‘Little Women’ author spent summers in Dartmouth

Dec 23, 2019

As theaters across the country get set to release the latest remake of Louisa May Alcott’s classic “Little Women” on December 25, one Dartmouth historian reveals a little-known fact: That Alcott summered in Nonquitt towards the end of her life.

According to Judith Lund, Chair of the town’s Historical Commission, Alcott first rented a cottage in the South Dartmouth seaside location in 1881.

Although it is unclear how the Concord resident first learned about Nonquitt, Lund noted in a statement that several Concord natives were known to spend their summers at the spot after its incorporation in 1872.

Lund stated that Alcott’s books were “a great success” by 1881, and she rented for three years before purchasing a Nonquitt cottage of her own in 1884.

The cottage was built simply, with added gingerbread trim “similar to the cottages at Oak Bluff on the Vineyard,” according to Lund.

Alcott spent her summers in Dartmouth with her young niece and namesake Louise, or “Lulu”. 

She had taken the child into her care after the death of Lulu’s mother, Alcott’s youngest sister May, shortly after the baby’s birth.

“[Alcott] enjoyed the outdoors that Nonquitt provided, and was often seen with her red parasol, walking with an entourage of young children who loved her storytelling,” Lund noted of the famous author.

Lund added that Alcott often took her meals at the Nonquitt Hotel and acted in theatricals there.

“During one of her summer stays, she sat for the New Bedford artist Walton Ricketson at his Nonquitt cottage, while he created a relief portrait that may be seen in Concord,” Lund continued.

Alcott summered with Lulu in Nonquitt until her death in 1888.

Following her death, the cottage passed on to Alcott’s adopted nephew John Pratt Alcott. 

It was eventually moved to a new site in Nonquitt, where it remained until it was burned to the ground in a fire in early 2013.

“Little Women” follows the story of Amy, Jo, Beth, and Meg March as they come of age in 19th century New England. The book was first published in 1868 and has been adapted for the stage as well as for film and television.

The eighth film adaptation is set for release on December 25. Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, it stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Eliza Scanlen, and Florence Pugh as the eponymous women alongside Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern, and Meryl Streep.