Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House

2022 Virtual Summer Conversational Series

Learning's Altar” - The Rise of Adult Education

and Lifelong Learning in Concord and Beyond

Sunday - Thursday     July 10 - 14, 2022

Register now, or later.  Either way will provide you with access to our proceedings by watching live and/or via recordings.  Registration for this year's Summer Conversational Series also supports all of our unique educational programming -- for adults, teachers, and learners of all ages.  We hope you will join us!

For decades, educator and Transcendental philosopher A. Bronson Alcott cherished a dream that was finally realized in 1879 with the opening of The Concord School of Philosophy and Literature, one of the very first summer schools for adults in the United States.  Among the notables who presented during Mr. Alcott’s lifetime were Ralph Waldo Emerson, Elizabeth Peabody, Ednah Dow Cheney, Julia Ward Howe, and William Torrey Harris, the last of whom, along with Alcott, Emerson, and Concord educator Franklin B. Sanborn, was also a founder of The School.

The 1879 sessions were held in Mr. Alcott’s Study in Orchard House, with distinguished academics, writers, scholars, artists, and reformers among the participants.  Many were also women, whose access to higher education had been severely limited during their lifetimes; some even traveled alone each year from the Midwest and beyond to attend the series.  By the next year, “Hillside Chapel” was built on the grounds of Orchard House and served as The School’s venue for the next seven years.

Noted for Platonic-based conversational interaction between presenters and attendees, the sessions offered a unique style of learning for participants.  Unlike single-night Lyceum lectures or the popular religion-based Chautauquas held around the country, The School of Philosophy conducted upward of seven weeks of daily educational sessions.  Attendees flocked to Concord, often staying for the entire length of series.  Among the topics discussed were art, religion, politics, science, Shakespeare, philosophy, history, and mysticism.

The School closed after the Summer of 1888 in honor of Mr. Alcott’s passing, but re-opened to the public in 1976 with a revived summer lecture program.  In 1999, the Series was further enhanced by incorporating Mr. Alcott’s conversational style of learning into a week-long interactive educational program which thrives to this day.

This year’s Summer Conversational Series will offer participants an in-depth examination of the history of adult education around the world, and how programs like The Concord School of Philosophy revolutionized attitudes toward lifelong learning and intellectual growth.

(*Quote painted on the mantelpiece in Orchard House's Study by May Alcott)

Daily Schedule of Presentations

Our Distinguished Presenters & Special Guests ...

Susan Bailey

Frederick Dahlstrand

Cathlin Davis

Gabrielle Donnelly

Jason Giannetti

Jane Goodall

Kristi Martin

Lorraine Tosiello

Jan Turnquist

Kristina West

Affiliations and images of Presenters appear here

Please note:

  • Due to ongoing concerns about COVID-19, all sessions for this year's event will be held virtually

  • All participants must register and pay in full in advance in order to receive a session link

  • Members of "Friends of the Alcotts" receive a discount on this Series and all of our programs  (Join/Renew)



Additional Details

  • Our online registration process uses secure credit card processing

  • As a convenience, multiple registrations may be made with one form submission

  • For multiple registrations, please indicate the appropriate price category for each "ticket"


SUNDAY Opening Session: July 10th, 2:30 - 4:00 pm ET

Held in conjunction with The Thoreau Society Annual Gathering
~ Featuring: An Address by Dame Jane Goodall, PhD ~


ALL WEEKDAYS: July 11th - 14th

(Indicate # of tickets at right, then applicable price category for each)


MONDAY, 11 JULY Session: 10:00 am - 12:15 pm ET

Presenters: Kristina West, Kristi Martin

(Indicate # of tickets at right, then applicable price category for each)


TUESDAY, 12 JULY Session: 10:00 am - 2:00 pm ET

Presenters: Jan Turnquist, Jason Giannetti, Gabrielle Donnelly

(Indicate # of tickets at right, then applicable price category for each)


WEDNESDAY, 13 JULY Session, 10:00 am - 12:15 pm ET

Presenters: Susan Bailey, Lorraine Tosiello

(Indicate # of tickets at right, then applicable price category for each)


THURSDAY, 14 July Session: 10:00 am - 12:15 pm ET

Presenter: Cathlin Davis
Special Guest: Frederick Dahlstrand

(Indicate # of tickets at right, then applicable price category for each)



If you cannot attend this year or wish to support the Summer Conversational Series and all of Orchard House's educational programs even more, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution


Other Donation Amount

For a contribution in the amount of your choosing:

Total: $0.00

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