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The Struggle For A Simpler Life

Updated on March 10, 2016
TraceyWalsh profile image

Mother, grandmother, and wife. Always aspiring for bringing the past to the present through my Writing, traditions, cooking, and hobbies.

Write What You Know

The Book cover says it all to me.  Louisa's work was writing and her writing came from what she knew.  Thus, "Work: A Story of Experience...  At least that is my interpretation
The Book cover says it all to me. Louisa's work was writing and her writing came from what she knew. Thus, "Work: A Story of Experience... At least that is my interpretation | Source

We Will Keep Together and be Happy in One Another

— Louisa May Alcott

Alcott's Writing is Timeless Because She Wrote What She Knew

As a writer, it is my intention to bridge gaps between generations. So-called generation gaps (out dated term) are misunderstood, because it is based on the previous generation not understanding the current one or vice versa. Our fashion sense, style of hair, technological advances, and mode of music may differ, but our means of feeling enjoyment, excitement, and desire make the same end result. For example, my great great grandmother may have worn a floor length day dress with layers of undergarments and her hair in an up doo compared to my jeans and a t-shirt, but when she fell in love it equaled the way I felt falling in love; we endure the same feelings and emotions. Most sentiments are shared by all, even if they are not expressed in the same fashion.

When you look back at history one piece at a time, in this instance, the literary works of Louisa May Alcott. You can understand the past a little better as you step into the shoes of those that lived it. The novel of LITTLE WOMEN is a classic because it is timeless. The emotions evoked by each new generation that reads it are the same feelings someone in 1868 felt as they read. Most of us know what it feels like to fight or argue with a sibling. The heartache from the loss of a loved one, whether it through sickness or the breaking up of a relationship, is universal.

The story that sneaks between the lines of this literary classic comes from the lives of the real life Alcott/fictional March family. They strove to live a simple life that would be worthy. Everyone has a different vision of what is considered "worthy", but there is a common core usually consistent within the chase for a compassionate civilization. The caring for others, the cause of commitment, and the commitment to the cause.

Social reform of society's social issues such as slavery, child labor, and women's rights came to the forefront of Alcott's list. Contrary to what one may think, the commitment to such endeavor is considered an alternative lifestyle for the 19th Century, as well as the 21st Century. The norm then and now, is survival of the fittest. Financial gain, personal achievement, and at the very least conformity are the law of the land. For those who go against the current to stand up for a utopia style and peaceful existence the struggle continues. Today we look to save the earth's resources, civil rights, and poverty; we continue fighting some of the same fights they contended with in 1850's.

Relevance Today

1907 edition of LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott stands next to my notes and computer. It's relevance still alive today in many ways as I do my research for article
1907 edition of LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott stands next to my notes and computer. It's relevance still alive today in many ways as I do my research for article

The Philosophy of Social Work

As someone who has been on both sides, the giving and the receiving help, social work has always been present in my life. My father worked for Goodwill Industries of New England for thirty years. He helped a variety of people transition from institutionalized clients to independent individuals. Their goal aimed to provide the training and support that would enable people to enter the main stream and support themselves in a trade. The philosophy behind social work is to help someone get on their feet, not carry them everywhere they need to go. Whether the issues come from the challenges of mental or physical disabilities, financial hardships, the difficulties of the aged or the abuses of the young, indifference and abandonment cannot happen. What can happen by providing assistance, resources, and support is the possibility to make change.

At the Core of Little Women

Louisa May Alcott was the daughter of Amos Bronson Alcott and Abigail May Alcott. She was born in Germantown, PA but by 2 years old her family moved to Boston in 1834. There were three other girls in the family; Meg, Elizabeth, and Abigail. She had an unusual bringing up for the time period and for the area. Amos Bronson Alcott followed what is called,Transcendentalism. as well as a strict vegetarian diet. Now a day, Alcott would fall into a received way of thinking.

While a popular philosophy during this time period among intellectuals, it was not necessarily common. More prevalent to the New England region culture came from the puritan prudent conviction. There were some who shared his belief, well known people like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, or others linked with the Unitarian Church such as, Nathaniel Hawthorne. According to Wikipedia it is called ...

