Archival Research Assignment Discussion 303 Group 1

Group Members: Frankie Harvey, Andrew Eidenberger, Sofia Broucek, Alexa Franck, and Alexander Ackerman

Archival novel – Good Wives

It is an early edition of Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott. The archive estimates that it was published in 1872. The original work was published in 1869, so this copy is not a first edition, but appeared not long afterwards. The cover is a brown cloth binding with black floral decorations and the title surrounded by gold leaf. The back cover has been imprinted with an ad for cocoa powder.

Good Wives, in addition to being a sequel to Little Women, is a moralizing tale. Like the other books we have been reading, it presents a vision of American girlhood of the time, teaching the reader the morals of the author’s era 

It relates to Little Women by being a sequel. It relates to the keywords essays on “Tomboy” and “Class”, as we discussed in class.

 Louisa May Alcott was born November 29, 1832 in Germantown, Pennsylvania. She died March 6, 1888 at the age of 55, in Boston Massachusetts. She wrote many other books, most famous of which is the Little Women series: Little Women, Good Wives, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys. Alcott has also written other moralizing tales, and several romance novels, as well as children’s books.

 Author, title, and estimated publication date are available. There is no information about how the item was acquired. 

Little Women and Good Wives were originally published as two books, released a year apart. Alcott’s editor insisted that she write in a marriage for Jo for Good Wives, even though Alcott envisioned her living a fulfilling single life.

There’s a lot of advertisements before and after the book, I could research those.

The piece is already being taught in the course. I chose it because it is a lovely edition that is similar to the original. I found the advertisements both in the book and on the cover fascinating, as we no longer use novels to advertise products.

This piece is interesting because it is one of our assigned readings. I chose to present it both because we are all familiar with the text and because the advertisements are interesting.

Piece of clothing  – Baggy clothes and backwards hat

When seeing a girl wear baggy clothes and a backwards hat, it breaks the traditional idea of “girlhood” due to the fact that girls are at times seen to look innocent, and proper. A tomboy does not represent the norm for a typical girl. She may be seen to be a rule breaker. Through history, it can be seen that women have broken the social norm of what a typical “girl” may look like. This is an important piece to our project because of how being a tomboy has evolved more so into a norm than it was back then. 

MovieA League of Their Own

A League of Their Own 

  A League of Their Own is a 1992 film that is set in a small town of Oregon during 1943. It is about how two sisters, Kit and Dottie, start up a women’s baseball league, despite the social norm of sports being for men. It is a prime example of how society’s norms of girls are broken by females starting the first women’s baseball league. These middle class women decided it was their time to show they can do what males can do. It broke out of the idea of a girl’s innocent, proper mannerism and started playing baseball. 

FilmThe Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby (film)

 The Great Gatsby is a 2013 film that is set in 1922 summer in Long Island. This was a time of great wealth when the economy was booming. It exemplifies the norms of high society and what they have access to compared to lower class people. Their party lifestyle and being able to buy what they want, when they want, shows how it is an easy life for those of great wealth. This is an interesting piece due to it going out of many of the ideas we discussed in class about social status. We normally talked about the lower class and how some girls do not get easy access to certain things like education, whereas, The Great Gatsby manifests the ideas of great wealth and upper class, giving us a different perspective on “class”. 

Article – “How Closely Do Our Beliefs About Social Mobility Match Reality?

“How Closely Do Our Beliefs About Social Mobility Match Reality?”

This article is about how realistic the “American Dream” and social/class mobility is, and different perceptions that certain groups of people have about social mobility. This item is written very formally since it is an academic article put out by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. A topic important to this piece is class, and understanding how classes are different socially and economically. This closely relates to Little Women/Good Wives since a main part of the story is the girls struggling with accepting their class. Alesina, Alberto, Stefanie Stantcheva, and Edoardo Teso are all professors of Economics. They have all produced other academic articles related to economics and class.It appears in the Kellogg Insight, which is a magazine that highlights the research and ideas of the Kellogg School of Management.The article was published in 2018 comes at a time where entrepreneurship is very popular. This piece is interesting because Americans tend to believe that the “American Dream” is attainable even if you start with nothing. This is true but less common than people think. When we decided to use the theme class and the book Good Wives for the project I immediately thought of class mobility in today’s era.


