Beginning the book on Elisabeth Sewall Alcott, and taking you on the journey

I have begun work at last on a biography of Elisabeth* Sewall Alcott; she is best known as the real life prototype of Beth March of Little Women, written by her older sister, Louisa May Alcott. After spending nearly 8 years researching her life, I am ready to write about it.

Diary of a biography

Writing such a book can take years to complete and the enormity of the task is overwhelming at times. This plus the fact that I am learning so many interesting aspects of writing biography inspired me to create this diary so that you can share in the experience. As I work through the steep learning curve of writing this book, I am hoping these posts will offer information that aspiring biographers will find helpful. It is also a way to hold myself accountable to you – to work in a disciplined manner and to keep you updated on the progress of the book.

The challenges

Writing biography has its unique challenges. I am keenly aware of being responsible to the reader for everything I put down on paper about my subject. I need to strike a balance between telling a compelling story and presenting logical arguments when facts are scare and speculation is all that remains. I am discovering that biography is one enormous jigsaw puzzle that must be pieced together carefully; the glue that holds the puzzle together and makes it whole are the original thoughts and conclusions that I use to bind them together.

An obsession

I have to wonder if a biographer doesn’t become just as obsessed with their person as fiction writers do with their characters. Lizzie lives in my head constantly. If I am not immersed in reviewing primary source material and the many biographes written on the Alcotts, then it is the multiple readings of Little Women and the equally numerous viewings of the movies that fill my time and my head.ย I never fail to cry copious tears whenever Beth receives the piano or becomes ill with the scarlet fever; the feelings well up from deep within with a sense that I might not be able to stop crying. I truly love my subject.

Feelings and perspective

I understand that in writing biography, I must not allow my personal feelings to cloud my perspective; it is necessary to detach a bit, to take several steps back to see the whole picture. While I wish for my feelings to add a certain “heart” to the story, the point is to present a cogent and factual account of Elisabeth’s life; to give her a voice for the first time.

Celebration of a classic

As I write this, the year 2018 is coming to an end and it has been a momentous one for fans of Little Women. During this sesquicentennial (150 years) celebration of the publication of of the book we have been treated to a modern day interpretation (the movie Little Women starring Lea Thompson), and a three-part series on Masterpiece. There was also a wonderful book written on the making of Little Women and its continued relevance by Anne Boyd Rioux called Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy.ย This in turn, generated numerous articles in magazines about the classic. At the end of 2019, we can look forward to vewing the much talked about Greta Gerwig adaptation of the book.

Taking notice of Beth

I noticed something as a result of all this attention on Little Women: people are taking a more serious look at Beth. She is no longer being dismissed as a two-dimensional Victorian trope character, a saint to which no one can relate. Learned people are looking beneath the veneer, in search of the human Beth.

One of these days, that attention will turn to her real life counterpart. And this is when I hope I will have a book to share on the details of her life.

Always “Beth”

Elisabeth Alcott is so buried in the legend of Beth March that she is rarely referred to by her true names (“Lizzie” and “Betty”); She is always “Beth.” There has not been much written about her except that she was the younger sister of Louisa, that she died young, and that she inspired Beth March. Even family members did not mention her but little in their writings until she became terminally ill.

No story?

I was told by a literary agent that there is no compelling story; I disagree. After spending eight years buried in family letters and journals, and in the numerous biographies of Louisa, Bronson (the father) and Abba (the mother), I can tell you with full confidence that there is in fact, a story. A poignant story about a mysterious sister who preferred to be behind the scenes. Although she had great difficulty in speaking up for herself, her life and actions inspired her older sister to immortalize her in a book that has never gone out of print in 150 years.

I invite you to journey with me as I seek to bring Elisabeth Alcott out of the shadows and into the spotlight for the first time.

*You will note that I have chosen to spell Elisabeth’s name as her father spelt it. I have a reason for doing this which I will reveal in a future post.

101 thoughts on “Beginning the book on Elisabeth Sewall Alcott, and taking you on the journey

  1. I’m so glad you’re doing this! I do have one thought; you refer to Elisabeth as the ‘Littlest Woman’ – why is that? ( I know it isn’t a reference to her birth order.) Or will that become apparent in future blogs?
    Again, so happy to see this!

