Alcott’s Utopia

Bronson Alcott was born on this day in 1799. Alcott is famously associated with education through his pioneering Temple School, but he is even more remembered for Fruitlands — the painful lesson that he, his family and his friends received from “one of history’s most unsuccessful utopias ever, but also one of the most dramatic and significant”:

Despite their eccentricity, many of the Fruitlanders’ ideas ring bells today. They thought pollution and environmental damage could destroy civilization; they intuited the interconnectedness of all living things, and had an inkling of ecology long before the science had been invented; they were passionately opposed to slavery, and supported women’s rights; they believed in civil disobedience, and espoused anarchism. Their experiment is a blend of outmoded and surprisingly modern ways of thinking about the world. Above all it is a very human story of misunderstanding and jealousy, in which a group of idealists end by trying to destroy each other. (Richard Francis, Fruitlands)

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at