Louisa May Alcott
Author of Little Women and
Louisa May Alcott was born in Germantown,
Pennsylvania on November 29,1832. During her
childhood the family moved to Concord,
Massachusetts. Her father was the noted A.
Bronson Alcott, the “Sage of Concord”, and
intimate friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
While he had a great mind, he was an
idealist and didn’t regularly provide for
his families necessities. Her mother,
Abigail May was of old-line Boston stock,
and was of prominent lineage. She was a
woman of incredible stamina, wisdom, and
love. She was a patient woman, as was much
needed being married to an abstracted
idealist . It was Abigail Alcott who kept
the family together, encouraging the failing
husband in his moments of depression, and
making ends meet by accepting menial work.
She became an inspiration and role model to
the young Louisa. While much of her youth
was lived in poverty, Louisa’s early
surroundings were of a highly intellectual
and literary character, and she naturally
took to writing while she was very young.
Due to the family’s low income and the
burdens of her mother, Louisa felt compelled
to become a wage earner to help support the
family, so she taught school, served as a
governess, worked as a domestic servant,
traveling companion, and took in work as a
seamstress. She was later to use these
experiences in her novels.
Becoming weary of menial tasks, she began
to write sensational stories, such as
thrillers, for the local papers which were
financially lucrative. At this time she
wrote mostly anonymously or using a
pseudonym. But her conscience was not easy
in this matter, and she abandoned the
writing of such tales. Instead, she began
writing from her experiences and her
confidence began to grow.
In1865, Louisa became the companion to an
invalid lady and traveled to Europe. This
trip supplied her with material for ensuing
travel pieces. Upon her return, she was
again compelled to earn a wage, due to her
families debts and needs, so she continued
her writing. In 1867 she turned to the
juvenile field and accepted the editorship
of Merry’s Museum, a girls’ magazine. With
accepting this job, she moved to Boston.
The following year, she was approached by
the Roberts Brothers publishing firm to
write a novel for adolescent girls along the
lines of those for boys written by Oliver
Optic. With her family’s encouragement,
Louisa set to work on such a novel. She had
keen powers of observation and a sensitivity
to adolescence that proved to be a winning
combination. She used her personal
experiences and faith in God to form the
plot of her book and the cast of characters
for her novel came from her own family.
While her published works numbered more
than 270 items, many of which were written
for young girls, Louisa May is best known
for the novel, Little Women, which was
written in its entirety in only two six week
periods. This story gives to us a charming
and straightforward picture of
nineteenth-century life, as seen through the
eyes of an adolescent girl of the day. Miss
Alcott is associated in the minds of many as
Jo March, the tomboy heroine of Little
Little Women was an immediate success.
Letters poured in from thousands of young
ladies who were touched by the book and
especially the character of Jo March. It
reached a sale of 87,000 in three years.
Louisa followed up this work with An Old
Fashioned Girl and Little Men. Other works
that followed were Aunt Jo’s Scrap Bag, in
six volumes, Modern Mephistopheles, Proverb
Stories, Spinning Wheel Stories, Jo’s boys,
and A Garland for Girls. She also wrote
Hospital Sketches, which was her last record
of her own experiences in ministering to the
sick and wounded.
Miss Alcott had ambition and ability for
a high grade of literary work. While she
could have continued pursuing a lucrative
career in sensational writing she was
rewarded by following her conscience. She
found true success as a writer of children’s
stories, thus becoming a “moral guardian” to
young girls the world over.