Office of Mrs. Bush
June 20, 2002
The Concord-Carlisle High School Chorus was wonderful
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 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
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
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 20s 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
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
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,
Earlier this week I helped dedicate the National Underground
Freedom Center in
Cincinnati, and I spoke about the many families,
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
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
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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