November 7, 2015

My daughter and I are on a reconnaissance mission investigating prestigious women’s colleges in Massachusetts. In between college tours, we visit Emily Dickinson’s house in Amherst and the stomping grounds and (eventual burial grounds) of Louisa May Alcott and the transcendentalists in Concord.  

 

At both houses, our tours are comprised of well-read, retired women wrapped in autumnal scarves. My seventeen-year-old daughter stands out in the crowd, both for her youth and her knowledge of Dickinson’s life and poetry. Our tour guides exude the worshipful reverence of literary devotees, and lead us with quiet authority from room to room.

 

I picture Louisa May Alcott striding up the path to Orchard House after calling on Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Emily Dickinson working the gardens surrounding the Dickinson’s Homestead. I imagine them both traipsing through hallways or flouncing on settees where tourists now file quietly by, pausing to admire the roses on Emily’s wallpaper or the pencil sketch...

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