  • Transcendentalism was a philosophical movement that developed in the late 1820s and 1830s in the eastern region of the United States. The movement was a reaction to, or protest against the general state of intellectualism and spirituality.
  • A core belief was in the inherent goodness of both people and nature. They believed that society and its institutions ultimately corrupted the purity of the individual, and had faith that people are at their best when truly "self-reliant" and independent.
  • Their intellectual preoccupations were less reliant on objective empiricism, and more on subjective intuition. They believed that individuals were capable of generating completely original insights with as little attention and deference to past masters as possible.

Amos Bronson Alcott's Temple School in Boston

Source

The American Victorian Era Slightly differed

Boston and New England of the 1850's

After the Revolutionary War, Boston and other major hubs of New England suffered loss of stature. Many loyal to the crown fled to Canada or back to England. Meanwhile, the colonists that remained had the purpose to build Boston as the Americanized Boston. Boston became a center for culture, education, finance, and transportation. There is a certain class status of elitist at the core of Boston. "The Brahmins" consisted of the New England gentry. They made it their business to ensure the culture of Boston through the arts, charities, and manner. Boston's culture of mid-to-late 1800's brimmed with celebrity status. It was, also surrounded on all sides by schools we now consider "Ivy League", such as Harvard and Boston College.

  • In the Civil War era, it was the base for many anti-slavery activities.
  • In 1831, William Lloyd Garrison founded The Liberator, an abolitionist newsletter, in Boston. It advocated "immediate and complete emancipation of all slaves" in the United States, and established Boston as the center of the abolitionist movement. After the passing of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, Boston became a bastion of abolitionist thought.

When You Go Against the Current, You Will Stand Out

"Don't you wish we had the money papa lost when we were little, Jo? Dear me! how happy and good we'd be, if we had no worries!" said Meg, 'who could remember better times.

— Louisa May Alcott

The Alcotts: Ahead of Their Time

In her novel of LITTLE WOMEN, Louisa wrote her character's father having gone through some financial hardships. She wrote from the things she knew. Louisa and her sisters grew up humbly under the shadow of their father's financial burdens. Her real life father, Amos Bronson Alcott, was a teacher/educator. Alcott wanted to provide a different format of teaching and one day hoped to open a school that allowed learning to be self reliant and independent. However, the towns and the times were not ready for his forward type of thinking. In an 1830 pamphlet, he argued that education must be adapted to...

  • "the order in which [the] faculties appear. " He outlined four vital consecutive stages of growth: "the animal nature, the affections, the conscience, and the intellect. " He argued that a child first must be allowed to roam, play, and interact with the physical world, without premeditation, but be protected from bodily harm. The affections were perhaps the most important faculty: since people learn by free association, everything good and true must be presented as pleasant. Thus to "facilitate" the being's natural development was to show reverence for its designer.

A good friend of the family, who pondered similar philosophy, Henry David Thoreau put a side "modern living" for a "simpler life". He is the author of Walden Pond, which journals his thinking. He believed that people should behold the sanctity of life through taking the time to step back and realize who they are, where they are, why they are, how they are here, and where they stand. This book, many years later becomes the foundation for a generation's social stand against society's selfishness, self destructiveness, and sordid ways.

  • just as they struck a chord in a generation of young people in the 1960s and 1970s who opposed the modern military-industrial complex and sought peace and simplicity in their lives. For many, Walden has served as a touchstone.Thoreau's words expressed the concerns of many of his contemporaries as industrialization and war permanently altered the world around them,

Obviously a theme already tried by others before him, but Alcott founded Fruitlands, a transcendentalist experiment in community living, anyway.

  • Whereas back then he was viewed as being on the liberal/radical edge and now they are common themes in society, including vegetarian/vegan-ism, sustainable living, and temperance/self-control. Alcott described his sustenance as a "Pythagorean diet": meat, eggs, butter, cheese, and milk were excluded and drinking was confined to well -water. Alcott believed that diet held the key to human perfection and connected physical well-being to mental improvement. He further viewed a perfection of nature to the spirit and, in a sense, predicted modern environmentalism by condemning pollution and encouraging humankind's role in sustaining ecology.