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  2. Really looking forward to the book, Sue! And much appreciation for all the digging you have done on Lizzie’s behalf. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think she’d be overwhelmed if she knew that she was the subject of much interest even in this day and age instead of being allowed to fade into the wallpaper. Over the holidays, I took the time to read through the intro of my Annotated Little Women (Masterson edition…it arrived on Christmas Eve day….made my day…I put it under my tree and didn’t allow myself to look at it until Christmas Day!) and what popped out at me is that the family would openly read their journals to each other with the exception of Lizzie and, as he noted, “she liked it that way”. She kept her innermost thoughts private. Wouldn’t it be very interesting to see what she had written in her journal? Thanks again for your hard work on turning over stones! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Thanks! And oh my, aren’t you disciplined! We do actually know what she wrote in her diary kept at Hillside – it’s available at the Houghton Library. Even though she wouldn’t read hers aloud to the family, Bronson already knew what was in it because the routine was for the girls to write what they wanted to put in their journals on their slates and Bronson would approve or disapprove of it. Then it would be copied into the book. May did this while in Boston as well as Lizzie at Hillside.

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  3. I’m so excited…both for the book and to hear about your process, Susan. I’m currently working on a family history memoir so I’m eager to peer in at your writing and research process. As a history major, I’ve only ever written non-fiction, so I agree wholeheartedly that one can love a subject as much as a novelist can love a character!
    ~ Jill

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    1. A family history memoir — sounds fascinating. The first book I wrote was part memoir and it’s just part of me as a writer to do memoir. Also, when I learn cool stuff, I love to share it, it’s fun. One of the things I intend to share in a future post are tips on how to get scans from the Houghton Library. Even though I am 90 minutes away from it, I much prefer ordering scans. Sometimes you have to pay for them depending on the number of pages, but then the pages get posted online so others can read them too. One thing I have certainly learned along the way is that librarians love to answer questions and to help! ๐Ÿ™‚

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      1. Right; a nice cheerful girl and not like something was “wrong” with her mentally or a special needs type. Only she didn’t look like Lizzie with all those golden brown curls.

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  4. Wonderful luck to you, my friend! You’re taking on a worthy project, & I love that you’ll be sharing your process. I also have a day job & am trying to work out how to possibly make time for my own writing. Someone suggested an hour in the morning after I wake? Which would have me up at 4am! Only the best survive, eh? ๐Ÿ˜›

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    1. Thank you, that means a lot! Yeah, I will definitely get into that aspect of it. My problem is not so much digging up time, though that is a problem, but rather managing my frustration at not being able to work when I feel like it. During my musician phase, while being a wife and a mother, I got to be an expert at learning how to take advantage of opportunities whenever they came and using technology to help. The invention of the tablet with a keyboard is a huge plus!

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  5. I agree with you re Jean Parker. I thought she had a nice soft voice & a lovely smile.
    I also agree with you about the saint part of Beth. I think that a little of Louisa Alcott’s moralizing about being
    good in this life so you get to go to that beautiful country in the sky—goes a long way..

    I think the real charm of the 1st part of Little Women was that it was really a Love Story
    (even though there were some rough patches) between 4 sisters.
    What I loved bet about Beth was how affectionate & loving she always was to her sisters & her mother;
    & I think the best Love Story was NOT Laurie’s love for Jo, or any of the 3 marriages, but rather
    the Sisterly Love between Jo & Beth.

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      1. I’m sorry Susan. I’m not in Facebook, but I’m happy just hearing anything you have to say about Beth/Lizzzy, or Jo/Louisa, Marmee or any other of the Alcotts or of the Little Women Family.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Would you mind then if I posted something about your comment on the group because I think it’s a great perspective. I will a tribute it to a “reader.” I would love to see the discussion that would follow.

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      3. That’s fine Susan.ย A big reason I got involved with this is because I’ve seen some comments by authors and other peoplethat Beth March was “bloodless” or a “saint to whom people could not relate”; and it made me angry.So many times in “Little Women” she shows love and actual physical affection to her sisters.To me that makes her intensely human; and ALL of her sisters, not only Jo loved her. Anyway that’s how I feel. Isn’t it amazing that with all the stuff that’s going on in this crazy world,how we can get so involved in a fictional character, and a real life prototype that livedhundreds of years ago??

