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Louisa May Alcott is hailed as one of America’s greatest writers. Many people have heard of her famous novel, Little Women. Louisa May Alcott actually based the character “Jo” on her own personal life. Alcott is known for her feminist views which occupy much of her writing.
Childhood and Early Adulthood
Louisa May Alcott was born November 29, 1832 in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Her father Amos and mother Abigail, were active supporter’s of women’s suffrage and also developed to be abolitionists. Amos was a great literary influence on Louisa and her three sisters Anna, Elizabeth and May. The family moved to ‘Hillside’ in Concord, Massachusetts in 1840. Young Louisa quickly made friends with fellow transcendentalists, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller and Nathaniel Hawthorne. She later described her experiences with these family friends in a newspaper sketch titled “Transcendental Wild Oats.” The Alcott home was surrounded by apple trees and this beautiful environment became the setting for Louisa’s most hailed novel, Little Women.
In 1848, The Alcott family moved back to Boston as they were experiencing financial difficulties. At fifteen, Louisa May Alcott began to help the family income by becoming a teacher, seamstress and servant. She began reading for an elderly man and his invalid sister, she didn’t make much from this job and turned to teaching small children with her sister Anna. This time of her life inspired another future novel, Work: A Story of Experience. In 1852, her first poem “Sunlight” was published and she received modest payment. This began Louisa’s passion for writing and she began to focus her efforts on writing poems and short stories. She often wrote poems and some of her first poems were published under the name ‘A.N. Barnard”. Flower Fables, a collection of poems written for Emerson’s daughter, was published in 1854.
In 1856, her sister, Elizabeth died of scarlet fever and her other sister Anna was married. In 1862 Louisa went to work as a nurse when the Civil War broke out and she wrote Hospital Sketches, which was a collection of her letters sent home. During this time, she contracted typhoid fever, although she recovered from it she suffered from the ill effects of mercury (used as treatment) and it plagued her health for the rest of her life.
In 1868, Louisa wrote Little Women, a story about Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. The novel was based on her childhood years with her sister’s. Several follow-up novels were produced recounting the girl’s experiences in life. Good Wives detailed their growth as women and their marriages. Little Men was about her nephews who lived with her at the Orchard House in Concord. Finally, Jo’s Boys completed the “March Family Saga.” Unlike her character Jo, Louisa never married. At one point, Louisa said she had “fallen in love with so many pretty girls, but never once the least bit with any man.”
In 1877, Louisa’s mother passed away. In 1878, her sister, May give birth to a baby girl named after Louisa. Sadly, complications arouse and she died a little over a month after the birth of her daughter. She asked for Louisa to care for her daughter and to call her “LuLu”. In her later years, Louisa became an advocate of women’s suffrage and was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Massachusetts. She wrote for “The Woman’s Journal” and was often seen canvassing door to door encouraging women to vote.
Louisa May Alcott’s accomplishments include over 30 books and collections of stories.
In 1888, her father died and two days later, Louisa May Alcott died on March 6, 1888. Louisa was buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.