE WAS ASKED TO COME UP TO A STAGE AND SIMPLY TURN AROUND 360 DEGREES, SO EVERYONE COULD SEE HER.

Shealy: BY 1877, LOUISA'S MOTHER'S HEALTH WAS FAILING.

MAY WAS IN EUROPE.

Turnquist: SHE WAS THERE TO FULFILL HE DREAM OF STUDYING THE MASTERS AND HAVING ART LESSONS.

Shealy: MAY KNEW THAT HER MOTHER WAS DYING, BUT LOUISA HAD WRITTEN, 'MOTHER WANTS YOU TO STAY, TO FOLLOW YOUR DREAM.'

Turnquist: MAY WAS VERY TALENTED.

SHE GOT PAINTINGS INTO THE PARIS SALON.

THAT WAS AN ENORMOUS HONOR.

Louisa: DEAREST MAY, OUR MARMEE IS AT REST.

[ SIGHS ] IT SEEMS AS IF I CAN NEVER FORGIVE MYSELF.

Louisa: DON'T MOURN THAT YOU DIDN'T COME.

I GAVE HER A GOODBYE KISS FOR YOU.

PERHAPS MY LITTLE TRIUMPHS HERE HAVE GIVEN HER MORE PLEASURE THAN IF I HAD STAYED AT HOME.

Louisa: A GREAT WARMTH SEEMS GONE OUT OF LIFE.

EARLY 1878, MAY MET A SWISS BUSINESSMAN.

WHO ALSO PLAYED THE VIOLIN.

NAMED ERNST NIERIKER.

AND WAS AS HAPPY AS HAPPY CAN BE IN PARIS.

Shealy: AND SHE WROTE HOME, ANNOUNCING THAT THEY WERE MARRIED.

MY FUTURE SEEMS SO FULL OF JOY AND BEAUTY, I CAN THINK OF NOTHING ELSE.

Louisa: HOW DIFFERENT OUR LIVES ARE!

SHE SO HAPPY, WELL, AND BLEST.

I SO LONELY, SAD, AND SICK.

Hirschhorn: SHE WAS SUFFERING ON A DAILY BASIS, WITH MANY SYMPTOMS.

Stern: OPIUM WAS AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC, AT AN INEXPENSIVE PRICE.

ANYONE COULD GO INTO A STORE AND BUY IT AND TAKE IT.

Elbert: SHE OFTEN RESORTED TO MORPHINE AS A PAIN REMEDY.

SHE USED HASHISH, TRIED HYPNOSIS AND 'MIND CURE,' AS IT WAS CALLED.

SHE TRIED EVERY CURE IMAGINABLE.

Louisa: IF I LIVE, IT'S FOR SOME NEW WORK... I WONDER WHAT?

Matteson: BRONSON WAS NOW TRAVELING TO THE MIDWEST TO GIVE LECTURES AND CONVERSATIONS.

HE FOUND A POPULARITY THERE NOT ONLY BECAUSE HIS OWN WORK WAS BEING PUBLISHED, BUT BECAUSE PEOPLE WERE CURIOUS NOW TO KNOW WHO WAS THE FATHER OF 'LITTLE WOMEN.'

IT'S AN HONOR FOR A DAUGHTER OF MINE TO HAVE WON SO WIDE A CELEBRITY.

IT TURNED BRONSON ALCOTT, CURIOUSLY ENOUGH, INTO A TOURIST ATTRACTION.

HAPPY LETTERS FROM MAY.

HER HOPES OF A LITTLE SON OR DAUGHTER IN AUTUMN GIVE US NEW PLANS TO TALK OVER.

Turnquist: AFTER THE CHILD WAS BORN, MAY DEVELOPED CHILDBED FEVER.

Louisa: I WAS ALONE WHEN MR. EMERSON CAME.

I FOUND HIM LOOKING AT MAY'S PORTRAIT, PALE AND TEARFUL.

MY CHILD... I WISH I COULD PREPARE YOU.

BUT ALAS... ALAS!

I AM PREPARED. THANK YOU.

Louisa: THAT HARD MOMENT WAS MADE BEARABLE BY THE PRESENCE OF THIS, OUR BEST AND TENDEREST FRIEND.

Turnquist: BEFORE MAY GAVE BIRTH, SHE SAID THAT IF ANYTHING SHOULD HAPPEN TO HER, THE CHILD WOULD BE GIVEN TO LOUISA TO RAISE.

LOUISA BECAME A MOTHER AT AGE 46.

Cheney: LOUISA ONCE SPOKE OF HERSELF AS ONE DESTINED TO FILL VACANT NICHES, BEING A WIFE TO HER FATHER, A HUSBAND TO HER WIDOWED SISTER, AND A MOTHER TO HER LITTLE NIECE.

Turnquist: LOUISA SET UP A LOVELY HOUSEHOLD IN LOUISBURG SQUARE, IN A VERY ELEGANT BEACON HILL NEIGHBORHOOD.