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      4. Just a thought, Susan. Maybe because so many people only remember the dramatic parts of Beth’s life, especially in the movies, where Beth is either sick from Scarlet Fever, or the other dramatic part where she is dying; so
        all people saw was Beth in a bed, either suffering or dying.
        The parts of Beth I like best is before she got sick, where she’s just a little girl,
        and right off the bat, she’s jumping in to settle a squabble between Jo & Amy, & then when Jo is upset because she
        was born a girl instead of a boy, Beth is consoling her & stroking her head, & then later when Jo accidentally
        burns Meg’s hair, Beth is running over to “kiss and comfort the shorn sheep”, etc.
        That’s not a “bloodless person” or an “unrelatable saint”—that’s a warm, loving. affectionate sister!
        –and her sisters loved her right back:
        From Meg, right at the start of the book telling Beth “You’re a dear and nothing else.” to Jo saying, when Beth
        gets her piano—“All for you MY PRECIOUS”
        Even Amy as much as she loved jewelry praying for Beth (when Beth was sick) “with streaming tears and
        and an aching heart, feeling that a million turquoise rings would not console her for the loss of her
        gentle little sister.”
        I don’t want to do a complete rebroadcast of Little Women here, but all through the book, she was affectionate & loving to her sisters AND her MOTHER and they wholeheartedly reciprocated her love. That’s not something
        you do for a bloodless, unrelatable person, but only for someone who has loved and touched you.

        Sorry if I rattled on too long Susan. Incidentally Ms. Alcott was a hell of a writer wasn’t she?

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      5. Just to be sure, Ms. Bailey: I did say it would be fine to post my comments as just a reader. Also, I have a question
        have you also read “Louisa May Alcott her Life, Letters, and Journals by Ednah D. Cheney?

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      6. I just think Beth was a really adorable little girl. Beth was polite and kind to everyone.
        She was very fond of her cats, her dolls, and her piano. Her best wish was just to hang
        with her family, and take care of them and love and be loved by them.
        I think anyone would be blessed to have a sister like Beth in her family.

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      7. I hope I’m not sending you too many E-Mails. The last thing in the world I want to do is gross you out;but this is a subject that is very dear to me. I just think that Beth, was this adorable little girl, with an enormous amount of kindness, whosefondest hope was just to hang with her sisters and her mother and father, and to love andbe loved by them. Lizzie Alcott, of course didn’t have all the benefits that the Marches did, but from all I’ve read she wasat least an equally wonderful daughter and sister. I am sure that Louisa would not have written so lovingly about Beth, all through Little Women, if Lizzie hadn’t been so dear to her. P.S. For someone who says she’s had no experience as a fictional writer, I think you’re great!

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      8. Please Ms. Bailey:— Don’t overtax yourself & damage your health, whatever you do!
        Whatever you are able to do is fine with me. Please just move at your own pace
        I’d just like you to know that it’s been an unmitigated pleasure to be able to converse with you, and
        get off my chest my feelings with a kindred spirit about something that’s really rankled me
        Best Regards!
        Alex Laufer

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      9. Dear Ms. Bailey”
        I was wondering if your research shows that Lizzie Alcott ever enjoyed the pleasures, (apart from the love of her sisters
        and mother}, that Beth March did from her kittens, dolls, and music??
        Thank you very much.

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      10. Fantastic!! I am so glad she was able to have some enjoyment in her life!! (I was heartbroken in Ms. Laplante’s book by her Mother’s awful regret for the “fever that I conveyedย to my house that destroyed the freshness of her life….”} Incidentally, I thought with your “novel” that was such a nice picture of Claire Danes & Wynona Ryderwhich accompanied your story. You’re great!!

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      11. Dear Ms. Bailey: I’ve been reading Ms. Cheney’s book re Ms. Alcott’s life, letters, & journals, & Ms La Plante’s bookre Marmee & Louisa, & noticed among other things that:Little Abby May @ 7 was devastated when Elizabeth was removed from her (I guess for economic reasons)to live with her relative Hannah Robie;ย  even though Abby May had both her other sisters and her mother there. Also, Louisa’s relationship to Anna seemed almost as close, or even closer to her relationship with Elizabeth. Also in “Little Women”, Meg says many wonderful things about Beth, but I don’t see them mentioned ineither Ms. Cheney’s book or Ms. La Plante’s book. What is your take on the true relationship between the Alcott sisters? Thank you very much. Alex Laufer

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      12. You are correct in your assessment. May and Lizzie were very close during their childhood and teenaged years which is not reflected with Beth and Amy. And yes, Louisa and Anna were very close – in LW it’s Jo and Beth but in real life Louisa wasn’t that close to Lizzie until she nursed her through her illness.

