Louisa May Alcott

About the Author

Louisa May Alcott was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania on 29th November 1832, the second daughter of educationalist and Transcendalist Amos Bronson Alcott and Abigail May. When Alcott was almost two years old, the family moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where her father pursued his teaching career by setting up the Temple school and soon became renowned for his controversial teaching methods. In 1840 the Alcott family moved to Concord where they became friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, both well-known writers and philosophers of the time. Three years later, the Alcotts took part in an experimental communal village known as 'Fruitlands', but the project failed, and they returned to Concord.

 

After taking several menial jobs, Alcott published sketches and stories from an early age to help support her family financially (her father being unable to provide the family with a steady income). Her first poem, ‘Sunlight’ was published in Peterson’s magazine in 1852 under the pseudonym Flora Fairfield. Three years later, her first book, Flower Fables was published. Following the death of one of her sisters, Lizzie, and the marriage of her elder sister, Louisa moved to Washington DC in 1862 to serve as a nurse in the civil war. She contracted typhoid fever and although she recovered, she was to suffer from mercury poisoning for the rest of her life.

It was in Washington that she published Hospital Sketches (1863) and Moods a year later. Prompted by her publisher, she then produced the novel that was to make her famous as well as financially secure. Little Women, based on her own experiences of growing up with three sisters, was published on 30th September 1868 and was an immediate success. She followed this with several more novels in the same vein including Little Men in 1871 and Rose in Bloom in 1876. She also wrote sensational novels (including thrillers such as Behind a Mask, 1866), which are less well-known. It was during the 1870s that Louisa got involved with the women’s suffrage movement, writing for The Women’s Journal and canvassing door to door.

With her health failing, Alcott published her last novel, Jo’s Boys in 1886, and died in Boston on 6th March 1888 at the age of fifty-six. Her father died just two days before her.

Books by the author