Interviewer: Carrie N. Kline
Place of Interview: The Colonial Inn
Transcriptionist: Carrie N. Kline
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Audio file is in .mp3 format.
Carrie N. Kline: Okay. Great. I believe today is the 16th of June. 17th of June, 2009. I'm Carrie Kline. And here we are at The Colonial Inn in Concord. And would you introduce yourself? And I'll hold this [the microphone].
Jan Turnquist: I'm Jan Turnquist, Executive Director of Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts.
CK: Well thanks for coming over. And would you first give your date of birth to put this in some perspective?
JT: April 25th, 1948.
CK: Okay, great. [zipper sounds] Warming up. And tell me about your people and where you were raised.
JT: I was raised in Wisconsin, little town called Neenah, which is actually a beautiful town on Lake Winnebago. And my family--. My parents were from different places though, my mother from Tennessee, my father from Indiana. And they ended up in Wisconsin because of his job. Did you want more background?
CK: Tell me about growing up.
JT: Oh, it was a wonderful childhood really. I think in many ways, surprisingly to me, Neenah was a lot like Concord. Very small, very lovely, very upscale. There's a company--. You've probably heard of Kimberly Clark. The headquarters are there in Neenah. American Can Company as well had a headquarters there for a time. It was really Marathon Company that they purchased. And Marathon's where my father worked. Marathon made things like Dixie cups and Northern paper products, things like toilet paper and paper towels. Some things like that. It's a very much a paper area, because of the trees and paper mills and that sort of thing. But in Neenah itself it's sort of, I guess you could say the executive enclave of that area, and just a very pretty town with the harbor and sailboats. Beautiful, beautiful place. Very simple, wholesome. You could ride your bike anywhere, and you did. And it was just easy to grow up there.
CK: Great. Was history a force in your life growing up?
JT: Oh, it really was. But not in an overt way. Somehow it just was and interest. It feels to me as if it was always there. I know that there was this small cabin in a park in Neenah. It's called Doty Cabin, and the first governor of the territory of Wisconsin lived in this cabin. And it was built in the 1800s. And they had Indian artifacts on the top floor and the sort of pioneer furnishings underneath, and you could go in there any tine you wanted. It was just a free little place run by volunteers. And I used to love to go in there. And I would just spend hours pouring over these things. I don't know what it was, but I wanted to touch old things. I wanted to be near them. I wanted to imagine what it would be like if I lived there. I loved fiction about old days, historic fiction. I loved biography. Always loved biography. That was my favorite. And, but I especially liked biography of 19th century women. And where does that come from? I don't know. It was just there. I was also always interested in the Civil War. And I think part of that could be because we had interesting discussions in my household, with my father having grown up in the North and my mother having grown up in the South. And it wasn't so much that they were trying to really bring up heavy duty topics or anything. It's just that it would come up sort of naturally. Sometimes my mother, living in the North in Wisconsin, would comment sometimes about how different things would be back home and--. Or little things would be noticed by me. It wasn't even a part of discussion, but I would just notice.
For example, when I was really young, my mother would say, just as part of your general upbringing, "Now we're going out to Mrs. So-and-So's house. And if you don't understand what she says, you don't say, "What," because she would hear neighborhood children sometimes talking that way if they didn't understand something. They would say, "What?" And she thought that was terribly rude. And you don't say that. You say, "Sir," if it's a gentleman, and, "Ma'am?" if it's a woman. No one else spoke like that. My friends didn't say, "Sir," or "Ma'am." I--.
You know I was at a point in my life where I was starting to notice things like that, and I did not want to be odd and say something that everybody turned and looked and said, "Why is she talking like that?" But neither did I want to disappoint my mother. So I was always looking for ways to sort of broker the difference! And I would figure out--. I finally came up with, "Pardon me?" [laughs] And my mother sort of reluctantly accepted that. [laughs] But I think it made me very sensitive to cultural differences and fascinated by things like the Civil War. And because I'm already interested in history by the time I'm a young child, that, combined with this sort of cultural difference to make it all very real to me. If I would read something about the Civil War, I didn't think of it just as an archaic piece of writing. I could picture those people with their differences and feeling, you know, Southerners feeling invaded, Northerners feeling that they couldn't let this country go the way that it was starting to go, and Secession couldn't happen.
You know just, it all got very really for me. Plus I guess I just had a good imagination.
CK: Umm. Where did you go from there then?
JT: Well, I went to the University of Wisconsin. I probably would have majored in history, except that I thought that it was being taught in such a dull way. I just could barely stand to memorize more dates. And in high school I felt that that was mostly what it was. We memorized so many dates of battles and names of Generals. And it just seemed completely irrelevant the way it was being taught. And I loved stories. So I was a double major in English Literature and Comparative Literature. I like languages too, so that gave me a little bit of that International, a taste of that type of thing in the Comparative Literature. So that's what I did, but I think my love of history really kind of, was kind of always stronger. And by the time I got out of school I was doing--. I taught school. I taught high school English, but I also ended up substituting for a lot of History classes as well. It just happened and I loved it. And by the time we moved to Massachusetts--. This was because of my husband's job. I started to work at Louisa May Alcott's house, because when we moved to Concord, we knew that we were going to be having our first child, and I didn't want to go back to teaching. I thought, "How am I going to look for a new house, a doctor, because I'm expecting a baby, and a job? It just seemed too much. So we decided I wasn't going to do that. And after the baby was born I did this very lovely part-time guiding work for Louisa May Alcott's house. I had met the director. We had become friends.
And she had asked me if I could just work on the weekends. So that was perfect. And it was a job that was fascinating to me, but very low-key. And it fit. My husband could take care of the baby on the weekends. And it just worked out very nicely. Gave me something to do and something to focus on. And the research options were wonderful there, because they have extensive archives at Houghton Library, and the staff always has access to those. And my interest in biography and history just came together, because the Alcotts became a window into a time period for me. They weren't just a family that I was studying. It was their whole world, all their friends, all the current events that were happening. It was just a perfect convergence for me.
CK: And can you lay that out for me? Who were these people? What did you learn about them, and what was the era in which they were living?
JT: Well, Louisa May Alcott was born in 1832. Her mother and father were born in 1799 and 1800 respectively. So they were really part of that Antebellum era and of course the Civil War. They were living in Orchard House here in Concord during the Civil War. It was all that time period of history that I already loved. They were very radical reformers.
