Rich with historic colonial homes, a snug down town with charming shops and brick sidewalks, all under a canopy of oak trees in full autumn bloom, Concord, Massachusetts is what people envision when they think of New England. But I wasn't there for architecture, history, or shopping. I was there to visit Orchard House, home of Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women.
Because almost 80 percent of the furnishings are original to the time period when the Alcotts made their home there, visiting Orchard House was like walking through the pages of the beloved book. One highlight of the tour was seeing the desk in the bedroom at which Louisa wrote Little Women. According to the very informative tour guide, the fact that Louisa had her own desk was radical for its time. Writing was considered an unsuitable job for a woman, yet Bronson Alcott built his daughter's desk himself. It was a smart move. The family was a breath away from poverty when Louisa's book was published and saved the family from financial ruin.
Louisa May Alcott was many things in addition to being a successful author. She was also a Civil War nurse, devoted daughter and sister, traveler, and a bit of a curmudgeon. When besotted fans knocked on the door of Orchard House to meet the beloved author, she'd often pretend to be the maid or gardener in order to avoid talking to them.
I admire many things about Alcott's writing, despite the occasional sentimentality. She was brilliant at characterization. Look at the quotes from the Little Women Garden at Orchard House (above). Reading what Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy planted in their own patch of garden is such an open window into their personalities.
She took chances with her writing and experimented with different styles, including several gothic romances - Pauline's Passion and Punishment, Long, Fatal Love Chase and The Abbott's Ghost. Her work ethic continues to inspire new generations of writers. I added a stop at her grave at Author's Ridge in Concord's Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to my itinerary and followed the tradition of leaving a pencil in tribute.
Have you visited any author's homes?