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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Library series features woman behind Little Women

“Louisa May Alcott was no little woman, and her life was no children’s book.” So wrote Harriet Reisen, a scholar of the famous author Louisa May Alcott, whose life was the subject of the Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women film viewing at Drake Community Library on Tuesday. History professor Sarah Purcell led a discussion after the well-attended screening in which participants shared their reactions to the film’s presentation of historical events.

The film screening was part of an ongoing reading, viewing and discussion series on Alcott sponsored by the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Drake Library is one of only 30 libraries in the nation to receive a grant for the program. According to Purcell, Grinnell is one of the smallest towns to receive the grant.

The initiative for the program came after Library Director Lorna Caulkins was informed of the grant and contacted Barbara Tabbert, who first brought an Alcott biography to the library’s collection. From there, the two contacted Purcell and set up a larger committee to draft a grant proposal. Assistant Librarian Marilyn Kennett was also instrumental in setting up the program.

Events in the Alcott series, which follows the life of a woman whose prolific career included the classics Little Women and Little Men, will continue into November. The next event will be held on Tuesday, September 27th at 7:00 pm at the Stewart Arts Center, 926 Broad Street. Purcell and Jon Andelson, Anthropology, will participate with others in a Panel Discussion and Reader’s Theatre titled “Louisa May Alcott Wrote THAT?”

Alcott grew up in the transcendentalist and antislavery movements, was family friends with authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, served as a military nurse in the Civil War, and made a secret career writing pulp fiction.

So far, the series has been well attended. “We had the place bursting at the seams on Sunday,” said Tabbert. “I think many people remember Little Women especially with great fondness, and it’s interesting to them to find out that there was much more to Louisa May Alcott than just Little Women.”

Tommy Haas, a Grinnell resident, said she plans to attend future events in the series. “I liked the film,” he said. “It’s interesting because I did since I had already read the biography that the film is based on I don’t know how I would have reacted if I had not read the biography first. I think Louisa may Alcott is really an interesting woman…”

Purcell believes that Grinnell College students could benefit from participating in the series. “It’s definitely a mixed audience, it’s a great place to meet some people in town and they do a lot of public outreach programming like this, but they also have a lot of great books and comfortable chairs and nice books on tape and videos and stuff like that,” Purcell said. “I think especially a lot of Grinnell students and faculty and staff grew up with libraries, we’re all kind of, you know, bookworms, I think it’s nice to have a chance to get out into the community and meet other people who have a love of learning but who aren’t necessarily always on campus.”

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