JT: Meaning every reform of the day: dress reform, diet reform, votes for women, women's rights, Abolition, education reform. They just felt that society really needed to be more, I guess you could say responsive to individual needs, and when they saw something wrong, when they saw a woman, for example, beaten and abandoned by her husband, and there were no re--there was really no recourse for that woman, then they would take her in. If they knew of slavery, which of course they did, then they wanted to right that. If they felt that there was a better way to eat, they thought that they needed to spread the word about that. They were Utopian, I guess you could say, founders as well. Bronson Alcott founded a Utopian community out in Harvard, Massachusetts called Fruitlands in 1842. So they were just very unusual people, and fascinating, with that sort of interest that they had. And then their daughters were unusual and interesting too, because each one of the four girls--. As in Little Women, there were four girls. Little Women is of course the novel that Louisa May Alcott wrote that becomes very famous. But it's highly autobiographical. In Little Women there are four girls. In her real family there were four girls. And they're all very unique. They love drama. They love the arts. Amy, the youngest one in Little Women was based on Abigail May, and she loves art, drawing and painting and sculpting. Beth, the very quiet little Beth in Little Women was based on the real sister Elizabeth, who loved music and was always playing the piano and singing, just enjoying any musical activity. Louisa bases the main character, Jo March, upon herself. And she's the writer, but she also loves drama. The oldest sister in Little Women is in real life Anna. She's Meg in the story. She loves drama, but she also is perhaps the most conventional in that she ultimately chooses marriage and a family and is very happy with that choice.
CK: And Beth, in real life, is she also plagued with illness?
JT: Yes, she dies very young and sadly. And she was very, very shy, and really liked being at home and playing her music at home. So it is very much like the book. We don't really know as much about Beth, except that she loved music and kittens and staying at home.
CK: Pretty angelic in the book.
JT: Really. That's how she was. I mean Louisa commented one time that people thought she made Beth too good. And she said she really was that way, and there are some people like that, "Not me," she would say. She felt Beth was just completely the opposite of Louisa. Louisa needed Beth for a conscience, and she said Beth was her conscience.
CK: What do you mean? Who was Louisa?
JT: Louisa was an extremely independent, strong-minded, sort of forward thinking like here parents woman. She really couldn't tolerate foolish behavior. And she would think that something that would be pretentious, you know putting on airs and not understanding the important family values, or friendship values, or taking care of other people--. She really did accept those kinds of values of her parents very, very well. And on the other hand she was more practical than her father, who, as a philosopher was often thinking about these things, whereas her mother as a more hands on doer was often doing something about these things. Louisa would say about philosophers, "Why try to know the unknowable when there are hungry to be fed and people needing clothing?"
So Louisa was more practical-minded, but admired her father and his high-thinking, and her mother and her kindness. Mrs. Alcott was extremely good-hearted, a little more fiery-tempered than you would know from reading Little Women, although the hints are there. There's a chapter where Amy falls through the ice and Jo blames herself, because Jo had been very angry at her sister and didn't warn her that the ice was thin and sort of angry that her sister had followed her ice skating and, "Well let her take care of herself." Amy falls through the ice in Little Women. And Jo, when Amy's finally safe at home again, is lamenting what a close call it was and how it was all here fault and it's her horrible temper. It's going to ruin her life someday. She can't control it. This is just terrible. And Marmee, the mother, says, "You think your temper is the worst in the world, but mine used to be just like it." And so there is that sense of the mother learning how to--. As she says in Little Women, "I've learned to control the hasty words that want to fly from my mouth." So Mrs. Alcott somehow felt that her job was not to just be one of these ranting, raving, screaming people. But I guess she could've been! At least there's that implication in the book. And then I think that's also borne out when you read their journals and letters and that sort of thing. You realize she was very strong, Mrs. Alcott, very strong. And Louisa is a lot like her.
CK: This is great. I'm trying to get a sense of why you do what you do, what this mission is all about. Why do we need to know about them?
JT: Well I think the Alcotts are just one example. I don't think they are the example, the best example. I think many, many, many good people are as exemplary as they are. But, they happen to be famous. They happen to have a wonderful home that is almost exactly as they left it, which is so unusual. And it's a home that was very old when they acquired it. Orchard House is over 300 years old. It was built in the 1600s, the late 1600s. And they didn't tear it down, and most people thought they would. They thought anybody who's going to buy it in 1857, which is when they bought it, would tear it down, because it was in horrible condition. They didn't have enough money to tear it down and build a new house. But at the same time, Bronson Alcott was somewhat of an early preservationist; he thought it would be a shame to tear it down, because it has a history. And he appreciated the fact that it was there before the Revolution, and that it was there when the Redcoats marched past it. It's right on the Lexington Road. That's where the Redcoats marched. That's where a Minuteman was living at the time of the Revolution. They were proud of that. The Alcotts were very aware and proud of that. In fact when they had the Centennial in 1875, they had the Centennial, the 100-year celebration since the fight at the bridge and the birth of this nation, they had an open house, as did every Concord family living in a home known to be the home of a Minuteman. And in this open house they were very proud to show their home. They had borrowed Mrs. Hancock's punchbowl. Now this would be John Hancock's wife, Dorothy Quincy, who was Mrs. Alcott's great-aunt. So Dorothy Quincy had entertained Lafayette and George Washington with this punchbowl. And they were so aware of all of this that Louisa goes into Boston on the train to get this punchbowl, to borrow--. It's glass. She holds it in her lap, in fear and trepidation that something could happen to it, presides over it the whole time they have their open house, kind of watching, making sure nothing bad happens to this punchbowl, and then of course takes it back to Boston.
Now that's a certain sort of reverence for the past and the importance of the objects of the past, that material culture isn't important just because it might bring something on an auction block. It's important because of who drank from that bowl and the history, and now we're going to honor it and use it for this great Centennial celebration that was a big deal in this little town of Concord. President Grant came. And it was just, the way we honor our history today, hopefully we see some of the same sorts of things. And it's nice to know that that excitement was shared by this family. They were in that way, just like all of us. And I think that's why they're such a wonderful window, because people identify easily with the Alcotts, mainly probably because they're gotten this wonderful glimpse of them through Little Women. But then as people read about their real lives, there's so much more to them, and there are so many more dimensions. And yet you already sort of have a way in. You already understand them as human beings. They are not iconic figures, like say a George Washington or some other figure that you've read about since you were a little girl. They are accessible. And I think that makes them just wonderful models for people to explore and sort of put themselves against a little bit and say, "Oh I'm like that. Well I'm a little different here." But use it as a way of self-exploration as well as the literary enjoyment and historic exploration.
CK: Tell me more about this family. What should I know? I don't know about them. I've never been to the home. Take me into their lives a little bit.