As with other areas of his interests, it seems that Alcott abhorred structure of any resemblance. Apparently, the only written records of Fruitland would be found in his wife's journals.

  • Residents of the Fruitlands came to be called "consecrated cranks" and followed strict principles and virtues. They strongly believed in the ideas of simplicity, sincerity, and brotherly love.

However, the few fellow residents of Fruitland that were documented, including the founders and their families, failed to stay long, anyway. There was the Alcott family of Amos, his wife Abigail, and their four girls. Then there was the financial founder, Charles Lane and family, followed by ...

  • Joseph Palmer - Palmer joined Fruitlands in August 1843, and stayed through the demise of the commune, later purchasing the farm and founding another utopian society there. He was famous for wearing a full beard, despite social stigma against it; he had even served time in prison for defending his right to wear a beard.
  • Isaac Hecker - Hecker began life as a baker in New York, but then went through a progression of religious and spiritual explorations. He resided at Brook Farm, another Transcendentalist community, for six months before joining the Fruitlands community. He was initially attracted by the "deeper" spiritual life at Fruitlands compared to Brook Farm, though he only stayed for two months. He later became a Roman Catholic priest.
  • Samuel Larned - Like Hecker, Larned lived briefly at Brook Farm before coming to Fruitlands. He was known for using foul language because he believed that swears said with a pure heart uplifted listeners.
  • Abraham Everett - Also known as Abraham Woods, he changed his name upon his arrival at Fruitlands, to Wood Abram. He had once been committed to an insane asylum before joining Fruitlands.
  • Samuel Bower - Bower lived at Fruitlands for only a few months, after which he left to experiment with nudism, believing that clothes "stifled the spirit".
  • Ann Page - Besides Bronson Alcott's wife, Page was the only adult female member of Fruitlands. Page and Mrs. Alcott were responsible for most of the household chores and often had to take care of the farm as well. Page was eventually kicked out of Fruitlands, supposedly for eating a piece of fish, which was forbidden in the community.

Fruitlands Communal Living

Bronson Alcott's attempt for a Simpler Life left Fruitlands as a legacy to failure
Bronson Alcott's attempt for a Simpler Life left Fruitlands as a legacy to failure | Source

Living a Simpler Life is Not Simple

The reason similar societies fade is usually, due to discontent or discern in the original principals. Even though it is those principals which is what sets them apart from others, it is not as easy to put them in practice. In this case, the struggles were physically wearing trying to farm without any animals, as well as, the lack of strategically timing the start of the commune with seeding crops for sustainable food for winter. Also a problem that Fruitland faced came from "having to many chiefs and not enough Indians." Alcott's and Lane's strict life style called for authority, but too much became too much to handle.

The project was short-lived and failed after seven months. Although, he never gave up on his beliefs or his dreams. Alcott went to his death willing to believe in his dream even after the struggle without any success. If Amos lived another one hundred years later, In the 1960's-70's, we could surmise the Alcott family would have been "Hippies" living in a commune.

  • Like the UTOPIAN SOCIETIES of the 1840s, over 2000 rural communes formed during these turbulent times. Completely rejecting the capitalist system, many communes rotated duties, made their own laws, and elected their own leaders. Some were philosophically based, but others were influenced by new religions. Earth-centered religions, astrological beliefs, and Eastern faiths proliferated across American campuses. Some scholars labeled this trend as the THIRD GREAT AWAKENING.
  • Most communes, however, faced fates similar to their 19th century forebears. A charismatic leader would leave or the funds would become exhausted, and the commune would gradually dissolve.
  • One lasting change from the counter-cultural movement was in American diet. Health food stores sold wheat germ, yogurt, and granola, products completely foreign to the 1950's America. Vegetarianism became popular among many youths.

One step further, Jumping up to our present time, Alcott's forward way of thinking, at very least the diet, is now a well received regimen. We are infiltrated with a jumble of variations of the vegetarian/vegan lifestyles, including Paleo, Anti Inflammatory Diet, and such. Communes are still out there. However, most are organized differently. Although, they may not be recognized as such, they fall into that same category. People are trying to justify their existence. Some argue that the way to create a "worthy" life is by following a calling back to the basics. Simplifying their materialistic lifestyles by dropping "off the grid" seems a common journey people are willing to take. Whether that journey draws them to join caravans of motor homes or tackle the tantalizing growing fad for "little homes" better known as "tiny houses", or a group called "minimalists" ; there are plenty of places to go in order to find your piece of utopia "Walden's Pond".

