Rhode Island's Alcott Celebration

Rhode Island's Alcott Celebration

Providence Public Library Announces National Endowment for the Humanities Grant and Fall Public Programs Statewide

Officially kicking-off October 16, a series of reading, viewing and discussion programs will explore Louisa May Alcott’s life and work (Complete schedule)

Providence Public Library (PPL) is pleased to announce that the Library has been chosen to receive a $2,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for programs focused on Louisa May Alcott.  “We have plans for many events throughout this fall that will explore Louisa May Alcott’s life, work and times,” said PPL Director Dale Thompson.

“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. Alcott was her own best character, and her life was her own best plot. Our library is excited to explore these little-known works, which provide a unique perspective on American history.”

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.

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. The documentary and the book have both received numerous awards including Booklist’s Best Video – 2009, Grand Award Winner at the Providence Film Festival, and Wall Street Journal’s Top Ten Books of 2009.

“With our partners, we will be presenting a diverse schedule of public programs designed to shed light on Louisa May Alcott by exploring her life and the historical and cultural context that inspired her remarkable body of work,” said Louise Moulton, PPL’s Adult Program Coordinator. “We are fortunate to have a wealth of historical and culturally relevant resources in Rhode Island that enable a complete presentation of this ‘story behind the story’ to readers of all ages.”  Alcott first editions, collections and memorabilia will be on exhibit at Providence Public Library and these other libraries during this time frame.  A walking tour of Benefit Street and a field trip to the Alcott home in Concord, Massachusetts, are also planned. 

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 Providence Public Library and other libraries and locations throughout Rhode Island will present a new understanding of the author and her place in American culture.


Events officially kick off Sunday, October 16 at Providence Public Library with a Living Literature performance, a viewing of the documentary, a book signing with author Harriet Reisen, and will conclude with a Louisa May Alcott Birthday Celebration on November 20.  Complete program details are at www.provlib.org.

Statewide partnerships and collaborations making these programs possible

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.  Additionally, Rhode Island’s programs have been funded by The John C.A. Watkins Fund for Lifelong Learning at PPL. To support Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women, Providence Public Library proudly presents two months of Louisa May Alcott programming in partnership with Rhode Island College (in particular, the James P. Adams Library Friends group and the Alliance for the Study and Teaching of Adolescent Literature - ASTAL), Rhode Island Historical Society, Living Literature, and Rhode Island Center for the Book.  Further statewide public programs and events are possible with the collaboration of the Providence Athenaeum and Barrington Public Library and North Kingstown Public Library.


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