father who lost all his fortune in a good (if badly planned) deed and caught a case of [typhoid?] pneumonia at the front. With the absence of the well-intentioned father the family story becomes a tale of self-reliant women.
The real-life, self-reliant Abba Alcott was often left alone to raise her children during husband Bronson's absences. He spent six months in England when Louisa was ten and never seemed able to earn a living although he traveled the lecture circuit and opened and closed schools from Philadelphia to Boston, among them The Concord School of Philosophy in the back yard. His philosophical journeys took him as far west as St. Louis, where Missourians gave him respect he didn't often find in Concord.
I would guess few 21st-century female readers have formed an affection for the real Bronson Alcott revealed in John Matteson's dual biography Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott & Her Father. His self absorption dominates the family story.
And yet they loved him dearly and so did his many friends.
Alcott loved to talk of the benefits of a vegetarian (if not a fruititarian) diet, exasperating neighbor Nathaniel Hawthorne who warned a guest: "You may begin at Plato or the day's news...he will come around to pears."
Boring he could be; irresponsible and self-centered he definitely was. Clinically mentally ill at times...And yet...
During the Civil War years Bronson held the position of Superintendent of the Concord schools, a job for which he was well suited and poorly paid ($100 annually.) The most important event in his Civil War was a January, 1863 train trip to Washington to rescue daughter Louisa fighting typhoid pneumonia at a Union hospital where she served briefly as a nurse. Louisa fictionalized this life-saving mission in Little Women with Marmee traveling to bring Mr. March home.
New England's intellectual elites celebrated Emancipation at a party at the estate of Mary Preston & George Luther Stearns of Medford, Massachusetts and Bronson was important enough to be invited (perhaps Abba accompanied him.) Stearns, a wealthy industrialist, was a financial supporter of antislavery zealot John Brown. After Brown's arrest and execution for fomenting revolution at Harper's Ferry, Virginia in 1859 the Stearnses continued to support him as a hero, as did much of the Alcott's circle.
Mary Stearns was so enamored of Brown she hired sculptor Edward Augustus Brackett to visit him in his death row cell and take cranial measurements for a memorial bust, which she unveiled at the New Year's Eve event the Stearns called the John Brown Party.
Guests came to Medford on the railroad in the afternoon (probably at Stearn's expense) and gathered at the mansion for a "proper interval for communion of spirit." "Felix" of Boston who was there wrote an account for The Liberator newspaper. The Brown bust, draped with a star-spangled covering, was unveiled by Wendell Phillips (or perhaps by the sculptor in another account). Bronson was impressed. “There was something thunderous about his brow that Brackett has caught in his bust."
John Brown can be viewed as a hero or a terrorist. Before he organized his futile raid on the federal arsenal in Harper's Ferry he spent some time in the Kansas Territory where he and his sons killed five men in the Doyle family who'd come from Tennessee to claim land in what the Browns hoped would become a state without slavery---or Southerns in general. Still called the Pottawatomie Massacre, their killing frenzy on the Kansas/Missouri border in 1856 brought the Brown family to national attention. The Alcotts did not view him as murderer or psychotic---Brown's ends justified his means.
Louisa spent that Jubilee Night, the eve of the Emancipation Proclamation in Washington's Union Hospital where sick in bed herself she watched festivities from her window.
8” Block (2” Grid)
A—Cut 4 squares 2-1/2”
B—Cut 1 square 5-1/4”. Cut into 4 triangles with two diagonal cuts.
16” Block (4” Grid)
Louisa knew what rickets was; she complained in one letter that her pen seemed to be afflicted with rickets, meaning her letters looked like they were knock-kneed and bow-legged, two symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency. She herself had several chronic symptoms of rickets. She complained of headaches and vertigo, rheumatism (joint pain), general musculo-skeletal pain and poor digestion.