NEH Funds Library Programs

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women – Library Outreach Programs

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women – Library Outreach Programs has been designated as part of the NEH’s We the People initiative, exploring significant events and themes in our nation’s history and culture and advancing knowledge of the principles that define America. Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women – Library Outreach Programswill offer programming grants of $2,500 to thirty selected libraries to present five reading, viewing, and discussion programs focused on Louisa May Alcott, her body of work, and her era.

For more information, click here.

In Heaven’s Name, Give Her a Chance

The 2010 Summer Conversational Series and Teacher Institute

Join scholars, educators, and Alcott fans from across the country and around the world to listen, learn, and share in honoring the bicentennial of Margaret Fuller’s birth.

This year’s Series spotlights the contributions of women of the 19th Century and focuses on their attempts to stretch the limits of what was then considered their “sphere.”

Each day, ample opportunities for Q&A with Presenters, as well as small group discussions, will be available. Every afternoon is devoted to helping educators understand how the Series content can be applied to their curricular needs, with a keen awareness of Massachusetts Frameworks.

Educators from all grade levels and subjects — including home schoolers — are welcome to attend, as is anyone wishing to learn more about the remarkably progressive Alcott family and their notable friends and neighbors.

For more information and to register, log on to:

Alcott: ‘Not The Little Woman You Thought She Was’

Though many readers associate Alcott with the sweetness of Little Women, Reisen tells NPR‘s Linda Wertheimer, Alcott’s legacy — and Jo March’s, too — is really about the empowerment of women and girls around the world.

“You don’t grow up to walk two steps behind your husband when you’ve met Jo March,” says one Alcott fan.

In the time since Little Women was published in 1868, Reisen says she believes a countless number of women have — as Alcott put it — “resolved to take fate by the throat and shake a living out of her.”

Listen here to the NPR interview

“The Story-Telling is Superb”

Alcott is known as the iconic March sister, Jo. In Reisen’s book, the reader meets the real Louisa; the pulp fiction writer, the comedian, the moody and the cantankerous.

This book will appeal to all who love Alcott classics, who cherish stories of fierce, independent women, and who want to know about writer’s craft and inspiration. The book’s research is impeccable, and the author’s storytelling is superb. Meet the real Louisa May Alcott. – Lynn Brogan, Suite101


Wall Street Journal Calls Harriet Reisen’s Alcott Bio one of 2009′s “Standout Selections” that “Amazed and Impressed Reviewers”

The Journal’s December 18th article quoted Melanie Kirkpatrick’s review of Harriet Reisen’s “enchanting portrait of the author… who exhibited many of the qualities that have made her best-known work so beloved: such old-fashioned virtues as selflessness, self-control and duty to family.”

Alcott biography on New Hampshire Public Radio’s List of the Year’s Best

Alcott biography on New Hampshire Public Radio’s List of the Year’s Best


And The Birthday Book Give-Away Contest Winner Is…


Cultural Critic Julia M. Klein calls book “intimate…moving and sympathetic”

“In Little Women, the autobiographical classic sobbed over by generations of young girls, Louisa May Alcott softened her family’s tribulations to suit Victorian sensibilities. Harriet Reisen’s Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women (A John MacRae Book/Henry Holt and Company) fills in the rest of the picture, describing a life more complicated, unconventional and tragic than Alcott’s fans might have imagined.” – Julia M. Klein, a cultural reporter and critic in Philadelphia and a contributing editor at the Columbia Journalism Review, is a regular contributor to Obit.

Booklist’s starred review says “magnificent” biography brings Louisa “to whirling life.”

Reisen’s love for Little Women and curiosity about the author became a grand obsession, inspiring her to write the screenplay for the first Alcott documentary and this uniquely vital and dramatic biography. Reisen’s cinematic eye brings Louisa to whirling life as a coltish, fearless girl of “explosive exuberance” and sharp intellect, while she portrays Louisa’s parents with compassion and criticism: blue-blooded Abigail, continually pregnant, impossibly burdened, yet resilient and innovative; utopian Bronson, famous for his progressive ideas, infamous for his incompetence. Alcott inherited her mother’s pragmatism and courage and a touch of her father’s vision and madness and bravely struggled through a crazy-quilt childhood of wretched poverty and social privilege—their closest friends were the luminaries Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau, whom Alcott loved. She supported the family, laboring as a laundress, teaching, and serving as an army nurse in the Civil War while “training herself as a businesswoman as well as a fast, versatile pen for hire.” Reisen analyzes Louisa’s great pleasure in writing lucrative pulp fiction, her sacrifices, adventures, and brilliant career. Here, finally, is Alcott whole, a trailblazing woman grasping freedom in a time of sexual inequality and war, a survivor of cruel tragedies, a quintessential American writer. Reisen’s magnificent biography will be in high demand when PBS premieres her American Masters documentary. — Donna Seaman

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