Women’s History Month
of the Alcotts shared an intense desire to reform society for the
better. From revising educational theory through abolition
of slavery and equal rights for women, each member of the family
contributed a legacy of respect, encouragement, and hope to these
causes. In honor of Women's History Month, we celebrate the
ideas and ideals of the Alcotts with respect to the status of women,
and note that change -- albeit slow -- did indeed come.
"Don't shut yourself up in a bandbox because you are a
woman, but understand what is going on, and educate
yourself to take your part in the world's work, for it all
affects you and
in Little Women, 1868
" [Women] must help make the laws, be educated as jurists,
doctors, divines, artists, bankers. It will occupy
and give dignity to their minds and lives."
Alcott, letter to her brother, 1846
"As a poor, proud, struggling
girl I held on to the belief that if I deserved success
it would surely come so long as my ambition was not
for selfish ends but for my dear family, & it
did come, far more fully than I ever hoped or dreamed tho youth,
health & many hopes went to earn it. ...
Women need a religion of their own, for they are called upon
to lead a quiet self sacrificing life with peculiar trails,
joys, & it seems to me that a very simple one is fitted to us
whose hearts are usually more alive than heads, & whose
hands are tied in many ways. ...
Food, fire & shelter are not all that women need, & the
noble discontent that asks for more should not be condemned
but helped if possible."
Alcott, letter to Maggie Lukens, 1884
Dear Mrs. Stone: -- One should be
especially inspired this Centennial year before venturing
to speak or write. I
am not so blest, and find myself so busy trying to
get ready for the good
time that is surely coming, I can only in a very humble way,
help on the cause all women should have at heart.
As reports are in order, I should like
to say a word for the girls, on whom in a great measure,
depends the success of the next generation.
lines fell in pleasant places last year, and I looked well
about me as I went among the young people,
who unconsciously gave me some very cheering facts in return
for very poor fictions.
was both surprised and delighted with the nerve and
courage, the high aims and patient persistence which
appeared, not only among the laborious young women whose teacher
necessity, but among tenderly nurtured girls who cherished
the noblest ambitions and had learned to earn the happiness
could buy them.
Having great faith in young America, it
gave me infinite satisfaction to find such eager interest in all
good things, and to see how irresistibly the spirit of our new
revolution, stirring in the hearts of sisters and daughters, was
converting the fathers and brothers who loved them. One
shrewd, business man said, when talking of Woman Suffrage,
I help believing in it, when I've a wife and six girls who are bound
to have it?'
many a grateful brother declared he could not be mean enough
to shut any door in the face of the sister
who had made him what he was.
I close this hasty note by proposing three cheers for the
girls of 1876 -- and the hope that they will
prove themselves worthy descendants of the mothers of this
Revolution, remembering that
fanatics make, Too often Heaven's saints.'"
Alcott, letter to Lucy Stone, 1876