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      13. I did not know Elizabeth (as well as Louisa) kept journals. Would love to know where these can be seen.
        And again, I am so glad you are working on your novel, as well as your biography.

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    1. Thank you Susan! (Incidentally have you read “Marmee & Louisa”?) by Eve La Plante (who was a descendent of the Alcotts). It gave me a few new insights. I am SO glad you are pursuing this, as Beth March was one of my all-time favorite fictional heroines. Can’t wait to see what you can reveal about her real-life prototype. Thanks again for pursuing this.

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      1. Yes, I have read it and it is excellent. One thing I really love about that book is the author’s knowledge of the places where they lived. As I live in central Massachusetts and can get to Boston and Concord oh, I can actually see these places. Thanks for your encouraging words regarding my work, means a lot!

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      2. Hi Susan: In further reading of Ms. Cheney’s compilation of Ms. Alcott’s letters & journals (incidentally, Ms. Cheneyseems to be a really nice person–am I right ?), I noticed that in addition to Louisa’s connection to Anna, she seems to have been really fond of little Abba May, & wanted to buy her lots of nice things & really make her life as happy as she could.Also, I don’t see any mention of the fight ( between Jo & Amy in “Little Women”)What has your research revealed? Also I noticed that even before Lizzy got sick, Louisa called her “Our Angel in a Cellar Kitchen”,and “Our Good Little Betty”, and the “Cheerful Little Saint”, but what really intrigued me wasthat in a journal from 1853, she said “Betty was still the home bird, and had a little romance with C.”What can you tell me about that Susan? I hope Lizzy got all the enjoyment she could before both the Quality of her Life, and her Life itself was so tragically cut short.

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      3. First of all, my apologies for being so late in addressing this! I have been working on an essay on May Alcott for an anthology and have put everything else on the back burner. Louisa had a mixed relationship with her sister Abby May, sometimes she was really proud of her, sometimes she was jealous, sometimes she was resentful. It shows up in little comments on occasion in her journals. As to Lizzy, sadly we know almost nothing about this Romance. Louisa makes that one mentioned in a journal and mrs. Alcott refers to it in a letter with regards to Lizzie’s mood, wondering if it has to do with the romance although it’s not referred to in a direct way. Some say that her mother did not approve of the relationship and had the boy move out oh, he had been a boarder While others believe she was jilted. I tend to think the former rather than the latter.

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      4. Hi Ms. Bailey!
        I think you’re probably right, that it was “Marmee” who squelched the romance (between Lizzie and C).
        I know that “Beth” in “Little Women” was a very shy, innocent, very trusting kind of a little girl, and if Lizzie Alcott was
        the same type of person, I can certainly see why her mother would be extremely careful and
        protective of her. She certainly wouldn’t have wanted her exposed to any cruelty or crudity.
        It’s nice to talk to you again!
        Thanks.
        Alex

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      5. Dear Ms. Bailey:

        I’m on pins and needles!!
        When will we learn your findings from the journals Lizzie kept at Hillside?
        Thank you so much!

        Alex Laufer

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I certainly will be patient, even though I told you just to not overtax yourself, I just found my self champing at
        the bit too much. I apologize.
        Thank you very much!
        Alex

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  6. The book on Lizzie has already been years in the making. Are the piles of notes sorted yet? Too bad I’m not there to help with the secretarials. If the notes are in piles and the internet blog is in sections then all you have to do is
    bridge them together, but I have a hunch that might not be your approach. Are you waiting to be sure you’ll cover every possible topic? From the available books I’ve read and your notes from Lizzie’s writings that I am not able to see, I feel that I know a lot about her but you do keep saying that there are many more letters and journals at Houghton that I’m sure I’ll never see unless this book gets written. My device is unable to darken and magnify all those pale
    documents so reading them online isn’t a very good option yet. Also your blog on 19th Century illness is very helpful. Ask Alex Maurer if she’s read it yet.๐Ÿ˜Š

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    1. Actually yes, I have a method devised for organizing my notes that works really well. Right now I am in the middle of writing an essay on May Alcott that’s going to appear in an academic anthology. The essay is due in mid October. I’m employing the method that I started employing with my book with this essay and it works really well. I am hoping that the discipline that I am now in for the essay will transfer over to the book. I have had health issues and still have them and they make writing quite difficult but the writing also puts me in my happy place. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. The Anthology, yes. My essay focuses on her early life comparing her with Amy March. I have Journal writings from when she was 12 and when she was 22. And there are also letters between her and Alf Whitman. She’s far more complex and nuanced than Amy. I will certainly announce it when the book comes out. Thanks for your interest!

