LOUISA MAY ALCOTT, 1832-1888
An American novelist and poet, Louisa May Alcott is best known for her novel Little Women, and the sequels, Little Men and Jo’s Boys. Born in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1831, Louisa and her three sisters spent their childhood in Concord and Boston, Massachusetts. Educated by her transcendentalist parents Amos Bronson Alcott and Abigail May, Louisa’s days included visits to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s library and explorations into nature with Henry David Thoreau.
Louisa had an early passion for writing. Her rich imagination created stories often performed in theatricals by siblings for their friends in the barn, now known as Hawthorne’s “Wayside.” She was very much a tomboy, like her character Jo March in Little Women.
As her family struggled with financial difficulties, she worked to help support them with jobs such as seamstress, teacher, governess and household servant. While finding work where she was able in a society that provided little opportunities for women, she continued her writing.
Her career as an author began with submissions to popular magazines of poetry and short stories. Her first book, Flower Fables, was published in 1854 at the age of twenty-two. At times she would use the pen name A. M. Barnard for her novels for young adults. In 1863 she published Hospital Sketches, a book based on her letters home while a nurse in Washington, D.C. during the Civil War.
Little Women, written while at Orchard House in Concord during 1968, came about as a request from her publisher in Boston to write a book for girls. Based on her life with her sisters as they came of age in Civil War New England, Jo March, the principal protagonist, was the first realistic, American heroine rather than the idealized stereotype often found in children’s literature.
By her death in 1888 she had published over thirty books and stories. She is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.