[ LOUISA ROARING, LAUGHING ] Louisa: DEVOTE MYSELF TO LULU, AND FIND LIFE MUCH BRIGHTER.

Turnquist: HER FATHER, HER SISTER ANNA, HER TWO NEPHEWS, AND OF COURSE LULU LIVED THERE WITH TEN SERVANTS.

Bronson: 'WHEN I REMEMBER WITH WHAT BUOYANT HEART... 'IN YOUTHFUL EAGERNESS THOU DIDST DEPART 'TO NURSE THE WOUNDED SOLDIER AND SWATHE THE DEAD...' Brooks: IN THE LATER YEARS, BRONSON DEVELOPED AN IMMENSE RESPECT FOR LOUISA.

'MID LANGUOR AND DULL PAIN...' Brooks: THEY WERE EXTREMELY CLOSE.

'KINDLED LOVE AND CHEER.

'I PRESS THEE TO MY HEART AS DUTY'S FAITHFUL CHILD.'

Cheney: WHILE WRITING SONNETS ON IMMORTALITY, MR. ALCOTT WAS STRUCK, AND NEVER ENTIRELY RECOVERED.

Matteson: IT TOOK LOUISA 7 YEARS TO WRITE 'JO'S BOYS.'

HER HEALTH WAS RAPIDLY DETERIORATING.

SHE ALSO HAD THE CARE OF HER NIECE LULU AND HER BEDRIDDEN FATHER.

'AND NOW, HAVING ENDEAVORED TO SUIT EVERYONE 'BY MANY WEDDINGS, FEW DEATHS, 'AND AS MUCH PROSPERITY AS THE ETERNAL FITNESS OF THINGS 'WILL PERMIT, LET THE MUSIC STOP, 'THE LIGHTS DIE OUT, AND THE CURTAIN FALL FOREVER ON THE MARCH FAMILY.'

Myerson: LOUISA SOLD 1,800,000 COPIES OF HER WORKS.

NONE OF HER BOOKS SOLD FEWER THAN 10,000 COPIES.

Shealy: SHE MADE WELL OVER $100,000 JUST IN THE 20 YEARS SHE PUBLISHED WITH ROBERTS BROTHERS.

HENRY JAMES IN HIS ENTIRE CAREER MADE $25000.

HERMAN MELVILLE MADE ONLY APPROXIMATELY $10000 IN HIS LIFETIME.

Turnquist: BY TODAY'S STANDARDS WE'D CALL HER A MULTI-MILLIONAIRE.

I SORT OLD LETTERS AND BURN MANY.

MY JOURNALS WERE ALL BURNT LONG AGO IN TERROR OF GOSSIP WHEN I DEPART AND OF UNWISE USE OF MY VERY FRANK RECORDS OF PEOPLE AND EVENTS.

IN HER BIOGRAPHY, CHENEY HAD ACCESS TO THE ALCOTT FAMILY MANUSCRIPTS.

A NUMBER OF THE MANUSCRIPTS HAVE BEEN LOST.

SHE QUOTED VERY SELECTIVELY FROM THE LETTERS AND JOURNALS TO CREATE THE AUTHOR THAT THE READERS OF 'LITTLE WOMEN' WANTED TO SEE.

THE FRONTISPIECE TO THE BOOK SHOWS IT ALL.

IT SHOWS LOUISA READING TO A GROUP OF CHILDREN IN RAPT ATTENTION.

THE PICTURE CHENEY PRESENTED WAS SIMPLE, IT IS UNDERSTATED, AND IT IS INCORRECT.

Elbert: LOUISA MAY ALCOTT BELIEVED THAT EVERYDAY LIFE, LIKE THE SOUND OF THE DINNER BELL, WAS WORTH WRITING ABOUT, AS GREAT AN ADVENTURE AS CHASING A WHALE.

Matteson: PEOPLE STILL TURN TO LOUISA MAY ALCOTT FOR MORAL GUIDANCE, FOR EMOTIONAL SUSTENANCE.

Myerson: LOUISA'S GREATEST WEAKNESS AS A WRITER IS, SHE RARELY WENT BACK TO REVISE.

SHE IS NOW ACCEPTED IN THE AMERICAN LITERARY CANON.

DOES SHE RANK AMONG THE VERY HIGHEST OF AMERICAN WRITERS?

PROBABLY NOT.

I THINK 'LITTLE WOMEN' IS A GREAT BOOK.

DOES THAT MAKE A GREAT WRITER?

ONE BOOK AND A SUCCESSION OF STORIES?

I THINK SO.

VARIOUS AUTHORS HAVE ATTRIBUTED THEIR INSPIRATION FOR WRITING TO LOUISA MAY ALCOTT -- GLORIA STEINEM, J.K. ROWLING, CYNTHIA OZICK, GERTRUDE STEIN, SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR... 'WE'VE GOT MINDS AND SOULS AS WELL AS HEARTS; AMBITION AND TALENTS, AS WELL AS BEAUTY AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS.'

