Louisa May Alcott
About the Author
American author, known for her children' books, especially Little Women (1868). Unknown to her family and the public, Alcott begun writing 'rubbish novels', sometimes anonymously, sometimes as 'A.N. Barnard', to contribute to the family income.
Alcott was born in Germantown (now part of Philadelphia). During her childhood her family moved to Boston. She spent most of her life in the Boston-Concord area, and received almost all her early education from her father Bronson Alcott (1799-1888), who was member of the New England Transcendentalists. He was an idealistic, if impractical person, who bvelieved in the spiritual life, as contrasted wirh the material life. When a visiting English author criticized her father's teaching methods, the schoolmaster Alcott moved with his family to Concord. Among the family friends were Theodore Parker, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Alcott began to keep diary at the age of seven. Her first book, Flower Fables (1854), a collection of tales, was originally written for Emerson's daughter Ellen. After the failure of her father's utopian community Fruitlands, she took care with her mother of the welfare of the family. Her mother, who had not been so enthusiastic about the New Eden plan of her husband, took in boarder, when the family moved into Boston again.
By 1860 both her short stories and poems began to appear in the Atlantic Monthly (now The Atlantic). As an ardent abolitionist she volunteered in the American Civil War as a nurse and served in 1862-1863 at the Union Hospital in Georgetown, D.C. During this time Alcott contracted typhoid from which she never completely recovered. In 1863 Alcott published her letters in book form under the title Hospital Sketches. The work was well received and encouraged her to continue with her writing aspirations.
Alcott's first novel, Moods, was published in 1867. In the same year she became editor of a children's magazine, Merry Museum. With the publication of Little Women, which started under the pressure of financial need, Alcott gained enormous fame as a writer. Responding to her publisher's request, she draw her material from her own family and from the New England milieu where she had grown up. The novel was followed by several other popular works, among them Good Wives (1869), Old-Fashioned Girl (1870), and Little Men (1871). Alcott's last years were shadowed by the the deaths of her mother and her sister May, who left behind a little daughter. Alcott died in Boston on March 6, 1888.
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