Conference presentation

Ethical Veganism and Intersectional Justice at Bronson Alcott's Fruitlands (1843-1844)

Presented atBritish Association for American Studies Conference 2022, Hull (UK), 21-23 April 2022, p. 10
Publication date2022-11-22
Presentation date2022-04-22

Bronson Alcott's Fruitlands, the short-lived Transcendentalist New England community, practiced a utopian lifeway that was organized around the principles of self-sufficiency and the avoidance of exploitation – with the refusal to consume animals as the central paradigm. This presentation highlights the intersectional relations that Alcott explores among social justice issues such as food, animal rights, women's rights, dress reform, environmentalism, socialism, and the abolition of slavery. At Fruitlands, no animal products were consumed; sugar and cotton were not used due to their connection with slave labor; leather and wool were rejected because of their animal origin; animal labor and even animal manure were rejected; no hired labor was used, the notion of personal property was rejected, and economic trade was replaced with a subsistence lifestyle. The utopian community failed, due largely to the difficulties of growing enough food amid the extremities of the New England winter, and the Fruitlands experiment was gently satirized by Alcott's daughter, Louisa May, in “Transcendental Wild Oats” (1873). It is ironic that the fame of Louisa May Alcott continues to eclipse that of her father because, while the strong female characters of her novels spoke clearly to a Second Wave feminist agenda, it is his concern with social justice and the intersectionality of systems of oppression that lends Bronson Alcott's philosophical theorizing -- in his Journals, The Doctrine and Discipline of Human Culture (1836), Concord Days (1872), and his short writings -- a powerful relevance to contemporary social justice movements.

  • Ethical veganism
  • Transcendentalism
  • Bronson Alcott
  • Utopia
  • Animal studies
  • Intersectionality
  • Social justice
  • USA
  • Nineteenth century literature
Citation (ISO format)
MADSEN, Deborah Lea. Ethical Veganism and Intersectional Justice at Bronson Alcott’s Fruitlands (1843-1844). In: British Association for American Studies Conference 2022. Hull (UK). 2022. 10 p.
Main files (1)
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