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  7. Yes, and she could be a tad racy/risquรฉ too. Truly the most fascinating sister. A lot of minds speculate on what she could have accomplished if she could have only lived even as long as Louisa – about an extra 15 years.

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    1. Dear Ms. Bailey: Don’t know if you are interested, but looking in my computer, there are 2 versions of “Little Women”which I able to watch in full & enjoy: the first is the 1933 version of the movie, (which along with the1994 version are the 2 I like the best, since they show the affection between the girls and Marmee(the other versions are too dry for me.) The next one I like isย “Little Women-HCPAC-2010, it takes HUGE liberties with the book, but Ithink there are some scenes between “Jo” & “Beth” that I really like. Also there’s a scene with”Jo” & “Marmee” after Beth dies, which reminds me a lot of the 1st couple of pages of the”All Alone” chapter of Little Women. I don’t watch any of them in full, but just kind of fast-forward with my mouse until I get to the partthat I like. Also, in “Little Women”, Meg makes many loving comments about Beth. I wonder what the realrelationship between Anna & Lizzie was. Hope you can tell me. Thank you very much. Alex

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      1. Here is a quote from Anna’s 1862 diary re: Lizzie : โ€˜โ€™I answered Abbie’s letter this morning that she might feel encouraged by our pleasure in her success. She has tried so hard, worked so faithfully & succeeded so very well in filling a difficult situation that I do think she deserves great credit, & I wanted to tell her so, for friendly praise never hurt anyone, & Abbie is especially sensitive & anxious for the approval of her family. Dear child I hope she may be spared the troubles that have made Louisa & I old so young, & that her life may be a long & happy one. I thought much of her today & of dear Lizzy for yesterday was the anniversary of her death, the first death in the family, three years ago. It seems harder now to think of it โ€ฆ then & I can hardly bear the thought of never seeing her sweet kind face & hearing that gentle voice never raised in anger to any living soul. She was the most fit to die of any of us, & I know she is very happy but it is a sad loss, & home has never seemed quite like home since she left it. This is always a sad day for mother & father and I wrote them a nice letter, enclosing Abbieโ€™s & sent it yesterday & cheer them up, the news from Ab. will make them so happy.โ€™โ€™

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      2. Thank you very much Susan!!
        I will continue to wait patiently for any further revelations concerning the Alcott family, and especially Lizzy.

        Thanks again!!

        Alex

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      3. What a loving, poignant, wonderful memory/tribute to Lizzy by Anna!! Thank you so much for showing it so me Susan!!

        I remember you told me that when they were both very young, little Abba May was also very close to Lizzy.
        Did she also have fond memories of Lizzy, Susan??
        Thanks very much.–Best Regards
        Alex
        I

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      4. May did not leave any writings on Lizzie except for one line in her 1862 journal about her death. She noted the exact date. May is puzzling sometimes; she definitely kept her own counsel. She had many ailments that mimicked Lizzie’s even as she led a frenzied social life. I think for her the grief was too deep to speak of.

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      5. Wow! That’s really something to think about. That could be very possibly true, especially since they were
        SO CLOSE when they were young, Yeah, not everyone is capable of dealing with great grief verbally.
        You said her ailments were similar to Lizzie’s. Could that be because they were both stricken with Scarlet Fever?

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      6. Is there any clue as to why these girls both had similar stomach ailments?

        Incidentally, last night on Final Jeopardy the Subject was Authors & the clue was (paraphrased)
        She was to write a book for girls and she said she “never liked any girls or knew any girls except my sisters”

        Best Regards-Alex

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      7. I wonder in Lizzie’s case because as per Anna’s comment, she was such a little angel and never raised her gentle
        little voice in anger to any living soul, maybe sadly holding everything in, & NEVER venting may have caused some
        emotional distress to her little tum-tum-although I’m not sure the same would be true for Abba May. ???
        Re: Jeopardy–My reply would have been she may not have liked “girls”, but she LOVED her sisters.
        Thanks Susan
        Best Regards-Alex

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      8. Yes, Susan, I obviously don’t know anywhere near as much as you do about the Alcotts, but I’m sure May had a LOT
        to cope with. I do know they suffered a lot, that is not revealed in “Little Women”. It’s probably a miracle they survived as well as they did.
        Didn’t Louisa wind up raising May’s daughter?

