For Immediate Release
Office of Mrs. Bush
June 20, 2002
Remarks by Mrs. Bush
Louisa May Alcott's 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
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
Director Turnquist, thank you for the tour that brought the
Alcott's world to life, and I especially thank Louisa May for being
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
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
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
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
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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