Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

David B. Landon

Second Advisor

Christa M. Beranek

Third Advisor

Stephen W. Silliman


This thesis examines the ceramic and glass assemblages recovered from the northern bank behind Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts in 2001 and 2002. Though occupied relatively consistently from the 17th century through the late nineteenth century, Orchard House is best known for being the home of Louisa May Alcott in which she wrote her most famous work, Little Women. The rich historical and literary record for the Alcott family in addition to the 161 ceramic vessels, numerous glass vessels, and personal artifacts recovered archaeologically provide a wealth of information from which the gendered lives of the mid-nineteenth-century family can be interpreted. Though most members of the Alcott family took advantage of the opportunities opened up by the social reorganization of the Industrial Revolution to practice alternative gender identities, they articulated their experiences and place within society through the language of the dominant domestic ideology. Gothic vessel forms and decorations as well as floral motifs reveal a certain commitment to developing notions of "separate spheres." However, expressions of class identity and evidence of domestic industries speak to the need for families like the Alcotts to walk a delicate balance between spending money to maintain the middle class respectability necessary to receive financial assistance from family and friends, and attempting to achieve financial security and self-sufficiency. This thesis explores gendered life at Orchard House and the various negotiations necessary for financial and social survival on the margins of the middle class.


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