Louisa May Alcott

(1832-88)

 

A page from

 

“Little Women”

 


   Louisa May Alcott was born in Germantown, Pa., on Nov. 29, 1832, and grew up in Boston and Concord, Mass.  Her father, Amos Bronson Alcott, was a teacher and a transcendental philosopher, a close friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Alcott's "conversational" method of teaching was far in advance of his time and won him few pupils. It was, however, very successful with Louisa. She began to write poems and stories.  When she was 15, she was writing and producing amateur theatricals. By 1860 her verses and stories were appearing in The Atlantic Monthly.

   In 1862, during the Civil War, Louisa Alcott served as a nurse in the Union hospital at Georgetown, now part of Washington, D.C.  Her letters home telling of her hospital experiences were published in 1863 under the title Hospital Sketches  and brought her $2,000.  With this money she made her first trip to Europe.

   On her return she began Little Women  (See exhibit).  This book, published in 1868, made her famous and enabled her to pay off all the family debts.  Alcott with her sister May also took a long tour of Europe. In Rome she wrote Little Men.

   Louisa Alcott took an active part in the temperance and the woman's suffrage movements. She never married. She died on March 6, 1888, two days after her father.  Orchard House, in Concord, where she wrote Little Women, was made a memorial in 1911.

 

   Alcott's best-known works are Little Women, (1868); An Old Fashioned Girl (1869); Little Men (1871); Eight Cousins  (1874); Under the Lilacs  (1878); and Jo’s Boys  (1886).


 


Set in a time of war and financial burdens,  one paragraph tells of Aunt March's offer to adopt one of the girls to relieve the pressure on the family finances.  But the family replies:


 

"We can't give up our girls for a dozen fortunes.

Rich or poor,  we will keep together and be happy in one another"