JT: Well, Bronson Alcott was born in Connecticut, very poor farm family. Mrs. Alcott was born in Boston and was from a rather wealthy Boston family. Her family was very philanthropic and very, I guess you'd want to say morally upright. He--. You could understand how Mrs. Alcott, when she met Bronson, could be impressed by his idealism, because I think to some degree her father was the same way, although her father was wealthy and became a gentleman of reduced circumstances, as they would rather euphemistically put it when your wealth is depleted. And that was largely for such a noble reason though. One of his business partners, one of her father's business partners, had, turned out to be dishonest and had bilked some people our of money. And even though Colonel Joseph May-- That's Mrs. Alcott's father, had nothing to do with that, he felt so responsible, because he felt those people wouldn't have invested with this man, wouldn't have given their money over, if they didn't already trust Colonel Joseph May. And therefore he felt responsible. So he took his own money to pay them back, and that reduced his wealth quite a bit, although he never became poor.
But that sense of reduced circumstance is important, because when Louisa May Alcott decides to write a highly autobiographical novel, she really gives the March family more her mother's financial situation. In other words, they remember when Papa was wealthy, and now they're basically a family of reduced circumstances. That was never the case with Bronson Alcott. They were always really pretty struggling. But I think Louisa felt that that would be sort of a depressing picture. So she had them remember what it was like when they had money, but now they don't; they have to learn to hold their heads up high anyway. And I think that also is somehow how the family felt, because of the mother's background. Mrs. Alcott sort of operated that way I think.
So there's this sense of understanding different class structures and sort of negotiating all of that, and not looking down on people who don't have money, because, "We're one of them. We don't have money." But we also understand what it is to have it and to want to look good and put up a good front, so to speak. And I think all of this was really operating in the family. And then Bronson Alcott had this extremely forward-thinking view of education. In that era teachers thought that you really had to beat the devil out of children. And if you don't--. If a boy's not bad now, he's about to be. So just go ahead and hit him. And that was really a common view. Bronson Alcott felt the opposite. He felt children would learn better if they're not afraid of being struck. And he refused to beat them. He wanted to find other ways of disciplining them, largely through getting them to understand the treasury of the school, as he would call it, which is everyone caring about everyone else. He said, "That's the treasury of our school, and we must guard it." So he was very unusual, especially in that era, in the way he disciplined and the way he talked to the children. He was very successful in the way he taught them. They were learning extremely well. And his school--. One of his more successful schools was called the Temple School, and that was in Boston in the 1830s. And it was very much studied, because it was so unusual. The children were usually of prestigious Boston families, because the word had gotten out that the children were learning extremely well. And it was just a wonderful experience for them. But, it seemed that things would always go a little too far, and things like his egalitarian view of people--. Not only were the Alcotts Abolitionists, but they also really believed that people are equal. In other words, there could be Abolitionists who would believe that slaves should be freed, but they're really not fully human, in the same way that you could say, "Let's have animal rights," but you don't think those animals are fully human. You wouldn't treat them exactly as you treat a human, but you'd be humane to them, good to them, and work for that for them.
Well there were Abolitionists who felt that way. They wanted the slaves free, but they didn't think of them as fully human and able to operate as white people, whereas Bronson did think they were fully human and absolutely able to operate on an equal basis. And that was a little too radical even for some Abolitionists. When he admitted into his school a Negress, as they would say, that was too much for some of these parents. They were Abolitionists, yes, but they were not ready to go that far; they didn't want their children in school with the little black girl. Worse than that for some parents were his religious views, because he thought it was all right for children to read the Bible, which was a common school text. It wasn't that he was bringing the Bible in to the classroom. Today that might be a controversy [laughs] for some schools, but in that era the Bible was a common text, so that wasn't the issue. But you could use it to learn the words, not to have children discuss the meaning of those words. And he allowed those discussions. And ministers thought that was heretical. You can't allow children to interpret these Holy Scriptures. That's for the minister. The children could just use it as a text for learning to read.
So things like that got Bronson into deep trouble with people. And this Temple School eventually closed under duress, because he was too radical for a lot of people. So that's one aspect of the family, Bronson Alcott.
Mrs. Alcott, I've indicated a little bit, she was just a very strong woman. She cared for people very, very much. And it became sort of known everywhere they lived--. They moved around a lot, because Bronson would need to go somewhere else to start up a new school, or to start Utopia, as I mentioned, you know when they went out to Harvard. And so they were doing a lot of moving. And it became known everywhere they lived that Mrs. Alcott was the person to go to if you had somebody in deep trouble; you didn't know what to do, someone who needed food, needed clothing, other problems. And so they would just knock on her door. And she would find a way to help. She was resourceful. And she wasn't afraid to be a little innovative and think. And in Little Women again, this is reflected, for example in the Hummel family story. There's a chapter in Little Women where the girls give away their Christmas breakfast. They've been very excited to have this breakfast, looking forward to it all year long. It's the one time that they have a feast, a real feast; everything they can imagine is going to be at this breakfast table. But Marmee--. They wake up and Marmee's out. And Hannah, their housekeeper in the book--. There was not housekeeper in their actual family. But Hannah says, "Oh, your good mother has gone out to help someone," you know. "But we'll wait. She'll be back soon." So they're just restraining themselves. It's very hard to wait, but they will though, wait 'til Mother comes home. Mother comes in, and she sees the breakfast untouched, and she says, "Oh, I'm so glad that you haven't started yet, because I want to tell you, there's a family not far from here. They have no firewood, no food. Six children are huddled under one blanket trying to keep warm. I wonder if we could give them this breakfast."
And the girls have to make this decision. Are we going to do this? And they debate. And they kind of reluctantly decide to do it. And Mrs. March, in the story, says, "We'll make this up to you at suppertime." And so they all go off together to take care of this family. And this was a true story. This had really happened, except that in the real Alcott family version there was no Hannah. Father was presiding over the family while Mother was out seeing to this poor family, and Father had prepared a lot of the breakfast too. Mr. Alcott did that sort of thing. He helped his wife in the kitchen! Another radical idea. When Marmee comes back she has that same conversation. They do go and help. And it is actually New Year's Day, not Christmas Day in reality. Now these are minor details, in a sense; who cares? But it's just interesting to note that it really did happen.
CK: How do we know that?
JT: Journals. The family all kept journals. Bronson Alcott thought it was very, very important, a part of your education to keep a journal. So they all kept journals. Not all of the journals survive. But a lot of the journals survive. And they all wrote letters. I mean that was a 19th century practice that was, of course, wonderful for us, because that means we have a lot of records. And those letters tended to be saved, not only because the Alcotts themselves became important people. As soon as Little Women was published, Louisa was sort of like J.K. Rowlings today. Or I don't know how long this tape may be listened to in the future, but sort of that rock star fame that today not many authors have. But Louisa had a huge popular status and theme around the world. Little Women was very quickly translated into many languages. And today it's translated into well over fifty languages. We don't know for sure how many languages, because we keep finding out more. You just--. Someone asked me the other day--. Someone from Pakistan said, "Now is it in Urdu?" I don't know if it's in Urdu. It could be. It's in the public domain now. No one has to get permission. If you personally know Urdu and you want to take a copy of Little Women and translate it, and publish it, and make a fortune on it, you can do that. So--.