The items our group has chosen are very different, but contain similar underlying themes. The movie: A League of Their Own, the film: The Great Gatsby, the piece of clothing: baggy clothes and backwards hat, an article by the Kellogg School of Management: “How Closely Do Our Beliefs About Social Mobility Match Reality?” and the novel: Good Wives, each contain representations of the ideas of tomboy and class. The Great Gatsby and Good Wives both contain commentary on class. While Good Wives and “How Closely Do Our Beliefs About Social Mobility Match Reality?” both discuss the struggle of class mobility. A League of Their Own and Good Wives both contain representations of tomboys. 

The items chosen not only relate to each other, but can also be tied to topics and novels we have discussed and read throughout the semester. For the keyword class, The Great Gatsby is a prime example of a high class society, whereas The Choctaw Girl exemplifies the idea of low class and not being able to be formally educated. The Great Gatsby focuses on the life of the roaring 20’s, the prohibition era, where wealth hit its economical peak. Endless wealth was constantly shown, through houses, extravagant parties, and flashy clothes. The characters in the film often looked down upon the lower class and never affiliated themselves with them as they were considered “unimportant” and “trashy”. In fact, the main character Gatsby himself, worked so hard to build his class and show the appearance of wealth, where in the end it was really all he cared about and was generally all he thought mattered in winning, the love of his life, Daisy over. In Choctaw Girl, the Indian tribe is broken up by the government and slowly, these Indian families are losing their culture and identity. The novel mostly focuses on the poor youngest daughter of Winship, Mela. Readers see the hard times the family goes through, through her eyes. The family struggles to fight through violence, disease, and poverty. In Good Wives, the girls Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth are born into a middle class family but were also surrounded by wealthier families such as Laurie’s family. Due to this, they often complained how they were poor but had aspirations to become wealthy like the people that surrounded them. In order to achieve this Jo pursued becoming a famous author, and Amy pursued becoming an artist. They both realize that in order to gain wealth and move upward in class it takes more than just hard work. The article “How Closely Do Our Beliefs About Social Mobility Match Reality?” addresses different groups of people’s perceptions on class mobility. Their research found that Americans tend to believe in the “American Dream”, rags to riches story and overestimate their chance of class mobility. Similar to Jo and Amy who had high hopes of becoming rich starting from a lower class. Discussing Little House On the Prairie shows how the young five year old is a very curious child and at times goes out of the norm to what people would normally want her to, similar to a tomboy going out of society’s norms. A tomboy is a girl who dresses and acts more similarly to what people expect boys to act and dress. In Little Women as well as Good Wives, Jo wishes that she were a man multiple times, and is described as having a gentlemanly demeanor. She plays boy’s roles in performances, and it is said that she plays the role of brother to her sisters. 

All in all, we decided to focus our project mainly on the key ideas of tomboy and class. We thought these keywords were important because of how they relate and are looked upon in society today. Throughout history, we see how the term “tomboy” has transformed into a more fluid idea, rather than a strict classification. As discussed in Michelle Ann Abate’s keyword essay “Tomboy”, Lynne Yamaguchi and Karen Barber comment that the term tomboy, “differs for every individual because tomboys possess different coordinates of identity” (Abate, 222). Through this, we can see how the singular classification of the term tomboy has been more or less outdated and the idea of girls wearing boys clothes or participating in typical boy behavior has become more normalized as a result. The class and appearance/personality of a person is not as highly cared about and considered today as it was in the past. Therefore, we chose these key ideas to bring about the distinction between today’s world and highlight what used to be considered the “norms” in the past. 

Leave a Reply