LUISA ALCOTT Biography - Fictional, Iconical & Mythological characters


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Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) is primarily remembered for her children’s classics, especially for Little Women and its sequels. She was however a multi-faceted personality, possessed of a deeply independent spirit and reforming energy. Contemporary research has revealed that Louisa Alcott wrote works aimed at adult audiences also, though under a pseudonym. She was also active as a nurse and a suffragette.


Louisa May Alcott, the second daughter of Amos Bronson Alcott and Abigail “Abba” May was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania on November 29, 1832. In 1840 the family moved to Concord. Louisa enjoyed acting out plays with her sisters, which she had written, and also spent time with family friends Thoreau and Emerson. In 1843 the Alcott family took part in an experimental communal village known as the Fruitlands. Unfortunately the project failed and the family returned to Concord in 1845. Louisa later wrote of this experience in Transcendental Wild Oats.


Despite his intellectual and social standing, Bronson Alcott was not a good provider and the family moved back to Boston in 1849. Feeling more and more responsible for her family’s financial needs Louisa started taking on a variety of jobs. She and her elder sister Anna taught small children and mended and washed laundry in an effort to help provide for the growing Alcott family.


In 1852 Louisa published her first poem “Sunlight” in Peterson’s magazine under the pseudonym, Flora Fairfield. Her first published short story was “The Rival Painters".


Her first book, Flower Fables was published in 1855. At this point, the Alcott family moved to Walpole, New Hampshire but Louisa stayed on in Boston to further her literary career. The third Alcott daughter, Lizzie, contracted scarlet fever and her illness forced the Alcotts back to Concord where Emerson purchased Orchard House for the family. Lizzie passed away in 1856 and Anna was married soon after. Louisa returned to Concord in 1857 to keep her mother company.


She went to Washington, DC. in 1862 to serve as a Civil War Nurse. Like many other nurses, Louisa contracted typhoid fever and although she recovered, she would suffer the effects of mercury poisoning for the rest of her life. Her stay in Washington prompted Louisa to write Hospital Sketches, which was published in 1863 followed by Moods in 1864.


At this point Louisa’s publisher, Thomas Niles, told her that he wanted “a girls story” from her. This was the turning point in Louisa’s literary career. She wrote furiously for two and a half months and produced Little Women based on her own experiences of growing up as a young woman with three other sisters. The novel, published on September 30, 1868, was an instant success and sold more than 2,000 copies immediately. The publisher begged for a second volume. Good Wives, the second volume of Little Women was released on April 14, 1869 and more than 13,000 copies were sold at once. Alcott’s story of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy had launched her into stardom and helped to alleviate the family’s financial problems.


Louisa and her youngest sister May went to Europe in the same year for a break. The next few years saw her career prosper rapidly as book after book was published and enjoyed by a huge audience of young readers. An Old Fashioned Girl was published in 1870, Little Men in 1871, followed by Work in 1873, Eight Cousins in 1874, and its sequel Rose in Bloom in 1876.
Louisa Alcott was also active in the women’s suffrage movement, writing for “The Woman’s Journal". In 1879 she became the first woman in Concord to register to vote in the village’s school committee election.


Unfortunately, her mother’s health was failing and she passed away in 1877. Louisa’s youngest sister May died in 1879, leaving behind a daughter Lulu named after Louisa. In 1880 Louisa took Lulu to Boston and in 1885 she moved what remained of her family to Boston.


Though she continued to produce books for younger readers, Louisa also wrote adult thrillers and novellas like A Woman’s Power, A Modern Mephistopheles etc. Still writing as best as she could, for the mercury poisoning she had received early in life was beginning to take its toll, Louisa published Jo’s Boys in 1886. Her father’s health finally failed and he died on March 4, 1888. Two days later, at the age of 56, Louisa May Alcott died in Boston, leaving a behind a legacy of several books which would be admired and cherished for generations to come.