The Alcott Sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy

Four Little Women
Four Little Women | Source

Who Were The Alcott Sisters

As in Louisa's accounting, her sister Elizabeth died of a young age. Lizzie caught scarlet fever from a poor family after whom her mother was caring. Like her literary counterpart, she recovered, but died two years later of a wasting illness probably contracted in her weakened state.

  • On March 14, 1858, Louisa wrote in her journal:
  • My dear Beth died at three in the morning after two years of patient pain. Last week she put her work away, saying the needle was too heavy ... Saturday she slept, and at midnight became unconscious, quietly breathing her life away till three; then, with one last look of her beautiful eyes, she was gone.

The most "history" available of Elizabeth Sewall Alcott actually comes from the pages of the story, as "Beth". From there, we are able to find that She loved children and animals (especially kittens); she enjoyed music, playing the piano and sewing. Lizzie liked nothing better than to be at home with her family.Louisa called Beth, "my better self." She writes:

  • Elizabeth -- or Beth as everyone called her -- was a rosy, smooth-haired, bright-eyed girl, with a shy manner, a timid voice, and a peaceful expression, which was seldom disturbed. Her father called her "Little Tranquillity" and the name suited her perfectly for she seemed to live in a happy world of her own, only venturing out to meet the few whom she trusted.

Abigail May Alcott Abigail May was the youngest of the four daughters. Again, as Louisa's version of LITTLE WOMEN, "May" was the artistic and spoiled little sister. She was the only one of the sisters that had been sent to public school. May like "Amy", went off to study in Europe as the result of her sister, the published author. Louisa did enlist May as the illustrating artist for the first edition of LITTLE WOMEN.

While taking advantage of more opportunity and more in-depth education in Europe, She was able to study sculpture, sketching and painting. May may have been the more adventurous of the Alcotts, traveling and eventually finding her husband there in Europe. She lived with her husband, a sucessful merchant and violinist, in France. Albeit, her adventure ended during childbirth and she died leaving behind her daughter Louisa. Many of her works can still be seen in Concord. There are a few exhibited at the Orchard House and then there is one, a panel of goldenrod, on display at the house of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The oldest sister, Anna, Louisa's inspiration for the fictional "Meg", was the last of the immediate family. She followed with her passing after Amos Bronson Alcott and Louisa. Louisa portrayed her sister as one who worried about social appearances and etiquette among their peers. It was an accurate description, as Anna "is remembered as a dutiful, self-sacrificing and loving sister, wife and mother who conformed to the mold of Victorian womanhood more easily than did her sisters."

Another aspect from LITTLE WOMEN, Louisa wrote about her sister was her theatrical side. As in the story, Anna loved play acting. Her and Louisa worked together on a drama group their home town. The Concord Dramatic Union, was where Anna met her husband rather than the books "Meg's John Brooks" the tutor. After ten years of marriage, Anna was a widow with two boys (Frederic and John), Louisa and Anna were very close, especially later in life. They bought their house in Concord as an extended family including Anna's boys, Louisa's charge of "Mays" daughter, and their mother Abigail.

Louisa continually used her family as the muse for her manuscripts. "In fact, Pratt's unexpected death in 1870 had prompted Louisa May Alcott, who was staying in Rome at the time, to write Little Men (published 1871) in order to provide financial security for the widowed Anna and her sons.

How Elizabeth Alcott gets sick

The Great Depression Was Not The Only Economic Depressions

Usually, the mention of economic depression is realized as "the 1939 Great Depression", but there were times before and since, that bore hardships for many. A significant example of these other times is the potato famine of 1845-49. The Irish Potato Famine alone was enough to set the area off sides.