CK: Was that something she set up too?
JT: No, no that's just the laws in his country, the copyright laws.
CK: When did it come out?
JT: Do you know, I think--. I'm going to guess it might have been 1968.
CK: Oh, I meant originally.
JT: Oh, it came out--. It was published in 1868. And--. I thought you meant when did it come out of the copyright protection. And the only reason I guessed that is because I believe at one point it was 100 years. You had copyright protection for 100 years. So if that was the law at that time, applicable to Little Women, then it would've been 1968. But I don't know for sure, because they change that law periodically. Someone told me it's now 150 years.
CK: So it came out three years after the American Civil War.
JT: Umm hmm. Yes. But she sets the story during the Civil War. She's looking back a little bit. And she changes time a little bit. She takes her young years, which were lived out before the War and moves those years, those young years, into Wartime. And that makes it a little easier for her to explain to her reader why they're struggling so much. Everyone struggled during the War. And it also gives her a convenient way to have Father sort of out of the picture a lot, because that was true for their family. Bronson Alcott often had to be away. He was scouting out a new location for a school, or traveling. Sometimes--.His close friend Ralph Waldo Emerson would want him off lecturing, and--.
JT: Well, no. Usually it was just Bronson lecturing. But Emerson really thought Alcott was a genius, just--. In fact at one point in his journal, Ralph Waldo Emerson says that Bronson Alcott is the foremost genius of the day. And really the admiration was clearly very strong, and their friendship was very strong. At the same time I will tell you that sometimes you can read other portions of Emerson's journal where he, you could tell he's a little bit weary of some of Mr. Alcott's quirks! He says at one point, "Mr. Alcott is a tedious archangel." So there--. But that happens in friendships. But really it was a lasting friendship and a good friendship, and Bronson was admired enough by Emerson that Emerson would sometimes finance him to go off and lecture, just to spread his brilliant ideas on education, and philosophy, and that sort of thing. So with her father gone a good deal, Louisa found it convenient to have him be a Union Army chaplain in the War. And that's why he's gone so much. Much easier to explain. Otherwise I explain and tease and tell people, "She'd have to--." The book would be three times longer as she tried to explain what her father was doing, and all his educational ideas and why they weren't always accepted, and--. It would've been too complicated for what she was trying to achieve. So she made it a little simpler.
And she gave her father her own War experience. Louisa was a nurse during the Civil War. But because she takes her young years and puts those in Wartime, she can be a young girl and have her father take the War experience that she had. In other words, she as a nurse wasn't fighting but taking care of those who fought. He, as a Union Army chaplain, doesn't fight, but takes care of those who were fighting.
CK: Were they Pacifists?
JT: No, not really. I wouldn't call them Pacifist, but they definitely would not be warmongers. I mean they just, I think they believed that sometimes you have to stand up for right, and that might mean fighting for it.
CK: So what was her experience in the War then?
JT: Well she was a nurse then, just outside of Washington, D.C. in Georgetown, and she became very, very ill six weeks into her nursing. So for the first six weeks that she was there, she writes about it, and she ends up publishing a book called Hospital Sketches where she puts a lot of those journal entries into a fictionalized account. But it's what she calls reality writing. In other words it is fictional, because she uses fictitious names. She doesn't call herself Nurse Alcott. She calls herself Nurse Tribulation Periwinkle. And that's meant to be a little humorous, and she thinks a little humor's important even though it's a serious subject.
So it's very much based on the real experience, and real people are in there with different names. That book is published after her nursing experience, and the first six weeks are full of those experiences, what it's like to take care, to go around with the doctor, holding the lantern for him as he's tending to patients, or sitting with them and writing letters home for them, or washing their wounds, serving them food. The nurses were very concerned with what we would today call sanitation, and the doctors weren't very concerned with that. And that kind of comes out.
So the first six weeks were full of that type of experience, and then she becomes very ill with typhus and pneumonia. And she really is quite delirious. She doesn't even know for a while--. Because the fever is so high. She doesn't even know for a while what's real and what's not real. She's treated with Calomel, which is mercurous chloride. Today of course we know you don't ingest mercury to help yourself! But the doctors in 1862 and 1863 didn't know that. Well some of the doctors actually suspected that it wasn't great. And in fact there was a big flap where the Surgeon General of the United States was one of the ones thinking mercury's being overused, and the other doctors were furious with him. And I really think he lost his position as Surgeon General over that dispute.
But Louisa was dosed heavily with this Calomel, mercurous chloride. So she has that to deal with, and the disease itself. Her father rushes to Washington City. The telegram comes to Orchard House. And this all sounds very much like Little Women. The telegram comes to Orchard House. Orchard House is the setting for Little Women. So the rooms that people walk through when they walk through Orchard House are the same rooms that are described in the book. People feel they're walking through the book. And there is in Little Women this telegram that comes. Father's very sick, and Marmee needs to go to Washington City immediately. It's the famous part where Jo sells her hair to be able to buy the ticket for Marmee to go. And her sisters are horrified. Her littlest sister says, "Jo, it was your one beauty." [laughs] And Jo was proud of her wonderful, thick, beautiful hair and did think it was her best feature. And now she sold it. And she is conflicted; she feels very upset in a way. "Oh, my hair." But, on the other hand, she says publicly to her family, "Well, the fate of the Nation doesn't depend on it." And so she's trying to broker that difference between how she really feels and how she thinks she should feel.
All of this is from real life, in the sense that Louisa was the one that was sick. The telegram comes to Orchard House. It's not really about her father, as Little Women would say that it is; it's really about Louisa. And it isn't Mother who rushes to her side; it's Father who goes. And now, there was no selling of hair at that point, but Louisa had actually considered that at an earlier point in her life when the family finances were low; she would say when the Alcott sinking fund was ebbing low. So she had considered this. She had gone to a barber and priced out what it would be, and she knew she could sell her hair. And she did lose her hair, because first of all this mercurous chloride would make you sort of lose everything, including hair and teeth, and you know--. So she was losing lots of hair. And then the doctor, the family doctor, once they got her back to Concord on the train, the family doctor said, "Cut that hair off. That's bring down the fever." So, she, when she finally comes to--. She was, like I say, kind of delirious. She didn't even know she was on a train being brought home from Washington with her father. She was just in this haze, sort of a delirious dream state. But when she finally comes out of that and starts to feel like herself again, and they give her a mirror--. She's going to fix herself up. She's shocked to see her hair missing and has those very emotions that she gives to Jo March where she has seen much worse in this Union hospital, men who've lost a lot more than hair, and she's very aware of that and sort of feels like I shouldn't be bothered. But on the other hand, she is stunned; she is bothered. And she says, "I look like a little grandma" in caps. They were putting those quaint little caps, little, white lace things that old ladies would wear, to keep her head warm. But normally only old ladies wore these, so she was feeling that conflict between what she would maybe call her vanity, versus that nobler side of, well, this is nothing. I'm lucky this is all that I've lost. So it was a conflict for her.