        Thanks Susan. Best Regards! Alex

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      9. Another thought cropped up into my little brain, & again I don’t know a whole lot about the Alcott’s the way you do Susan, but isn’t it possible that unlike the fictional Marches, the poor Alcott girls having to with Bronson’s not being
        the world’s best provider, & “Marmee” giving a lot of what they did have away to charity did not have really good
        quantity or quality of food available to them; and this could have caused some of their stomach problems??
        Thanks Susan. Best Regards! Alex
        P.S. it seems like you, and I, and Elizabeth are like a triumvirate. It would be nice if someone else would jump
        on the train.

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  8. Thanks to both of you, Susan and Alex. I agree with Alex that the 1994 and 1933 versions are the best.
    I don’t know anything about HCPAC-2010; I will have to look it up.

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth!
      As I said they take huge liberties with the book, (so I just fast-forward with my mouse through parts I don’t like or care about), but they got a lot of the feelings between the sisters and Marmee right. I believe I’ve seen that you were intrigued by Amy. There’s also a good sequence between her & Jo.
      P.S. In my opinion, the 1994 movie had the best version of Laurie (Christian Bale).

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      1. Yes, I’m quite a fan of the 1994 cast, excepting maybe Samantha Mathis, but in some ways even she’s better than some of the other adult Amys. I like the shades of thick dark hair on the older three girls; I like the way Meg behaves. Overall it is my favorite. I don’t care much for the films where each sister is a shade of blond. The physical traits do count for something. Louisa herself had something to say about that when,
        even in her day they were doing theatrical and artists were illustrating the book. In one of her letters or journal entries she was quite exasperated with the way Jo was usually portrayed as petite when she was described as being tall. Winona Ryder was short but she had a large and loud demeanor.
        Saoirse Ronan was good but they should have done more with her hair, such as dark dye and thickening extensions. What else do you think, Alex?

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      2. What I really liked was the on-screen chemistry between Winona Ryder and Claire Danes andSusan Sarandon—they showed how much Jo & Beth & Marmee cared for & loved each other. To me that’s the real heart of Little Women-especially part 1, the part I liked the best—the love between the 4 sisters & “Marmee”.ย  Winona Ryder was a little loud, but then Jo was NOT a shrinking violet. I think Ms. Ryder hadsome part in producing this movie. Best Regards

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      3. HI Elizabeth!
        Agree with you about Byrne. The reason I liked Bale as Laurie is because he acted manly, not like so many of the Laurie’s I have seen who act like dorks.
        That said, in my opinion: “Little Women”-especially part 1 is all about the girls and their growing up in a loving family relationship with each other & Marmee, and learning & improving as they were growing, so their bond became better & better.
        As far as the disparity between the physical types of the girls in the book and the girls in the movies, I think the
        movie-makers sometimes just have to use the best actress for the job & trust us to use our imagination. (For example in the 1933 movie, Amy, who was a pre-teen was played by a mid-twenties actress, Joan Bennett (who was also pregnant), & in the 1994 movie, Jo, the tallest of the sisters was played by Winona Ryder who was smaller
        than Claire Danes who played Beth. [I think Winona would have had a tough task carrying Claire around like Katherine Hepburn who carried little Jean Parker around in the 1933 movie.]

        Anyway, without writing a book Elizabeth that’s my sum-up of the situation.
        Thanks. Best Regards. Alex

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  9. Maybe, but I didn’t know she was producing back then: she was only 25. By the way, I enjoyed Gabriel Byrne as Friedrich. Not as ugly as most of the others.

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  10. Hi Alex, it very well could be. This piece of info is new to me however and I always thought May was quite hardy. She seemed to recover much more easily than Lizzie or even Louisa after the war.

    I was also intrigued at the way Anna really was Louisa’s best friend all through life. Especially when she would see company and answer fan mail when Louisa just couldn’t take it… and handle theatricals for the kids. She really never did get enough credit!

