Additional Program Ideas

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women

Site Support Notebook

  • A program on nineteenth-century gothic novels, including Louisa May Alcott’s little-known thrillers
    Behind a Mask,
    or a Woman’s Power; and
    A Long and Fatal Love Chase.
  • A program about Louisa May Alcott’s personal relationships with the famous Concord Transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, and a discussion exploring the utopian ideals of Transcendentalism.
  • Readings by community members, including local celebrities and journalists, of works by Louisa May Alcott and the literary figures she knew and admired, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, as well as excerpts from early women’s magazines, such as
    Godey’s Lady’s Book.
  • A program connecting Louisa May Alcott’s nineteenth-century era to your library’s region. How was your community involved in the Civil War, Abolitionism, Transcendentalism, the women’s rights movement, or social reform?
  • A program comparing the lives of girls and women in the nineteenth century and today. Concepts to explore include work outside the home, legal status, social attitudes, race, immigration, love, and marriage.
  • An inter-generational reading and discussion of Alcott works, including
    Little Women. Alcott scholar Joel Myerson suggests the following discussion points: Does Louisa May Alcott’s portrayal of Jo March’s career choices in Little Women accurately reflect what was available to someone of her age at that time? Although Jo March’s father is virtually absent in
    Little Women, can you comment on how Mr. March’s presence may be felt?
  • A program exploring the utopian ideals of the Transcendentalists and their contemporary counterparts.
  • Plan a hike or nature walk to explore, discuss, and document your area’s natural surroundings and connect to Transcendentalist philosophies of nature. Texts to consider include
    Walden, by Henry David Thoreau;
    Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson; and
    Thoreau’s Flute, a poem written by Louisa May Alcott for her friend, Henry David Thoreau.
  • Exploration of Louisa May Alcott’s Civil War nursing experience and nineteenth-century medical practices. Possible sub-themes include a discussion of exercise, bathing, and diet; the use of alternative medicines; and medical education for women. Consider exploring Louisa May Alcott’s journals and
    Hospital Sketches.
  • A program about nineteenth-century dress reform (a movement which advocated for new, more comfortable designs for women’s clothing). Include a discussion of Alcott’s
    Eight Cousins, a novel in which dress reform is addressed.
  • Exploration of the spectrum of attitudes towards slavery and abolition. In your area, how did people feel about slavery and abolition in the nineteenth century?
  • A program about the Underground Railroad and the Alcott family’s participation.
  • A program focusing on Louisa May Alcott’s anti-slavery stories, including
    Brothers, or
    My Contraband;
    An Hour; and
  • Exploration of the Abolitionist movement as a precursor to the women’s suffrage movement, focusing on Louisa May Alcott as an advocate for both social reforms.
  • A program about Bronson Alcott’s contributions to educational philosophies, through his work as a teacher, his diaries of Louisa May Alcott’s childhood, and articles and books about his progressive teaching methods. Include a conversation about local education history and reform.
  • Writing workshops in the spirit of Louisa May Alcott and her family’s nineteenth-century community of authors, philosophers, and intellectuals. Just as Alcott responded to her changing world through her writing, encourage participants to write in response to Alcott’s writing or about contemporary social concerns. With permission, publish works online to encourage further dialogue.
  • A program in which libraries read texts written by Alcott’s contemporaries, to deepen an understanding of Alcott’s connection to the political, social, and intellectual movements of her time. Possible texts include:
    Experience by Ralph Waldo Emerson;
    A Plea for Captain John Brown by Henry David Thoreau;
    Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglass.
  • A program exploring the role of women in printing and publishing during the nineteenth century. What role did women in publishing play in the women’s suffrage movement?
  • A comparison of the concept and culture of family during the nineteenth century and today.
  • A program focused on how Louisa May Alcott inspired the careers of women such as Gertrude Stein, Gloria Steinem, Simone de Beauvoir, Cynthia Ozick, Ursula LeGuin, Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Ginsberg, Hillary Clinton, and J. K. Rowling.
  • A humanities program featuring a Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, or Henry David Thoreau impersonator. See “Speakers for Programs” for ideas.