[Recorder is turned off and then back on.]
JT: I just need to get.
[Recorder is turned off and then back on.]
JT: How are we on--?
CK: Yeah. Well we're back recording.
JT: Well all right. I realize talking to you that one of the questions that has sometimes come up for me, people have asked me why I have expended so much energy on this family and this house, this Orchard House, because I have. I have put a lot of time into it, and I realize that some of your questions, you know, why is this family important, dovetails really well with that question people have asked me. And so some of what I'm answering about why that family's important does say why it's important to me. But it's sort of a unique situation that has come up as well in that, as I mentioned at first, I was just guiding there, and very happy to do it, and very excited to have access to the journals and letters and really delve into a lot of primary source material, so much more interesting to me than reading someone else's biography, although I love biography and still do. But it's just even more exciting to read their own words and be able to touch the very papers that they touched. Again, that goes back to how I felt as a little girl. I'm holding a letter that was really written by Louisa May Alcott to her sister. And then when you go back and read the novel, or you read somebody's biography of them, it informs that reading, because you have that other point of view that was really from that letter, that maybe didn't have enough significant information in it to be quoted, or to really be highlighted, but yet it sheds light on who they are. It gives you a certain information and informs your reading of something else.
So all of that was there when I was guiding. And we would do these living history programs for school children, and we would take on roles. And this was just part of being a guide there. Not everyone had to do it, but if you were inclined at all they wanted people to do it. So I was very happy to do it. I had always enjoyed sort of a dramatic side of things. I wasn't trained as an actress. I didn't do a lot of--. The only acting, if you will, that I had every done was community theatre type of thing, and very little of that. But I love history, as I told you, and bringing history to life that way just became absolutely joyful for me. I realized how much more exciting it would, could be for a lot of children to meet Louisa May Alcott and hear the very historic things from her mouth as if it's all being told in first person. That just had an electric quality for a lot of children that was thrilling to see. I could see it. I had already taught the more conventional way, and now I'm able to sort of teach through this living history.
So I would do this for school children, tours at Orchard House. But then sometimes teachers and different people who had seen that would say, "Can you come to our library? Can you--? Could you do a whole performance?" And so I developed that, just because of requests. And I loved it. And so then I started to do other historic women. And in the interim years between my beginning as a guide at the Orchard House and the years now where I'm director of the Orchard House, in that interim period I really was just part-time at the Orchard House and I was doing my own little business. I started a little company called Interact Performances, and I would just bring to life historic women. And I would portray them in the first person and do a little one-woman show, and I loved doing it. Loved it. I can't even say it enough how much fun that was for me.
I never planned to be the director of Louisa May Alcott's home. And how that came about is another whole tape. You might want that. You might not.
CK: Well, give us a little bit.
JT: Well, I could. I'll do that if you'd like. But I'll just say that in between those two points where I started as a guide and before I became director, doing these performances became very important, so that when I did become director, I had said to the Board at the time I was interviewing, I said, "I don't want to completely give this up." And they were very accommodating and agreed. And so I have kept that performance part, and I do that on a very reduced scale, because I can't do it nearly the number of times that I used to. But I try to do something every week with that. And of course because Louisa May Alcott is one of those women, that works out very nicely, and there are lots of ways that it dovetails.
But it is unusual to have someone who performs the person be the director of the house. And how that came to be--. Well, I guess I should say that being a 300-year-old house, as I've mentioned--. It's over that. There were lots of structural issues. And I had heard about them the entire time I was a guide. I would not be intimately involved in the discussions, but it's a small house and a small house. And the architect and the structural engineer would be there for meetings, and sometimes they'd be meeting in the guides' room and we'd be sitting there, and I was very aware that they were quite concerned that there were some huge structural issues with the house that were being addressed by sort of stopgap temporary measures. And when I say stopgap and temporary, I don't mean inexpensive. Some of what they did was very, very extensive and expensive, but not the full solution, because really, as I came to understand slowly over time, the biggest problem that that house had, aside from its age--. That's pretty big anyway, but--. Was that Bronson Alcott took lots of outbuildings and kept attaching them to the back of this once simple, two over two home, two rooms over two rooms. That was the original structure from the 1600s. It was two large rooms underneath and two good-sized bedrooms above it. And that was the whole house. And he just kept attaching these little sheds and outbuildings, all of which had no foundation whatsoever. In fact they didn't even have a floor.
So he would bring the building down, attach it to the back of the original structure, which did have a stone foundation. So now you have uneven settling, and uneven sinking. And he would of course floor the, most of it, although the back rooms, the very back rooms weren't floored, and he used them sort of as a shed. If you know Orchard House today, those very back rooms that I'm talking about would now be the gift shop. So what we use as a gift shop, he would've used as a rough, rough, rough workspace that, not living space, and didn't have any floor at all. In fact when I first began as a guide it was still a dirt floor. And when they first opened the very back part as a gift shop, it was a dirt floor, and they put a rug over the dirt floor.
So it's amazing how, the history, the structure of that house. But I knew there were problems with it. And what I didn't fully understand when I was a guide there, but I came to understand later, was that the only real way to solve a lot of the problems of the house would be to put a foundation under the whole structure. That would mean basically lifting the house, or holding the house up on something, other than the dirt, because if you're going to dig, you have to have it up on something. And that would just be phenomenally expensive and ambitious. And I think it was completely overwhelming to anyone. So some of the things they tried were amazing attempts to help the house, but they weren't really working. They put in temporary sort of posts, one right smack in the middle of the kitchen, and I remember when that was going in the guides were talking to each other, saying, "This is horrible. How can we give a tour? There's going to be this big post in the middle of the kitchen where people normally stand." Well it has been that way for twenty-five years now. And people just take it as normal. And we're finally going to be removing it because of the structural preservation work we've been doing.