  • "Throughout the Famine years, nearly a million Irish arrived in the United States. Famine immigrants were the first big wave of poor refugees ever to arrive in the U.S. and Americans were simply overwhelmed. Upon arrival in America, the Irish found the going to be quite tough. With no one to help them, they immediately settled into the lowest rung of society and waged a daily battle for survival.
  • In 1847, the first big year of Famine emigration, the city was swamped with 37,000 Irish Catholics arriving by sea and land.
  • Their arrival transformed Boston from a singular, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant city to one that has progressively become more diverse. The Yankees hired Irish as workers and servants, but there was little social interaction. In the 1850s, an anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant movement was directed against the Irish, called the Know Nothing Party. But in the 1860s, many Irish immigrants joined the Union ranks to fight in the American Civil War, and that display of patriotism and valor began to soften the harsh sentiments of Yankees about the Irish.

it is exactly these conditions that Abigail May Alcott cared about, as both the real life individual and the interpretation by her daughter's book. The family suffered great loss because of their effort to help others.

  • The unsanitary conditions were breeding grounds for disease, particularly cholera. Sixty percent of the Irish children born in Boston during this period didn't live to see their sixth birthday. Adult Irish lived on average just six years after stepping off the boat onto American soil.
  • Those who were not ill were driven to despair. Rowdy behavior fueled by alcohol and boredom spilled out into the streets of Boston and the city witnessed a staggering increase in crime, up to 400 percent for such crimes as aggravated assault. Men and boys cooped up in tiny rooms and without employment or schooling got into serious trouble.
  • An estimated 1500 children roamed the streets every day begging and making mischief. In America, he could earn up to a dollar a day, a tremendous improvement. Bostonians feared being undercut by hungry Irish willing to work for less than the going rate. Their resentment, combined with growing anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiment among all classes in Boston led to 'No Irish Need Apply' signs being posted in shop windows, factory gates and workshop doors throughout the city.

As you have a better idea of what was happening during this time period of Louisa's and the rest of the Alcott family, we have a little better understanding of what generated their struggle for a simpler life. These financial upheavals and society's harsh reality for survival of the fittest existences engaged the need for reform and intervention.

  • "The economic growth during this time period was extraordinary but unstable. The world economy experienced harsh depressions in 1873 and again in 1897. Businesses competed intensely with each other and corporations battled to gain control of industries. Countless companies failed and others were bought up by larger corporations which eventually ruled the marketplace."

Personal Financial Problems are Something We all Feel

a deed transaction done because of some difficulties
a deed transaction done because of some difficulties | Source

Boston Historical Population

Historical population
 
 
1765 15,520 +46.9%
 
 
1800 24,937 +36.1%
 
 
1860 177,840 +29.9%
 
 
1890 448,477 +23.6%
 
 
These are figures gathered from a table which shows the growth of Boston's population during the time period of just over 150 years. The amount of years involved were to impress the change derived resulting from the Industrial revolution and immigra

A Day in New England 1880's through Turn of Century

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Social GatheringSummer Days
Social Gathering
Social Gathering | Source
Summer Days
Summer Days | Source

The Second Industrial Revolution Caused The Need For Social Services

While not generally known, there were two phases of the Industrial Revolution. The first one occurred after the Revolution, as our country grew into its own to before the Civil War. Ironically, it is what ultimately led to the cause of the war. Initially, it was the production of textiles that directed the course to be taken. Cotton crops, which sustained the need of slavery, led to the destruction of the south's way of life.

  • Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, Americans were forced to adjust to the implications of the First Industrial Revolution. 1750 to 1850 marked a century of heightened industrial activity centered around textiles. The Industrial Revolution, Although the economic and social problems of the first Industrial Revolution distressed many, these concerns were set aside during the nation’s bloody Civil War (1861-1865).

The more recognized, Second Industrial Revolution of 1870 through 1914, brought immigrants, failed farmers, and others hopeful for prosperity to the cities. The cities or the people were not ready nor prepared for the change. It caused ill effects such as poverty, child labor infractions, and issues warranting reform. Formation of volunteers and charitable institutions began to arise. Those who feel a burden to fix the ills of society begun protest and proposals of compromise as standards became social workers.

