Louisa May Alcott in her mid-twenties, 1858. Photo courtesy of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House/L.M.A.Memorial Association.Louisa May Alcott is recognized around the world for her novel Little Women, but few know Alcott as the bold, compelling woman who grew up in the innermost circle of the Transcendentalist and antislavery movements, served as a Civil War army nurse, and led a secret literary life writing pulp fiction. Louisa May Alcott was her own best character and her life was her own best plot.
Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women is a documentary film co-produced by Nancy Porter Productions, Inc. and Thirteen/WNET New York’s American Masters, and a biography of the same name written by Harriet Reisen.
To support Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women, Broward County Library will present six programs from May through September 2011 that will re-introduce audiences to Louisa May Alcott’s story. Louisa May Alcott programs in libraries are sponsored by the American Library Association Public Programs Office with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional sponsors are the Florida Center for the Book, the Broward Public Library Foundation, the Friends of the Fort Lauderdale Libraries and WPBT2.
The scholar for the program series is Dr. Christine Jackson, a professor of literature, writing, and music history in the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences Division of Humanities at Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Jackson holds a Ph.D. in American Literature.
The Broward County Library’s public programs shed light on Louisa May Alcott by exploring her life and the historical and cultural context that inspired her remarkable body of work. Alcott’s childhood was characterized by chronic economic difficulties and frequent uprooting due to her father’s utopian experiments. Despite her family’s financial hardships, Alcott experienced a rich intellectual life influenced by family friends such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Margaret Fuller. When slavery threatened the nation, the Alcott home was an Underground Railroad stop for fugitives; during the Civil War, Alcott wanted to fight, but as a woman she could enlist only as a nurse.
Through her writing, Louisa May Alcott passionately expressed her views on many of her era’s ideas for social reform, including women’s rights, racial integration, and education. During her lifetime, she produced an enormous body of work, including sensational thrillers, satires, fairy tales, Gothic novels, and works of domestic realism. Louisa May Alcott amassed her fortune with the success of her novels for young adult readers, helping her to prove that a woman could make a living as a self-trained and professional writer. Louisa May Alcott programs at Broward County Library will present a new understanding of the author and her place in American culture.
“We’re very pleased that our library was chosen to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for programs focused on Louisa May Alcott,” said Robert Cannon, Library Director. “We have plans for a number of events that will explore Louisa May Alcott’s life, work, and times. Besides her best known children’s novel, Alcott authored many other stories for adult audiences, such as Hospital Sketches, an account of Alcott’s time spent as a Civil War nurse; and Behind a Mask, one of Alcott’s recently discovered thrillers. Our library is excited to explore these little-known works, which provide a unique perspective on American history. We look forward to sharing the documentary and biography with our community.”
The six programs are at the following libraries in Broward County:
Saturday, May 7, Noon to 5 p.m.
Alvin Sherman Library, Research and Information Technology Center at Nova Southeastern University, 3100 Ray Ferrero Jr. Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Gallery 2nd floor
Louisa May Alcott: Through Her Eyes. A community-wide library event for the whole family, focusing on the life, works, and times of Louisa May Alcott. Visit with civil war re-enactors, view women's apparel and get to touch nineteenth century toys; learn about quilting and weaving during this time period; view film clips from the documentary film, Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women with commentary by Nova Southeastern University Scholar Dr. Christine Jackson. Enjoy a presentation of a stage reading and discussion of In Common Hours, an original play about Louisa May Alcott in the years prior to the Civil War by playwright Andie Arthur, Regional Representative at Dramatist Guild of America and Executive Director of the Theatre League of South Florida. Enjoy lemonade and cookies while viewing local quilts and spend time watching the movie Little Women while seated inside a white picket fence.
Wednesday, June 8, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Main Library, 6th floor, 100 S. Andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Louisa May Alcott Wrote That? Reading and Discussion of Louisa Mae Alcott’s lesser known works with Scholar Dr. Christine Jackson of Nova Southeastern University
Louisa May Alcott is best known for her children’s novel Little Women, but she authored many other stories for adult audiences, including 1) Transcendental Wild Oats, a satire on her family’s life in a nineteenth-century Utopian community; 2) Hospital Sketches, an account of Alcott’s time spent as an army nurse during the Civil War; 3) Behind A Mask, or a Woman’s Power, one of the best of Alcott’s recently discovered thrillers; and 4) Work: A Story of Experience, a novel about women’s rights and responsibilities beyond the family. The project scholar will facilitate a discussion exploring these short works, which together help display the range of Alcott’s writing and exemplify her strong and dynamic connections to the culture in which she lived. Copies of the stories will be available at the program or may be accessed at the following websites:
Tuesday, August 9, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
South Regional/Broward College Library, 7300 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines
Louisa May Alcott: Literary Phenomenon and Social Reformer
Scholar led program with Dr. Christine Jackson of Nova Southeastern University focusing on Louisa May Alcott as a self-trained and successful professional writer. The discussion will center on how Alcott used her writing to advance many of her era’s ideas for social reform, such as Abolitionism and women’s rights.
Thursday, September 15, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Main Library, 6th floor, 100 S. Andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Reading and discussion of the biography – Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women
A scholar-led discussion by Dr. Christine Jackson of Nova Southeastern University of the biography; documentary film clips will be presented during the discussion.
Wednesday, September 21, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
West Regional Library auditorium, 8601 West Broward Blvd, Plantation, Florida
Film Screening and Discussion – Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women
Discussion led by scholar Dr. Christine Jackson of Nova Southeastern University
Thursday, September 22, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Make your personal Louisa May Alcott journal with writer and artist Susan Buzzi. For pre- teens and teens. Susan Buzzi will talk about Louisa May Alcott as a young writer and have teens decorate and design their own journals
WPBT2 will be showing the documentary Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women during the libraries program series. The first presentation of the 1-1/2 hour documentary is May 1 at 6 p.m. on WPBT2.2 Create (Comcast 202). Please check local listings for additional dates.