November 3, 2011 Birthday Celebration for Louisa May Alcott, Nov. 29

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The Library of Congress will celebrate the birthday of American novelist Louisa May Alcott with a reading of her work by award-winning authors Jo Ann Beard and Maud Casey.

The celebration will be held at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 29, in the Whittall Pavilion on the ground level of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event, sponsored by the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center, is free and open to the public; no tickets are needed.

Beard and Casey, in addition to reading selections of Alcott’s work, will discuss her influence on their own writing. There will be a short presentation by the Library’s Rare Book and Special Collections Division on its Alcott holdings, and some of the items will be on display.

Alcott, the author of “Little Women,” was born 179 years ago on Nov. 29, 1832, in Germantown, Pa. She had three sisters—Anna, Elizabeth and May. Their parents were the noted transcendentalist and educator Amos Bronson Alcott and abolitionist and women’s-rights advocate Abigail May Alcott, who raised their daughters in Boston and Concord, Mass., in the company of such writers as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

Alcott’s first book “Flower Fables” was published when she was 22. “Hospital Sketches,” her first book to garner critical acclaim, was based on her experience as a nurse during the Civil War. In 1867, when Alcott was 35, her publisher in Boston asked her to write “a book for girls.” “Little Women” was published in 1868 and was followed by “Little Men” and “Jo’s Boys.” The March family saga solidified her place in American culture. In 1986 the Ladies Home Journal declared Alcott one of the 25 most important women in U.S. history, one of only three authors listed.

Beard is the author of a collection of essays titled “The Boys of My Youth” and a novel, “In Zanesville.” Her work has also appeared in “The Best American Essays,” The New Yorker, Tin House, The Iowa Review and O, The Oprah Magazine. Beard was the recipient of a 1997 Whiting Foundation Award and a 2005 Guggenheim Fellowship. She earned a bachelor’s and a master’s from the University of Iowa and currently teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College.

Casey is the author of two novels, “The Shape of Things to Come,” a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and “Genealogy,” a New York Times Editor’s Choice Book. She has also written a collection of stories, “Drastic.” Casey has received international fellowships from the Fundación Valparaiso and the Hawthornden International Retreat for Writers. She is the recipient of the 2008 Calvino Prize and a 2008-2009 D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities Artist Fellowship. She is an associate professor of English and teaches in the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of Maryland.

The Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress fosters and enhances the public’s appreciation of literature. The center administers the endowed poetry chair (the U.S. Poet Laureate), and coordinates an annual literary season of poetry, fiction and drama readings, performances, lectures and symposia, sponsored by the Library’s Gertrude Clarke Whittall Poetry and Literature Fund and the Huntington Fund. For more information, visit


PR 11-215
ISSN 0731-3527