Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Louisa M. Alcott 1832 ~ 1888

 


Louisa M. Alcott

No name is more beloved among the girls of America of former days and present times than that of Louisa May Alcott, the author of "Little Women," a book dear to the heart of every American girl. Miss Alcott was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, November 29, 1832. Her parents were charming, cultivated people. Her father, Amos Bronson Alcott, became a teacher. He taught in Boston for eleven years. Margaret Fuller being one of his assistants. The atmosphere of the Alcott home was always one of culture and refinement, though their life was one of extreme simplicity. Whittier, Phillips, Garrison, Mrs. Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau and Oliver Wendell Holmes were frequent guests.

Louisa was the eldest child, full of activity and enthusiasm, constantly in trouble from her frankness and lack of policy, but enjoying many friends from her generous heart, and it has not been difficult to recognize the picture of herself in the character of Joe in "Little Women." In this little home in Concord were enacted many of the scenes, sports and amusements pictured in Miss Alcott s stories. At sixteen she began to teach school, having but twenty pupils, and to these she told many of the stories which were later woven into her books. Her restless disposition gave her many occupations; sometimes she acted as a governess, sometimes she did sewing, and again writing. At nineteen she published one of her early stories in Gleason's Pictorial. For this she received five dollars. Later appeared "The Rival Prima Donna," and though she received but ten dollars for this, the request from the editor for another story was more to her than a larger check would have been. Another story appeared in the Saturday Evening Gazette. This was announced in the most sensational way by means of large yellow posters which spread terror to Miss Alcott's heart. Finding, how-ever, that sensational stories paid, she turned them out at the rate of ten or twelve a month. But she soon tired of this unstable kind of fame, and she began work upon a novel which appeared under the name of "Moods" but was not a success.

At this time the Civil War broke out she offered herself as a nurse in the hospitals and was accepted, just after the defeat at Fredericksburg. After a time she became ill from overwork and was obliged to return home, and in 1865 published her hospital sketches, which made it possible for her to take a rest by a trip to Europe. Here she met many of the distinguished writers of her day. In 1868 her father submitted a collection of her stories to her publishers who declined them, and asked for a single story for girls, which was the occasion for the writing of "Little Women." It was simply the story of herself and her three sisters and she became at once famous.

Girls from all over the country wrote her. When "Little Men" was announced, fifty thousand copies were ordered in advance of its publication. Among her other stories are those entitled, "Shawl Straps," "Under the Lilacs," "Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag," "Jack and Jill," and the greatest after "Little Women," "An Old-Fashioned Girl." Most of her stories were written in Boston and depict her life in Concord. Miss Alcott's devotion to her sex made her a strong supporter of the women's suffrage movement, no one has done more for the women of her own generation than she. The pleasure which her books have given, and will ever continue to give, make her one of the most beloved of our American literary women. Miss Alcott died in Boston, March 6, 1888.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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