Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Louisa May Alcott: The PBS'
Entertainment True Story

American Masters “Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women”

From fifth grade throughout junior high, I read "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott on a regular basis.

My repeated readings never changed the story -- Jo still marries old Professor Baher and Amy ends up with Laurie. No doubt there are many little girls (and, I imagine, even some boys) who shared the same affection for this Edwardian story of the March family, the four sisters, their soldier father and their no-nonsense mother.There's a lonely, wealth boy next door, who lives with his crotchety grandfather. But the crux of the story is one of (yes, you got it) female empowerment. Mrs. March bears through hard times as a single parent, her husband away at war. Jo moves to the big city to live alone and find her own success.

Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888), the author of Little Women, was a free thinker with democratic ideals and progressive ideas about women — and the pseudonymous author of 19th-century potboilers. The author of Little Women is an almost universally recognized name. Her reputation as a morally upstanding New England spinster, reflecting the conventional propriety of late 19th-century Concord, is firmly established.

However, raised among reformers, Transcendentalists and skeptics, the intellectual protégé of Emerson and Hawthorne and Thoreau, Alcott was actually a free thinker with democratic ideals and progressive ideas about women — a worldly careerist of sorts.

Most surprising is that she led, under the pseudonym A.M. Barnard, a literary double life, undiscovered until the 1940s. As Barnard, Alcott penned scandalous, sensational works with characters running the gamut from murderers and revolutionaries to cross-dressers and opium addicts — a far cry from her familiar fatherly mentors, courageous mothers and appropriately impish children.

American Masters Louisa May Alcott airs 28 December 2009 at 9 to 10:30 p.m. on PBS (check your local listings).