Reading, viewing, and discussion programs at Rochester Hills Public Library explore Louisa May Alcott’s life and work

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. Louisa May Alcott was her own best character, and her life was her own best plot.

The documentary film Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women, 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, is the basis of an exciting new series.

The Rochester Hills Public Library will present a number of programs from September through November that will re-introduce audiences to Louisa May Alcott’s story.  These programs are sponsored by the American Library Association Public Programs Office with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities.   The library has partnered with Oakland University and Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm to present the series.  The Rochester Hills Public Library is one of 30 libraries across the country chosen to receive a grant to bring these programs to our community.

The Rochester Hills Public Library’s programs shed light on Louisa May Alcott by exploring her life and the historical and cultural context that inspired her remarkable body of work. 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.  These Louisa May Alcott programs will present a new understanding of the author and her place in American culture.

“We’re very pleased that our library was chosen to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for programs focused on Louisa May Alcott,” said Library Director Christine Hage. “We have plans for a number of programs that will explore Louisa May Alcott’s life, work, and times. Besides her best known children’s novel, Alcott authored many other stories for adult audiences. Our library is excited to explore these little-known works, which provide a unique perspective on American history. We look forward to sharing the documentary and biography with our community.”

         For more information on the Rochester Hills Public Library’s Louisa May Alcott programs, contact Adult Services at 650-7130 or or visit

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