Everyone Needs Help Now and Then

My great grandfather was superintendent of a New England County Home back in the day.  One of the residents carved a self portrayal of himself, an amputee coach driver.
My great grandfather was superintendent of a New England County Home back in the day. One of the residents carved a self portrayal of himself, an amputee coach driver. | Source

Marmee

Marmee is the name of the March mother character in Louisa May Alcotts' LITTLE WOMEN. The meaning of the name "Marmee" according to a dictionary of names dates back to the Greek language. It means, "shining". The context of Louisa's meaning could be construed metaphorically, as she considered her mother a "shining" in her life? We are told "Marmee" was used as a term of endearment in more of a way than "Mother". The Alcott girls were, indeed, close. Abigail actually was the center of the family. She was the strength that held them together. Most of the time, she was the main source of means, while her husband often traveled at length. Amos, as previously mentioned, often defied a structured setting either in work or at home. There are a few other theories on the nickname's origins, including one that delves into the linguistics of the New England-Boston-Yankee accentual characteristics of dropping "r's".

  • “Mom” and “mommy” began appearing in the mid 19th century, part of a slew of variations, including mam, mum, and marm, that pop up in dialect and casual written language, according to the Oxford English Dictionary and the Dictionary of American Regional English. (“Marm” would’ve usually been pronounced without the “r,” said Ben Zimmer, linguist and producer of Visual Thesaurus—and a former writer of this column—meaning that “Little Women”’s Marmee was probably an early namesake of today’s mommies.) As the language in general became more standardized in the late 19th and early 20th century, “mom” became the prevalent spelling.

1848 the Alcotts moved back to Boston. There Abby found work to support her family as a "Missionary to the Poor," paid first by a circle of subscribers then by the Friendly Society of the South Congregational Unitarian Church.

Abby accepted a full-time job as a social worker for the city of Boston in 1848, one of the first in the state. Facing a torrent of impoverished immigrants, Abby Alcott concentrated on helping those whose lives could be turned around. She wrote: "We do a good work when we clothe the Poor, but a better one when we make the way easy for them to clothe themselves - the best when we so arrange Society as to have no Poor." So, she set out to make a way easy for them to clothe themselves by arranging positions for paid domestics. Abby remained a strong figure for women and women's rights, although she was not fortunate to witness the suffrage's success.

Abby Alcott example instilled strong values in her four daughters, and her heartiness and kind nature provided a stable and nurturing home. Louisa once wrote in her journal that Bronson was not the only philosopher in the family:

  • "All the philosophy in our house is not in the study; a good deal is in the kitchen, where a fine old lady thinks high thoughts and does kind deeds while she cooks and scrubs."

Abigail May Alcott defended her husband's philosophy and shared in his struggle for a simpler way life. Abigail practiced clean living by consuming only vegetarian or vegan based foods. An informed and intelligent woman, she understood the trends and tides of the world. In an 1851 letter to her brother, the Reverend Samuel J. May, she expressed her commitment to reform:

  • “My life is one of daily protest against the oppression and abuses of Society. I find selfishness, meanness, among people who fill high places in church and state.”

: “My life is one of daily protest against the oppression and abuses of Society. I find selfishness, meanness, among people who fill high places in church and state.”

— Abigail May Alcott

March is National Social Work Month

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Forging Solution out of Challenges
Forging Solution out of Challenges
Forging Solution out of Challenges | Source

Social Issues of the Millenium

Perhaps time has changed but it doesn't prove that things have changed. Many problems exist today that burdened the reformist of the 1800's. Racial tensions, child and domestic abuse, poverty, homelessness, drugs and alcohol addictions all still plague our society.

For example, there is an article available on channel 9 WMUR/Manchester, NH regarding a 92 year old woman terminated from state assisted home care. The article pointed out this lady had health issues, as well as the upper status of her years, that limited her ability to accomplish daily activities. The assistance allowed her to remain independent and live at her home. This article was written when the state decided to declare the woman too healthy to receive assistance any longer. The injustice threatened the woman's capability to remain at home. Ironically, without the home care, the 92 year old would be in a skilled nursing facility, which would cost the state much more.

