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The Magnet and the Iron: John Brown and George L. Stearns The Stories Behind the Busts

Amos Bronson Alcott and Louisa May Alcott

Amos Bronson Alcott, better known simply as Bronson Alcott, was an transcendentalist educator, author, and abolitionist. He was close friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Theodore Parker. In the 1840s, Bronson Alcott and his family participated in the experimental Utopian community of Fruitlands, Massachusetts. The Alcotts later used their house in Concord, which they called the Hillside (now known as the Wayside), as a "station" on the Underground Railroad.

Alcott's "Sonnet XXIV" eulogizes John Brown. It reads,

Bold Saint, thou firm believer in the Cross,

Again made glorious by self-sacrifice,—

Love’s free atonement given without love’s loss,—

That martyrdom to thee was lighter pain, Since thus a race its liberties should gain;

Flash its sure consequence in Slavery’s eyes

When, ‘scaping sabre’s clash and battle’s smoke,

She felt the justice of thy master-stroke:

Peaceful prosperity around us lies,

Freedom with loyalty thy valor gave;

Whilst thou, no felon doomed, for gallows fit.

O Patriot true! O Christian meek and brave!

Throned in the martyrs’ seat henceforth shalt sit;

Prophet of God! Messias of the Slave!

Bronson Alcott's second daughter was Louisa May Alcott, who is best known as the author of Little Women, a fictionalized account of her life growing up in Concord. Louisa Alcott's childhood memories were full of the antislavery work of her parents. She recalled that when she was seven years old, she heard a noise in the oven. To her amazement and alarm, when she opened the oven door, found a man hidden inside. She ran to her mother, who explained that the man had runaway from slavery and was hiding in their house until safe passage to Canada could be arranged. Louisa Alcott's experiences drove her desire to see the end of slavery, motivating her to write antislavery texts and to serve briefly as a nurse in the Civil War until she became ill with typhoid.

Both Bronson and Louisa Alcott were present at the "John Brown party" at the Stearns Estate in Medford on January 1, 1863.