Elizabeth Sewall Alcott
A serene and stately presence
Sanctifies our troubled home
-from "Our Angel in the House" by Louisa May Alcott
Quiet and shy, "Lizzie" remains the most mysterious of the four Alcott sisters. Her
father spoke of her "hiding her feelings in silence," and her neatly composed
journals give us little clue to her inner life.
Our fullest portrait of Lizzie is in the pages of Little Women,
where she was portrayed as the gentle "Beth March." To many, the book is a tribute to the sister
Louisa called "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.
Lizzie liked nothing better than to be at home with her family. She loved children and
animals (especially kittens); she enjoyed music, playing the piano and sewing.
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.
Archival photographs of the family and objects in the collection are available for a fee.
All requests must be made in writing, allowing at least 2-3 weeks for processing.
Please click here to e-mail your photo request, or, write to Attn: Photo Requests,
PO Box 343, Concord, MA 01742-0343.
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