Louisa May Alcott, American author, was born on November 29, 1832, making today the 184th anniversary of her birthday. Alcott is most known for her novel Little Women, but she published many other written works in her lifetime. Her more popular works, like Little Women, were written for the child and young adult audiences, but Alcott also wrote for adult audiences. Alcott also lent her voice and influence to the women’s suffrage movement, and other issues. In recent years, her life and work have been studied for its value to the feminist movement. Alcott is an extraordinary woman who lived a life on her own terms and is worth remembering.
Growing up, Alcott and her three sisters were educated by their father at home in Pennsylvania. She was exposed to the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Margaret Fuller, who were friends of her father. This was likely an influence on the young Alcott. She began writing plays during her childhood.
Her father, Amos Bronson Alcott, was an idealistic thinker involved in the transcendentalist movement. He attempted to start a utopian society, which was unsuccessful. Alcott later wrote about this in a satirical short story Transcendental Wild Oats. Her father’s non-traditional ideas and distaste for employment and money brought hardship on the family. The young Alcott took work as a teacher, tutor, and household servant at various times to help support the family.
During the Civil War, Alcott worked as a nurse in Washington D.C. in 1862. This experience gave her the background for her novel Hospital Sketches.
Throughout her adult life, even into her final years, Alcott was able to support herself from her writing, also working as a teacher. She also published a sequel to Little Women (which was a two-volume novel), Little Men. Alcott died on March 6, 1888 in Massachusetts.
You can read some of Alcott’s works, biography, and discussions of her work in various Gale products, including: Nineteenth Century Collections Online: Women: Transnational Networks, Literature Criticism Online, and Gale eBooks on GVRL. To access a trial of these products, contact us!