Thursday, February 21, 2013
A Study of Marmee
Marmee and Louisa, The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and her Mother by Eve La Ҏlante. Free press Illustrated 368 pages.
My Heart is Boundless: Writings of Abigail May Alcott, Louisa’s Mother Ed. by Eve La Ҏlante. 250 pages..
It is telling that the author must include in the second book the subtitle, “Louisa’s Mother”, for many of us do not know the real name of the beloved Marmee of Little Women.
Brenda Wineaṕṕle reviews both books for the NY Times Review of Books, Dec. 23, 2012.
Both books address the role of Marmee as breadwinner, an “excellent woman” who takes on the role of head of household while her “feckless” transcendentalist husband Bronson engages in one money losing scheme after another. But, we who read LW know this; Mr. Alcott is the ultimate absent father, though Alcott chooses to soften his irresponsibility by sending him to the Civil War to end is a prisoner of the confederates.
According to the reviewer, both books address the role of mothers to women, especially historical authors, which is often overlooked. Alcott is more often described as the daughter of “Bronson Alcott,” and not as the daughter of Abigail May Alcott, just as the role of Rev. Bronte is emphasized in biographies of Charlotte, Anne, and Emily. Abigail Alcott was in her own right an important woman, from a good Bostonian Family, who “married down” and who learned poverty first hand from her husband, who described himself as “an Idea without Hands,” and who declared “Sacrifices must be made.” In other words, as Wineaṕṕle and La Ҏlante. Point out, the sacrifices were all Marmees. Also, as both indicate, it is possible to read between the lives in LW and other Alcott books to see the frustration, rivalry and resentment of the women involved. As Abigail is to have said, “Woman lives her thoughts; Man speculates about it”
Abigail chose two wrestle the Angel of the House by beating her at her own game. She took in all kinds of work, all within the gender expectations for women of the day, but fruitful nevertheless. Abigail kept the family going; she, not Bronson headed the family. She was an excellent woman that was art tea brewer in a crisis, and art warrior woman.
For those of us who have lost our mothers, and who realizes their importance in our lives, and the void, because no one loves us, likes us, or does things for us as our mothers did, the life of Abigail Alcott is particularly poignant and significant.