Respectable enough to be invited to all the dances

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020

The genteel poverty of the Little Women in her book — respectable enough to be invited to all the dances, but too broke to be the belles of the ball — reflects the remarkable upbringing of Louisa May Alcott, Steve Sailer expains:

Back before Mark Twain, American literature was kind of a who-you-know business, and the Alcotts knew everybody who was anybody in the author industry. Ralph Waldo Emerson lent her family the money to buy their house in Concord, Henry David Thoreau told them it was haunted, and they eventually sold it to Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Considered a genius by America’s leading intellectuals, Louisa’s improvident father, Amos Bronson Alcott, was a figure out of a Mencius Moldbug essay about how WASPs are the real communists.

As Louisa recounted in her satire Transcendental Wild Oats, in the summer of 1841 her father founded a utopian commune called Fruitlands whose inmates were required to eat a vegan diet and not wear cotton (because it was picked by slaves), leather, or wool (because dumb brutes could not consent to be exploited). They could only wear linen, which was pleasant in summer, but not, as it turned out, in winter.

Nor could these animal rights activists employ beasts of burden to pull their plow. By December, with starvation held back only by Mrs. Alcott’s ceaseless labors, Mr. Alcott called the whole thing off.

Louisa was a more sensible soul than her father and enjoyed making money off her writing. So she eventually gave in when her publisher asked her to write a book for girls, even though she complained that she only identified with boys. In her semiautobiographical Little Women, the girls’ father is much improved upon by being rewritten as a beloved paterfamilias who is far away serving as a chaplain in the Union Army.


  1. RB says:

    “Amos Bronson Alcott was a figure out of a Mencius Moldbug essay about how WASPs are the real communists”

    There was a lot of it about: A Slice of 1850s Boston.

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