For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
June 20, 2002
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House
The Orchard House
The Concord-Carlisle High School chorus was wonderful - thank you.
Orchard House is a perfect place to talk about the preservation of America's greatest cultural treasures, and to thank everyone who loves this home and its history.
Richard (Moe), thank you for your work as Co-chair of Save America's Treasures and President of National Trust for Historic Preservation. The National Trust was just awarded the National Humanities Medal.
This great day was made possible by a terrific group. I don't have time to name everyone who helped, but I do want to mention a few of you:
Director Turnquist, thank you for the tour that brought the Alcott's world to life, and I especially thank Louisa May for being here.
The Orchard House staff and Bobbie Greene, Director of Save America's Treasures, did a great job of organizing today's events.
Thanks to the Park Service, the Minute Man National Historical Park-I believe John Maonis (Park Service) and Nancy Nelson (MMNHP) are here today.
Thank you, Selectman Clayton, for sharing the pride that the Concord community has in Orchard House.
Others contributed, including the Electronic Systems Center and Hanscom Air Force Base.
I'm glad to see my friends from:
The National Endowment for the Humanities (Bruce Cole);
The National Endowment for the Arts (Eileen Mason);
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (Robert Martin); and
The President's Committee for Arts and Humanities (Cindy Lynn Sites);
And I want to again thank all of the very generous donors, and the distinguished guests who are here today.
What a pleasure it is to be at the home where one of my favorite authors, Louisa May Alcott, wrote one of my favorite books, Little Women.
Louisa was in her 20's when she moved to Orchard House with her parents and sisters. She had already worked as a teacher, governess, household servant, and seamstress to supplement the family income. By the time the Alcott family moved to Orchard House, some of Louisa's first poems and stories had been published in popular magazines.
Like her sisters, Louisa was taught by her father. He was known as a leading transcendentalist and reforming educator, who imparted the basics of education, and the ideals of a good life: be yourself, love nature, help others, and temper your behavior with self-control. The four Alcott girls did just that: Anna, as a teacher and amateur actress, Elizabeth, as a musician, May, as an artist, and Louisa, of course, as a writer.
Mr. Alcott, although a brilliant man, could not earn a living. Their practical-minded mother taught the girls to get by with little and to share what they had with others.
Mrs. Alcott was a devoted wife and mother, and one of the first paid social workers in Massachusetts. She was an ardent champion of women's rights, child welfare, and abolition.
Earlier this week I helped dedicate the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinati, and I spoke about the many families, like the Alcotts, who sheltered fugitive slaves even though they had little food of their own.
America's children can learn a lot about character by studying the characters in our literature and our history.
Louisa's family lived here at Orchard House for 20 years. During that time she worked briefly as a Civil War nurse in Washington. After she returned, her publisher asked her to write a story for girls. The result was Little Women.
This and other books were inspired by her life experiences. Her characters were drawn from friends, relations and neighbors, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau.
I'll always remember reading Little Women with my mother, and of course we both cried when Beth died.
I love the passage about the library which says, "The dim, dusty room.the cozy chairs, the globes, and best of all, the wilderness of books in which (Jo) could wander where she liked, made the library a region of bliss to her."
Few books have remained in print for more than 130 years. But Little Women continues to be passed from parent to child, from hand to hand because its story is timeless. It captures life during a unique period in our nation's history.
This house, too, is timeless. Were it not for Louisa May Alcott's talented writing, this home may never have found its way into the national spotlight. But America is proud that it did, and I'm glad that future generations will continue to visit this home that helped launch the legend of Little Women.
Congratulations to The Louisa May Alcott Memorial Association, Save America's Treasures, and Friends of the Alcotts, whose work and support ensure that Orchard House continues to stand as a living memorial to one of America's favorite storytellers.
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