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The “Little Women” Trip You’ll Want to Take in Massachusetts

By Pat Tompkins

Dec 11, 2019

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Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott wrote “Little Women,” is open year-round for tours.

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Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott wrote “Little Women,” is open year-round for tours.

Greta Gerwig’s upcoming adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel reminds us why this historic New England town is worth a visit for literature lovers.

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Since its publication in 1868, Little Women has never gone out of print. And it’s appeared on the silver screen several times. The 1933 movie starred Katharine Hepburn (and won an Oscar for best adaptation), the 1949 movie featured June Allyson and Elizabeth Taylor as March sisters, and the 1994 version had Winona Ryder as Jo and Susan Sarandon as the girls’ mother. But until now, none has been filmed on location, in Concord, Massachusetts, where Louisa May Alcott and her family lived.

The new Little Women movie, which will be released on December 25, 2019, was adapted and directed by Greta Gerwig and offers a fresh take in aiming for authenticity. It was shot in Boston, Concord, and surrounding small towns; locations include a schoolroom that Bronson Alcott, Louisa’s father, taught in. Other locales include the Thayer estate in Lancaster (it’s on the market if you have about $3 million to spend and need 47 bedrooms).

You may associate Concord with the Minutemen, but it’s also the home of some revolutionary American authors, Alcott among them. Best known for Little Women—what would today be called a young adult novel with crossover appeal to grown-ups—she wrote other pioneering books featuring women in strong roles, including the semi-autobiographical novel Work: A Story of Experience (1873).


Walden Pond inspired writing by the Alcott’s family friend and neighbor Henry David Thoreau.

Celebrating Little Women in Concord

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Starting December 14, the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard (the town, not the university) will offer a series of events and programs related to Little Women, primarily on weekends, through February 23. (The Alcotts moved often before settling in Concord; Fruitlands was Louisa’s home when she was 10.)

Throughout the year, at Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in Concord, you can see the desk Alcott used in the home where she wrote the book. Now a museum that hosts tours and events, it’s full of furnishings owned by the Alcotts, who lived there 20 years; visiting it is like stepping into the novel.

An unconventional family, the Alcotts were vegetarians (Orchard House was named for the property’s apple trees). Abigail Alcott, the inspiration for Marmee, was active in abolition and women’s rights. Her husband, Bronson, was a teacher and leader of a progressive group known as “Transcendentalists,” who believed people could know God better through nature. Fellow Concord residents, writers, and friends of the Alcotts, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, embodied this philosophy in their writing.

The Wayside was home to a number of important literary families in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Near the family home is Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where many of the Alcotts are buried, as well as Emerson, Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Yes, the author of The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables was also a Concord resident.

Other Literary Stops in Concord

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So while indulging in all things Alcott, you can also visit the Old Manse, a National Historic Landmark in Concord, to see where, at different times, both Emerson and Hawthorne lived (note: it’s closed December 24 through 26 and has a limited schedule in winter). Hawthorne and his family also lived for many years in a house they called the Wayside; the Alcotts lived there from 1845 to 1852, just before the Hawthornes. And children’s author Harriett Lothrop (pen name Margaret Sidney), known for the popular Five Little Peppers series, later resided there. The first literary site that the National Park Service acquired, the Wayside is also a site on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom; the Alcotts helped a runaway slave when they lived in the house.

Visitors can check out a replica of Thoreau’s shack by Walden Pond.

A visit to Concord should also include Walden Pond, where Thoreau lived for two years in a basic cabin. He wrote about his experiment in simplicity there in Walden, or, Life in the Woods, published in 1854. Today, you can see a replica of his humble home. If you’re there in spring, you may also want to see the considerably larger house where his friend Emerson, essayist and poet, lived for nearly half a century (it reopens for the season in April 2020). “The shot heard round the world” comes from his “Concord Hymn,” about the battle there that launched the fighting in the American Revolution.

Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum is among the other area locales that appear in the new movie, as does the ballroom of the Fairmont Copley Plaza in nearby Boston. The Boston Movie Mile Walking Tour highlights where other noteworthy movies were filmed, such as The Departed and Good Will Hunting; no doubt Little Women will soon join the tour. 

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>>Next: Famous Writers’ Homes Every Book Nerd Must Visit

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