But in any case, all the structural work that was needed and the concerns of the house caused the Board to decide at one point, when the director was ready to leave the house, they thought, let's get a professional director in. We're going to get someone who has a good history of being in several different historic house museums. And this will be--. We'll know how to handle all this. We're going to get somebody new in here that is--. We'll do a national search. So they did. They hired a director, and she came in. And she was really rather stunned I think at what she had to put up with there, because the entire staff--. We have a staff of about forty guides, part-time guides--.They're not all in at once, but still there's a lot of activity. That house is open seven days a week year round. Lots of educational programs, lots of these living history programs, very active, busy place. And yet there was really no place to work. This tiny upstairs back bedroom was supposed to be the office. And you have all these people changing into their hoop skirts in there, people trying to have lunch, the tiny, tiny Xerox machine is up there. The director's desk, the shop manager tries to work out of there; the education person is trying to work out of there. No place, literally no place to put archives. Shop merchandise is stuffed into every single closet, under beds. Just ridiculous efforts to tuck things away. The attic is jam-packed with--. There's just no place to put things.
Lots and lots of the archives and materials that people had to work with were taken home, because there was no other option. And the shop manager actually ends up putting lots of things in her own house, in her own basement. So this is how the staff is trying to function. And the director, quite rightly, was distressed about the situation, and she went to the Board and said, "We can't work like this. You have to do something. Besides that, the structural engineer says that the weight of all this is hurting the house, and we should be getting it out. We need more space."
They explored option after option. They thought about taking one of the prison homes--. Do you know about the--? They call them the white ladies? They're these little homes around the Concord Prison that used to be lived in by guards. They were homes built right across from the Prison at the Rotary on Route 2. And these little homes were being sold. You could buy one for a dollar as long as you moved it. So that was the director's thought. I know that was her first desires to do that and move it to the backyard, so to speak, of Orchard House. But there was a lot of concern. You could see it from the road. And instead of just seeing the Orchard House and the School of Philosophy, now you would see this other house kind of peaking out of the back! Lots of people weren't too happy with that idea, and it would be very expensive, because, you know, when you move a house and get it settled in and workable structurally, that's a very big expense. And there was no provision--. There was really no endowment at all for Orchard House until the 1990s, which is rather remarkable!
So lots of problems facing the house. And across the street from Orchard House one of the residences came up for sale. The Board decides, "Well that's what we should do. We'll buy that house." And they purchased it very quickly with the tiny bit of endowment that they did have as a down payment. And then, as sometimes is almost inexplicable, you just have to understand that sometimes things get a life of their own, there were concerns amongst neighbors. The abutting neighbor was the most concerned. What is going on next door to me? This is going to become a commercial building. I don't want that. This is a neighborhood. We shouldn't have a commercial building. And so this neighbor went door to door, wrote letters to the Editor, arranged for signs. There were signs on both sides of the Lexington Road, "No, no, don't destroy our neighborhood. No, no Orchard House Annex."
Lots of upset. And it got to be a real curfluffle, as someone once said. I love that word! I've adopted that word! It even got into the Boston Globe. People were divided. The letters to the Concord Journal were every single week. And there were letters on both sides. Horrible things were being said; lots of rumors got going. Things that weren't ever going to happen were rumored to be happening: Oh, they'll probably pave the whole front yard, and it'll become a big parking lot. We'll have buses on both sides of the street. They're going to expand. They'll be having exhibits in the house, which never was part of the plan. But rumors, once they get going, sometimes they do get a life of their own. And the director, who had been there about a year, quit. [laughs]
So now we have this amazing sort of upset, no director, sort of a crisis situation there. And I was still part-time at the house, and I had agreed to be on the search committee for a new director. And I was thinking to myself, "Oh, this is really tough," because here would be these people. They would come in. They didn't really know Concord. They didn't really know Orchard House. And I know there's a lot of, a high learning curve when you come into a job like that; there's a lot of learning that you want to learn the history a little bit. You want to understand the house. You want to understand the guides, and the staff, the neighborhood that you're in. And then there's this really tough crisis that has developed. And I don't think I can adequately explain how upset people really were.
So out of all of this, one suggestion that came up in one of the meetings--. I think it was really after the meeting, because I wasn't there to hear it. But someone suggested that maybe I would like to take this on! And I was approached, and we discussed it a little bit, just on the sideline. My first reaction was, "No, I'm not really qualified to be a director, so I don't think that's the solution." But then too I had already seen some of these people coming in and realized what they were up against, and I thought, to some degree, I'm better qualified, in the sense that I already live in the town. I already know the history of the house very well. I know the culture of the house. I know the neighbors. A lot of the neighbors knew me very well from years of interaction with me. My children were in school with their children. You know, very friendly, very nice.
So ultimately I decided I would go ahead and apply if they wanted me; I would try it, because I really thought we could solve that problem with the neighbors. I thought we could talk it out.
CK: And when was this?
JT: This was in 1999. And it took two years of conversation for me to really understand what was going on, that a lot of what, in fact everything that was being discussed as being a reason why the Orchard House should not have that house across the street: signage, nobody living in the house, buses pulling up, delivery trucks pulling up, all kinds of things, as director I had neighbor meetings. I kept having these neighbor meetings. I kept saying, "We don't need signage there." I'd go back to the Board. And I'd say, "Let's take out any--. Let's put in there that we'll have no signage." And when I say, "put in there," I'm talking about an agreement, because this is a residential area, and so we were having a zoning exemption. And we were preparing a document for the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Some people were quick to point out that we didn't have to do all of that, that there's something called the Dover Amendment, and we could've just said that we have a right to do this, you don't have any right. We don't even need the zoning bylaws, because we are exempt, because we're a museum, an educational facility, and churches and educational facilities can do that sort of thing. But we also felt, we're still a neighbor to these people. We don't want to operate that way. We don't want to be that heavy-handed. So let's go the full distance to work this out. And I kept thinking, people solve wars. They make treaties over much larger issues. This is such a tempest in a teapot by comparison. Surely we can do this. We can work this out. We can all be friends in the end. I just was so convinced of that. I was determined. It didn't matter what it took. I was going to do this.
So we kept having the meetings. I kept taking out other things that they were worried about. I put my assistant and her husband in the house, because they actually were at a juncture where they wanted to move out of the apartment they were in, and they thought that would be just fine. So they were happy to move in there. Okay, now we have a resident in the house, because we don't need the whole house. We just need part of the house to get offices and filing cabinets and all sorts of things in there. One by one by one by one by one, every single thing I could possibly do, I did, to the point where all of the objections were basically gone. And then the one person that was still very, very concerned, and had sort of started the whole campaign, if you will, to make sure this didn't happen, said, "Well, I don't trust the town bylaws very well. You say this is the agreement you're signing with the town, but that could change. The Town of Concord could decide later that you don't have to abide by that. I just don't feel comfortable with that." So our lawyer suggested a restricted covenant, and that would be drafted by the lawyers, and it would be above and beyond what the Town of Concord would require, so that if the Town of Concord ever said, "We don't have zoning restrictions anymore. You can put anything up anywhere you want; it doesn't matter." If the town ever came to that, we, at Orchard House, would still be restricted. We couldn't do it. The rest of the town could do whatever they wanted, but we would still have to have no signage, no buses, no delivery trucks. All of it was very restricted. And we drafted this. And every time we'd come up with a version, there'd be a comeback, "Well I don't like this line. And I don't know what this means." And there was lots of back and forth on this document.