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    1. Hi Elizabeth!
      I don’t have much info about the Alcotts as you and Susan do, but I do remember in Little Women that right from
      the start it said that the two older sisters were very fond of each other, and in the “All Alone” chapter that Meg
      was helpful to Jo in the period right after poor Lizzie’s demise. & I do thing I remember reading somewhere that
      Louisa, after being unhappy with Anna’s marriage & “leaving her sisters”, that she was eventually very fond
      of her husband John, saying that he was one of the best things that happened to the Alcott’s giving them a
      wonderful husband & brother.
      Probably Anna’s health was better than Louisa’s. I don’t know if she ever fully recovered from that time when she
      was sick, & they gave her that horrible medecine that almost killed her from mercury poisoning.
      But from the little I know of the Alcotts, I think Louisa & Anna were always BFFs.
      Thanks Elizabeth. Best Regards! Alex

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      1. Yes, and their bond got even stronger as life progressed. They never thought it would be just them without their young charges.
        Anna had pneumonia a couple of times but recovered. She did seem to be in better shape than Louisa and she was the last of the four girls to die, at 62. Even she didn’t live as long as their parents.
        Bronson was what some people somewhat lovingly or even angrily call an “old fart” – after all the misery he had put the family through, he outlived them all, and by quite a bit. He was 88 when he died while Marmee was 77.

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  11. Yes Elizabeth, Bronson was not a perfect father, but we do have to give him some credit: without him there would have
    been NO “little women”, and I don’t think I’ve heard that he was ever physically abusive to his daughters or to “Marmee”. From what little I know he certainly was a little weird. And then with him let’s just say NOT the world’s best
    provider for his family, & “Marmee” who had some good charitable instincts, but I don’t think particularly wise, giving
    away some of whatever money there was left to charitable causes, the parents leave their little daughters to be the providers for the family—WHAT???!!!
    Poor Little Girls!!!
    And you know these were the 1850’s. It’s not like now. There were no Help Wanted Ads or positions for telemarketers, or clerk-typists, or receptionists.
    It was left for Anna & Louisa by hook or by crook get jobs as teachers, or governesses or seamstresses or
    whatever jobs they could locate by hook or by crook to make a living for as what Louisa called the “pathetic family”, and for poor little Lizzy to keep the house clean & maybe cook too, & cleaning wasn’t like today—there were no vacuum cleaners, or dishwashers or clotheswashers. You had to get down on your hands & knees &scrub floors & polish upholstery,& had to use washboards that scraped the heck out of your hands, & lye which burned your
    hands, etc., etc., etc,
    Now maybe back then, there were a lot of families in similar dire straits, I don’t know but I do think that it was ONLY due to Louisa’s genius in so many areas that she was able to lift the family (except poor Lizzie) out of the
    doldrums.
    Meanwhile, none of the Alcott daughters had a proper childhood.

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    1. All very true. In a way both Bronson and Abba were guilty of child neglect and a form of abuse. Not putting the children first and leaving them to do so much work. It’s pathetic, all right. Poor little Lizzie probably couldn’t take it any more.
      Another thing, it was stupid of them to send back the little money Louisa earned while working for that cheapo for seven weeks. They could have at least had some groceries or stockings and dress material out of it.

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      1. Absolutely!

        Also I think I read that with the Alcotts, unlike the Marches it wasn’t Beth going to the Hummels that caused her to
        get Scarlet Fever, it was Mrs. Alcott’s nursing sick children in unclean conditions, where there were pigs nearby which caused her to convey he disease back to Abby May & Lizzie, which eventually Lizzie died from 2 years later.
        Is that right Elizabeth.

        Thanks Elizabeth. Best Regards! Alex

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      2. Yes, again my knowledge of the Allcotts is not the same as yours or Susan’s, but I believe “Marmee” did love Lizzie very much, and I’m sure the knowledge of her culpability in destroying Lizzie’s health must have been devastating
        to her. I’m sure Louisa knew that it was NOT intentional, and would never throw her mother under the bus, when
        writing about Lizzie’s ruined health & eventual demise.
        Thanks Elizabeth. Best Regards! Alex

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh yes! I thought the same, and Louisa would never throw mother nor father under the bus. I think that between the smallpox episode and then the scarlet fever fiasco Abba learned her lesson about jeopardizing the health of the family. Plus her own health was declining. And then Louisa came back from the war with such ruined health: enough already!

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