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Mother's Day: why we should be thanking Louisa May Alcott and Marmee

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(Read caption) Louisa May Alcott learned from her mother, Abigail, to think of women as equal to any man.

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This weekend, as we pay tribute to mothers, we should remember not only the women who nurtured us – mothers, grandmothers, stepmothers, aunts, and teachers – but also the brave maternal figures of the past who paved our way. For centuries, female activists and writers struggled, often without public recognition, for the freedoms we enjoy today. In a nation replete with founding fathers, it seems necessary to acknowledge foremothers, too.

I’ve been inspired by Louisa May Alcott and her mother, the model for “Marmee” in Alcott’s 1868 classic, "Little Women." Alcott was childless but gave readers a good deal of motherly advice. Unlike most of her peers, Alcott believed girls should have the same opportunities as boys. Jo March, her teenage alter ego, promises to “do something splendid” with her life, “something heroic, or wonderful – that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead.” Alcott herself envisioned a future world in which women would have the same public rights as men, to vote, travel, speak out, and run governments. During her final decade, she used the bully pulpit of her celebrity to urge girls and women to assert their rights.

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