And there really, in the end, two abutters, that it came down to, because everybody else in the entire town really had come to terms and said, "You've done everything. We're at peace with this. It's fine. You should have that house." And so the two abutters were the ones that had to have the restricted document anyway, because they were the abutters. They were the only ones with real clout, if you will, in this situation. And the one abutter had brought a lawsuit against us, which actually I was told, if it really went to court, would be thrown out, because it was absolutely baseless. But we didn't want to go to court with it.
So there were all these things going on. And finally we would have this hearing with the Zoning Board of Appeals of Concord. It was an amazing evening. I don't know if you've ever seen one of those old movies where the football hero is carried around the field on the shoulders of the team, and everybody's cheering. It felt like they were doing that for Orchard House. Neighbor after neighbor after neighbor, who had been writing these letters and that sort of thing, were speaking up in favor of Orchard House, and keeping the house, and saying, "They've done everything. They've worked so hard. We're in absolute full support of this." The one abutter had agreed and had signed the restricted document and was also in support. The other abutter, the one who had brought the lawsuit, met with me right before that meeting. And I had the document for her to sign. And she said, "I'm going to wait until after the meeting, because I want to hear what's said before I sign that document." So, "Okay." Because there wasn't anything she wanted changed, theoretically, so, all right.
We go into the meeting. All of this happens. I'm feeling great. The last person to speak is this person. And she's really the only one to say anything negative. And she comes up, and she says, "I cannot sign that document. I think that someone from Orchard House could be crossing the street, and they could be hit by a car, and it would be on my conscious. They shouldn't have that house. I can't sign the document. I can't feel comfortable with this." So she wasn't going to drop the lawsuit. The whole thing was sort of in the same place where it was, except the town approved us, but we still had a lawsuit, which was acting as an injunction really. We couldn't use the hose while we had that lawsuit going on.
The land behind Orchard House came up for sale. I got to thinking, "What if we could buy that acre of land?" because most people thought it was part of our property. It was just vacant. And maybe we could build something sort of underground in there. We didn't want it to show, but maybe we could. So we worked so hard to pull together the money to do that. And we bought that land. And we were starting to plan a building for back there. And the same concerns were being voiced by this neighbor, because she didn't think we could really do it. She didn't think we could really build the building. And we wanted to use the house while the building was being planned and built, and no, because maybe we'd get too comfortable in that house and we wouldn't really build the building. And now we own the land behind, and we're still planning the building and talking about it. And then the house right next door comes up for sale. And I realized that the asking price for that house, with the land that it's sitting on, would actually cost us less than building into the hill, because going into the hill and trying to hide so much of it was more expensive than just an ordinary house. And so I came to the Board with that idea. And they said, "She'll just object to that. There'll just be another lawsuit about that house." And by that time I had figured out that that wouldn't be the case, because this is one of those fine points that's just almost unbelievable. But if you look at the Lexington Road, the side of the street that Orchard House sits on is a ridge. And all the very old houses were built on that side of the street for the protection of the ridge.
Across the Lexington Road was flat land. It was just meadow land. And that's where they grazed their animals. And it remained that way for centuries. It wasn't even built upon when I started working there as a guide. I would come out the front door of the Orchard House at the end of the day and see the sun setting. And there were no trees planted there. It was just open meadowland. And it was just absolutely breathtaking. And I would stand in that door and think, "This is what the Alcotts saw. This is the sunset they saw." And it just thrilled me. Almost more than being in the house itself, was seeing the sunset over this big meadowland that they saw. It was open the same way it was in their era. And in the late '70s I think it was a developer purchased that plot. The Orchard House actually tried to purchase it at that time. And they couldn't quite raise the money. I'm told the town was willing to put up half. I'm told that it was about $25,000 for several acres, which today is just unthinkable.
CK: For the half?
JT: For the land. For the land across the street. It was several acres. And I don't know for sure if everything I'm saying is absolutely right. But this is what I've been told, that it was about $25,000, and the town would put up $12,000 if the Orchard House could come up with the other $12,000, and that would just stay open land; it wouldn't be built upon. And Orchard House couldn't do it. They couldn't come up with $12,000, and so a developer bought it. And several houses were put up all at the same time and all on flat land. And they became in that way a little sort of a mini-neighborhood. And there was lots of back and forth between those neighbors. And one of the houses in the middle of all of that was the very house in question. So it was special to these people to have that house just be one of the normal houses like it had always been, one of their little neighbor houses, not the Orchard House office house, whereas across the street, next door to us, on the ridge side of the road, lots of trees. You couldn't even really see the house next door to us very well from the road. They didn't care about that house. They weren't part of--. That wasn't part of the, if you will, sort of community, the small, small community. And I really had figured this out by that time. It was never stated. No one ever said any of this to me, so I can't prove it. But I can say that I was convinced of it and that I said this to the Board, and I said, "If or lawyer will draft a letter, in conjunction with their lawyer, I suspect they will sign it. The letter should say, ‘If Orchard House sells the house across the street, and buys the house next door, you will drop the lawsuit, you will never bring a lawsuit against the Orchard House for having purchased the house next door.'" And I think we even put in there, "And you make a donation to the Orchard House," no stipulation as to how much. It could be pretty small. But that letter was signed in a heartbeat. And there was never a problem after that. And we did sell the house a cross the street. We bought the house next door. And everybody has basically lived happily ever after! But it's an amazing tale of how things get a life of their own is sort of how I put it. And in the midst of all that, we also did manage to put he house on ten tons of steel and hand dig a foundation under it.
CK: You jacked up the whole hose with all the additions?
CK: How do you raise money to do something like this?
JT: Oh, that was another whole story. One thing that helped us a lot was that Hillary Clinton put into effect something called Save America's Treasures. And you had to apply to be a treasure. [laughs] And that meant that you were basically an icon of the culture, of the American culture in some way. And that you were in desperate need of saving, that there was some huge threat to the structure. And we fit that description perfectly. So we applied for Save American's Treasures grant funding. We were applying for half a million dollars. And the stipulation was that you would raise the other, that you would match, dollar for dollar, what you were given. You had to match it of you didn't get it.
CK: Was that enough? One million?