Another item in the news on channel 11 WINK/Ft Myers, FL examines our economy in regards to the cost of living. The impact from the housing crash of 2008 is still felt among Americans. It is said that one resulting consequence from that time has increase the renting population from years past. In 1995, forty-three percent (43%) of United States renters were older than Forty years old. The year 2005 showed that 47%, that is 16.4 million people, were over 40 years old. Finally, the numbers of over forty year old renters was over half the renting population in 2015. The significance of these figures shows then you see that another article suggests that the cost of rent has increased over the years as well. In fact, during the time period of 2001 through 2014 rent has gone up 7 percent. At this same time frame, our incomes have decreased by 9 percent. It is estimated that a median income family earning $30 to $45 thousand dollars a years is actually financially burdened having to meet the median expense of rent of $1372 a month.

Just in this last year, the largest social issues in the media are the police and racial bias incidents which caused riots and protests, same sex marriages legalized, transgender taboos tended with, immigration reform especially concerning illegal aliens, and health issues. Ferguson MO, Baltimore, and Chicago were the largest protests for BLACK LIFES MATTER. In response to the controversial police shootings of male blacks, these communities stood together to make a difference. Another issue that rallied for reform, WalMart and McDonald employees reasons for $15 an hour as minimum wage. Workers contended that minimum wage was not enough money to care for working families. Gun Control and regulation topped most charts as mass shootings of innocent bystanders in movie theaters, schools, malls, and other public places screamed for public safety issues to be solved.

The National Association of Social Workers states the top Hot Topics on their agenda.

  • Medicare reimbursement
  • Affordable care act integration
  • Student Loan Forgiveness
  • Social Work reinvestment Act
  • Older Americans Act
  • Child Welfare

Social Work Advocacy Issues

  • Immigration
  • School Social Work
  • TANF Reauthorization

Ordinary People Can Make a Difference

The impact of LITTLE WOMEN was personal because it was familiar.  My father and other family members have worked one way or more involved in Social Work for generations
The impact of LITTLE WOMEN was personal because it was familiar. My father and other family members have worked one way or more involved in Social Work for generations | Source

What Kind of Impact Can Literary Works Cause

Like Louisa and her family, my family believed in helping others who were less fortunate. My father was not the only one involved in social work. One may contend the need for social reform and social services would be more prevalent in an urban environment, but even the small hill towns have a need for a helping hand. In fact, some difficulties could be more common in less populated areas due to the lack of structured employment. My great grandfather held the post of superintendent of a County home in the 1940's. It was also where my grandfather acted as warden, and my grandmother was a cook. Unfortunately, the status of being poor was an offense and more often than not these poor people were contained like common criminals. Usually, not unlike today, many people in dire straits act in desperate ways. Today's answer to a County home or poor house could be a shelter or homeless coalition. They worked together to help people get back on their feet from financial hardships providing the resources, assistance, and support needed in their community. I guess it seemed natural that I leaned in that same direction. So, I studied and served in human services focusing on the needs of the geriatric.

The Impact of the story imparted on me a sense of family. The amount of strength to stand together in a common cause as a family is rarely seen. Louisa impressed the importance of being yourself and not be scared to show it. As a quiet, perhaps shy, person myself it is inspirational to be so empowered. Lacking confidence is such a crime against one's dreams and Louisa conveyed this in her writing and her life.

LITTLE WOMEN is my favorite story, it was a favorite of my mother's, and others in my family. In fact, the 1907 copy of the book I was given as a gift last year, originally belonged to my Aunt Winnie (Winifred). I love that I have a little memento of an aunt the meant much to me, so I am sure it lends to sentiment. Maybe it helped to be a New England native familiar with some of the nuances of her novel. However, it was not until I became a grandmother I realized the true impact the book had made on me. I overlooked the usual nicknames like "Nana" or "Grandma". I chose the name "Marmee" to represent myself as the matriarchal head of my family. The best hope for my children and grandchildren is that even though they disagree and even physically fight, like the March family "rich or poor, we will keep together and be happy in one another."

"We do a good work when we clothe the Poor, but a better one when we make the way easy for them to clothe themselves - the best when we so arrange Society as to have no Poor."

— Abigail May Alcott

Citations

The History Place

Wikipedia

PBS American Masters

YouTube

The Orchard House

Boston Globe

Pinterest

The Quote Investigator

BuzzFeed

Association of Social Workers



Louisa May Alcott as the Author

© 2016 Tracey Walsh

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