Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

We Alcotts: The Story of Louisa M. Alcott’s Family as Seen Through the Eyes of “Marmee,” Mother of “Little Women” adopts the first-person voice and loving perspective of Abba May Alcott. It follows the fortunes of her family from her first meeting with the fascinating Amos Bronson Alcott in 1827 to the day in 1869 when their daughter Louisa announced that the last of their debts were paid. Aileen L. Fisher and Olive Rabe take their tone as well as their material from the voluminous texts left by the Alcotts and their friends. Many dialogues are taken from journals and letters. Intermingled with the chronological story of family events are word portraits of family friends and musings on the great events and ideas that governed their lives.

The chapters of We Alcotts progress chronologically. The continual tension between high intellectual aspirations and dire money problems dominates the story. Courtship, marriage, and the successive arrival of four daughters accompany the history and principles of Bronson Alcott’s progressive schools, each a financial failure. A constant theme is Abba’s loving support for her husband, coupled with exasperation with his impracticality. After the disastrous “Fruitlands” experiment in communal living, which leaves the family near starvation, Bronson lies prostrate in depression. Only Abba’s stalwart spirit pulls them through, as she concentrates on the necessity of preserving her children from disaster.

The developing interests and personalities of the Alcott girls fill a progressively larger place in We Alcotts as the family fortunes rise and fall. The book offers a detailed account of Louisa’s various trials and disappointments and ends with her success as a writer. Little Women and Bronson Alcott’s Tablets appeared together at the same publisher and were published in late 1868. While Abba admired both, it was the former book which finally produced financial security for the Alcott family. The text of We Alcotts ends in 1869, when Louisa is able to announce that all the family debts are paid, but a short epilogue tells the final fate of the family members. A selected bibliography of primary sources and individual biographies accompanies We Alcotts.