JT: Well, at the time we thought our project--. Actually 1.2 million is what we thought it would be. So we were applying fro $600,000. Just over a half a million. $600, 000 is what we applied for. And there were actually people who ere very worried about this, because they said, "Well, annual appeal for Orchard House just a few years earlier had been $11,000. That was what Orchard House brought in for a year's worth of donations. If that's our track record, if we're in that ballpark of $11,000, even if we double it, we're still so far below raising $600,000 that, how do we know we're going to do this? But how I felt about it, and this is really kind of why I took the job of director, I felt this way that, why would I take this on when I don't have any of the resources? I'm not a fundraiser; I haven't done this. But I really care. And I got in my head this sort of medical analogy: If I had an aunt, a wonderful aunt, that I adored, who suddenly was in the emergency room--. She's not my mother. Why would I be the one to rush to her side? But I really love her. And I'm somewhat related. It does make sort of sense, you know. Okay, I would. I would go. I would want to help. And now I'm in the emergency room and they say, "If she doesn't have the operation right away she's going to die." But you--. She has no insurance; you have to pay for it. And you don't have the money. Well I'd take a credit card or something. You'd do it. You'd just do it because you can't wait. You can't say, "Well, you know, I'll be back in a year with the money." And she's dead by then.
And that's really how I felt about the Orchard House, because when I became director, one of the first things I did was I had the architect and the structural engineer come, and I said, "There's this sort of disconnect, because at Board meetings there isn't much sense of urgency, or amongst the staff--." We had a curator at that time who said, "No, we're in good shape, because we've got all these new things we put up. You know, they had spent $80,000 on some sort of temporary things. And that was a big thing for them to raise. That was before I became director. And they were reeling from having done that. And so that's going to hold us for a while. We shouldn't apply for this grant. The curator thought we shouldn't apply for the grant. The Board--. Certain Board members were concerned.
CK: For Preserve America? [Preserve America's Treasures]
JT: Right. Because we'd have to match it.
CK: Or, America's Treasures.
JT: The Save America's Treasures. And if we couldn't match it we wouldn't get it. We'd have egg on our face, and it would just be a disaster. So I met with the architect and the structural engineer. And I said, "Look, there's a disconnect here. I thought there was tremendous urgency, but there's a big array of people think that's not the case." And they said, "It is the case. You don't understand how hard we've been trying to get this across that these temporary measures are like putting band-aids on a big, cancerous sore. It's good for the moment, but you can't think that--. Something could go at any minute. We really don't know. It isn't as secure as it looks. People don't understand this. It is essential." And they were very adamant about this. So I thought of it, like I say, the way I thought of this auntie in the hospital somewhere far away and you're putting it on the credit card and you're saying, "This is just the right thing to do, because she can't just die." She's elderly, and yet she's beloved. And that's how I felt about the Orchard House. It's this elderly, old lady with osteoporosis. And now we've got her overloaded with a backpack and lots of heavy packages, because she's loaded up in the attic (laughing) and she's just not going to be able to make it. So getting that house was as essential to saving Orchard House as the structural work, it really was, because that way we could offload heavy things, although we had to do tremendous work to the house next door to have it meet the code to be for our use instead of a house, because we were putting heavier things into it.
CK: And you have an extra acre behind that you're not using.
JT: That's true, although we are glad to have it because now it can't be built upon, because it was a buildable acre. We had never thought about what it might be like if someone built a house there. You could be looking as someone's swing set and yard, you know, and think of the conflict we could have there where they're so close to us and, you know, I just really think it's a good thing we have that land. So yes, but it was just like the non-stop money pit draining on the finances. So basically, the Save America's Treasures grant, we did go for it. Some very brave board members banded together with me and we all just took a deep breath and said,
"We're going to really make the effort to do this." In order to match it we did everything you could imagine. But I will tell you, in the end you can have all the bake sales you want, you can have all the fundraisers you want; for the amount of effort and amount of return on investment that you put in return for those hours, you'll never make it that way. Like, my analogy for that is if you were trying to build a brand new school and an eager kindergarten teacher who said, "I'll have a bake sale every day," even if she made the best cookies in the world, and had the best parents to make the best pies and cakes, and got everybody to buy them at the highest prices, at the end of that day you would not have enough money to build a school. And that's the truth of fundraisers. They're important because they garner community awareness, and that money that you bring in is great. But it's a fraction of what you need. You have to have major donors. And ultimately that's how we matched the money, with major donors and some large gifts. And really how you do that is you just talk to people; you just go to people who have that wherewithal and just tell them the story, and you tell them what's going on, and you get a few people who care enough and have that wherewithal. And there are people who will do that. They step forward. And we matched—. We actually in the end had to triple match the Save America's Treasures money, because they actually gave us 400,000 instead of 600,000. That's frequently the case when you ask for a grant, and 400,000 had to be triple-matched. The project really cost us about a million and a half in the end. But when people saw afterwards what we had done, they said, "How could you get all that done for a million and a half?" when you really understand the magnitude of the project.
So that whole thing, obviously, has pulled me deeper and deeper and deeper. I love the history, and I love the building itself. I see people come to Orchard House as if it is a shrine. They just--. As they say, it's like walking through the book. And they remember maybe visiting there fifty years ago and seeing the drawings right on the walls that Amy, they called her, but really it was Abigail May Alcott, the youngest sister--. She drew on the walls, painted right on the walls, and those drawings are still there, and they're now preserved. We've had conservators come in and preserve all of this. It's been a major, major effort to preserve everything in that house.
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You asked me, "Why is Little Women so important? Why does it touch so many people?" And I am asked that question a lot, especially when people find out that we have a huge following in Japan. Because people marvel at how different that culture is from ours and why is that so important, you know, that they love Little Women? I think across the world it's the same thing. Little Women makes people really aware of family, and it touches people thinking about their own families, about what family means to them, understanding that family is based on love. It isn't necessarily based on the ideal that someone may present. In Little Women there is the traditional mother, father and sisters, but you get the feeling that what's most important is that love, that if someone says, "Well, your family doesn't fit in quite right," it doesn't really matter because the love is there. And I think that's an important message, and in Japan in particular, I think women feel empowered. This is true across the world. I've heard this from other women in other cultures as well. Here's Jo March learning to be independent and strong when her culture says, "You really shouldn't be that bold."
You might not realize that doctors actually said in the Nineteenth Century that brain work would destroy a woman's health. And so writing was brainwork. Louisa May Alcott and other women shouldn't have a desk of their own. It's improper. They shouldn't write. But Louisa did, and her family encouraged it. They were unconventional, but they did it for the right reasons. They loved her and didn't believe in these old wives tales. I think Little Women reinforces all that again and again for people all over the world. I think that's a lot of why people love the book, and then they find out about the real family and they're even more taken with them. They're even more interesting than the March family in Little Women.
CK: Thank you.