Brooks: LOUISA REALLY WAS AN EARLY FEMINIST.

IT'S UNDERAPPRECIATED HOW SHE WAS ABLE TO USE HER SUCCESS TO MAKE HER, REALLY, A MEGAPHONE FOR FEMINIST ISSUES.

'I'M SICK OF BEING TOLD THAT LOVE IS ALL A WOMAN IS FIT FOR!'

Elbert: SHE HAD A FIERCE FIRE BURNING INSIDE.

HAD SHE NOT HAD THE WRITING, HAD SHE NOT FOUND THE POLITICAL CAUSES LIKE ABOLITION AND WOMAN'S RIGHTS AND THE CAUSE OF THE INDIANS IN THE WEST AND THE RIGHTS OF PEOPLE IN PRISON, ALL OF WHICH SHE CHAMPIONED IN THE BOOKS AS WELL AS IN LIFE, SHE MIGHT HAVE BEEN ONE OF THOSE TRAGIC FIGURES WHOSE INNER FIRES CONSUMED THEMSELVES.

IN 1886, MISS ALCOTT BECAME SO WEARY AND WORN THAT SHE WENT TO DR. LAWRENCE'S HOME IN ROXBURY FOR REST AND CARE.

'I FEEL SO SAFE HERE,' SHE SAID.

Louisa: JANUARY 1st.

VERY HARD AWAY FROM LULU.

LIVED IN MY MIND, FIND AMUSEMENT FOR MYSELF.

JANUARY 2nd.

FEEBLE AND SICK.

BLUE AND CROSS.

Hirschhorn: ALCOTT BELIEVED TO THE END OF HER DAYS THAT ALL HER AFFLICTIONS WERE DUE TO MERCURY.

Louisa: IT COMES FROM THE CALOMEL THEY GAVE ME IN WASHINGTON.

Hirschhorn: BUT SHE HAD NONE OF THE BEHAVIORAL CHARACTERISTICS OF MERCURY POISONING.

SHE HAS SEVERE HEADACHES AND DIZZINESS, RASHES AND PAIN IN THE LIMBS.

SHE WAS UNABLE TO SWALLOW WHOLE FOODS.

AN AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE LIKE LUPUS HAS ALL THESE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS.

THIS PORTRAIT SHOWS THE TYPICAL BUTTERFLY RASH ACROSS THE CHEEKS, ACROSS THE BRIDGE OF THE NOSE, THAT OCCURS WITH LUPUS.

I SUSPECT THAT IS AN ACCURATE DIAGNOSIS OF HER CONDITION.

Louisa: FEBRUARY 18th.

MORE COURAGE AND PATIENCE ARE ALL I ASK.

PAPA IS VERY SWEET AND FEEBLE.

HE WILL GO SOON, I THINK.

FATHER, HERE IS YOUR LOUEY.

WHAT ARE YOU THINKING OF AS YOU LIE THERE SO HAPPILY?

UP THERE.

COME WITH ME.

OH, I WISH I COULD.

THE NEXT MORNING SHE COMPLAINED OF VIOLENT PAIN IN HER HEAD.

[ GROANING ] Hirschhorn: AFTER A TERRIFIC HEADACHE, SHE WENT INTO IMMEDIATE UNCONSCIOUSNESS.

AND THIS WOULD BE TYPICAL FOR A STROKE.

Anna: ON MARCH 4, 1888, AMOS BRONSON ALCOTT DIED AT ABOUT 11:00 IN THE MORNING AT 10 LOUISBURG SQUARE.

ON MARCH 6th, LOUISA MAY ALCOTT PASSED QUIETLY ON TO THE REST SHE SO MUCH NEEDED.

SHE DID NOT KNOW THAT HER FATHER HAD ALREADY PRECEDED HER.

LOUISA.

Cheney: THE FRIENDS OF THE FAMILY WHO GATHERED TO PAY THEIR LAST TRIBUTE TO THE FATHER WERE MET WITH THE STARTLING INTELLIGENCE, 'LOUISA ALCOTT IS DEAD.'

[ CRYING ] Louisa: EVER WHEN YOUR HEART IS HEAVY, ANNA, DEAR, THEN THINK OF ME.

THINK HOW WE TWO HAVE TOGETHER JOURNEYED ONWARD DAY BY DAY... THEN MAY ALL THE SUNNY HOURS OF OUR YOUTH RISE UP TO THEE.

ANNA, DEAR, THEN THINK OF ME.

Anna: ''YOU'VE BEEN RUNNING, JO.

'WHEN WILL YOU STOP YOUR ROMPING WAYS?'

Louisa: ''NEVER TILL I'M STIFF AND OLD, ''AND HAVE TO USE A CRUTCH.

''LET ME BE A LITTLE GIRL AS LONG AS I CAN.'' ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