(special thanks to our guest blogger and US State banknote series enthusiast, J. Barry Wright )
The Pennsylvania State Dollar features Luisa May Alcott on the front and the Pennsylvania Dutch on the back.
Between 1671 and 1677 William Penn stirred up the local communities to emigrate to his new found colony; Pennsylvania or ‘Penn’s Woodlands.’ On his trek through Germany at that time he offered the local Amish and Mennonite communities, then known as Anabaptists, the freedom to practice their religion in the new country of America.
These Germans quickly arrived and settled in a community then known as Germantown, Pennsylvania, which is now a part of Philadelphia. The settlers were known as “Pennsylvania Deutsch”. Many a local confused them with the Dutch settlers of New York and they subsequently became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch.
They have their own language and practice a religion that shuns technology and is composed of pacifists. They do not interact with the outside world.
On the face of the note we have a portrait of Luisa May Alcott. She was born in Germantown and was raised amongst the Pennsylvania Dutch. Her parents were however of a very different religious or spiritualist background. They were Transcendentalists and they were surely a fish out of water in this stern environment.
Luisa May Alcott moved to Massachusetts at the age of 8 and went on to be a part of the Transcendentalists Club, composed of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau. Under their tutelage she developed into a terrific writer an abolitionist and a feminist, something that would never be tolerated by the Pennsylvania Dutch. She worked with the Underground Railroad to harbor runaway slaves and she used the pseudonym, A M Barnard, to write for the anti slavery newspaper, The Atlantic Monthly
She served as a nurse during the Civil War and contracted typhoid fever.
She was most remembered for her book “Little Women”. This book was about herself and she named the heroine “Jo’.
In 1888 Luisa died of mercury poisoning a result of the mercury compound treatment that she received years earlier for her typhoid fever.