Author Archives: lhehmeyergmailcom

Forgotten Alcott: Essays on the Artistic Legacy and Literary Life of May Alcott Nieriker

Exciting news! Hehmeyer’s book will be out on December 29, 2021. It will be available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

This collection is the first academic study of the captivating life and career of expatriate artist, writer and activist, May Alcott Nieriker. Nieriker is known as the sister of Louisa May Alcott and model for “Amy March” in Alcott’s Little Women. As this book reveals, she was much more than “Amy”–she had a more significant impact on the Concord community than her sister and later became part of the creative expat community in Europe. There, she imbued her painting with the abolitionist activism she was exposed to in childhood and pursued an ideal of artistic genius that opposed her sister’s vision of self-sacrifice. Embarking on a career that took her across London, Paris, and Rome, Nieriker won the acclaim of John Ruskin and forged a network of expatriate female painters who changed the face of nineteenth-century art, creating opportunities for women that lasted well into the twentieth century. A “Renaissance woman,” Nieriker was a travel writer, teacher, and curator. She is recovered here as a transdisciplinary subject who stands between disciplines, networks, and ideologies―stiving to recognize the dignity of others. Contributors include foundational Alcott scholar, Daniel Shealy and Pulitzer Prize winner, John Matteson, as well as Curators, Jan Turnquist (Orchard House) and Amanda Burdan (Brandywine River Museum of Art). In this book, readers will become acquainted with a dynamic feminist thinker who transforms our understanding of the place of women artists in the wider cultural and intellectual life of nineteenth-century Britain, France, and the United States.

Presentation in Paris, France!

I recently traveled to Paris, France, to present my paper “Let The World Know You Are Alive: The Concept of Genius and May Alcott Nieriker” at the one-day conference Recovering May Alcott Nieriker held at the Universite de Paris–Diderot. The conference attracted scholars from the UK, America, Italy, and Australia. The Pulitzer Prize winner, John Matteson, gave the keynote and was an active participatant. I was interviewed for the online podcast C19 which will be posted sometime in Dec 2018.  It was both exciting and informative, and I was proud to take part.

May Alcott Nieriker was an artist and the younger sister of Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, which has been in print and loved world wide-wide for over 150 years! Both women faced the built-in bias against women as creative professionals in their time (the nineteenth century). My paper describes their different reactions to this bias.

Franklin County Historical Society and Thoreau Questions

On New Year’s Day, I was excited to present to the Franklin County Historical Society about Henry David Thoreau (HDT). I emphasized his importance through history in both his writing about Nature and his writings on Civil Disobedience.

This a great group–very active in preserving history and encouraging the young people in the area to learn about their heritage.  They also have an amazing pot luck!

Lately, I’ve been asked some really interesting questions about Thoreau, several coming from the Franklin County Group:

Q: If he spent so much time thinking and writing, how did he make a living?

A. He was clever with his hands and often took commissions to build small outbuildings, etc. He built a lovely dollhouse for the Emerson children, which is still in  the Emerson house today. However, the work that paid well (and allowed him to do still more of his beloved walking) was surveying.

Q: How did Thoreau, as a deep thinker and lover of Nature, feel about hunting?

A: HDT did think and write about hunting. The older he got, the more concerns he had about it, preferring to limit his participation. He went on a moose hunt with a friend that was pretty nasty–the friend shot a female moose and then did not eat the meat. She had a calf with her at the time also.

Q: Where did Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, fit into the Concord Transcendental world?

A. Eddy was certainly transcendentalism taken to the extreme degree. Bronson Alcott, who was one of the most radical of the Concord group, was interested in what she had to say and traveled to meet with her twice. In the end, however, he let the relationship drop. Too extreme for him perhaps? His family was interested in homeopathic cures (see the website Louisa May Alcott is my Passion) but they did believe in seeking cures.

Q: How did Thoreau feel about other religions?

A: More than most transcendentalists, Thoreau lived a life in Nature and saw it as metaphor. He was curious about other religions and read the Bhagavad Gita. He was very taken with it and saw himself as a “seeker”–a Yogi.