Biography Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott was born in Germantown, PA, on Nov. 29, 1832, and she was the second daughter of Abigail May and Amos Bronson Alcott. She had an older sister Anna and two younger sisters Elizabeth and May. The family moved to Boston, MA in 1834, where her father set up an experimental school that failed because of the lack of students.

Since the Alcotts were relatively poor, Ralph Waldo Emerson financially supported them while they moved to Concord, MA. Amos and Abigail were both progressive educators and part of the Transcendental Movement in America so they instructed Louisa and her three sisters in this progressive educational style. Her father advised Louisa to keep a journal. She began this journal at a very young age and kept with it until her last days on earth.

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The journal was open to inspection by her father and mother. Mrs. Alcott would often write little notes to her daughter. Louisa included poetry and letters in her entries, as well as comments to her sisters and mother. This journal helped lead her into her literary career.

Louisa wrote poems, novels, and short stories most of which were published. Some of her early work was written under the pen name, Flora Fairchild. Her most well known work was Little Women, which was based on her own life. “Marmee” is her mother, “Meg” is her sister Anna, “Jo” is Louisa herself, “Beth” is her younger sister Elizabeth, and “Amy” is her youngest sister May. In real life the sisters would act out elaborate scenes in an old barn or by the stream just like they did in Little Women.

Louisa May Alcott’s career was not restricted to writing. Beginning in her late teens, she worked as a teacher for several years and off-and-on as a seamstress. In 1867, Louisa became the editor of Merry’s Museum, a children’s magazine. Louisa Alcott also was an avid social reformer. Abolition, temperance, and educational reform were among her chosen causes. But being a feminist at heart, she especially fought for women’s rights, including suffrage. In fact, she was the first woman to register to vote in Concord.

Then, in 1857, Louisa’s younger sister Elizabeth became ill. This is shown in Little Women with the sickness of “Beth.” Elizabeth lived for 8 years and then her life came to a close, but the tragic death of her sister from complications of scarlet fever brought Louisa back home to support her family emotionally and financially.

When the war broke out, Louisa volunteered in the hospitals as a helping nurse in Washington, D.C. During her time in the wards, she kept a journal and often wrote letters home. These letters and journal entries were later published and called “Hospital Sketches.” However, she contracted typhoid fever and was treated with calomel, which contains mercury. The treatment cured her of typhoid, but the mercury would eventually kill her with heavy metal poisoning. In 1877 her mother’s illness grew worse and she, too, was feeling ill.

Then, Louisa’s younger sister May, died in 1879. In August of 1886, Alcott was attacked with rheumatism and vertigo. She closes her journal in 1886. Her father’s illness was also quickly getting worse, but with the little strength she had, she took care of him every few days. In early March, Mr. Alcott failed rapidly. At 3:30, March 6, 1888, Miss Alcott passed away. Her father passed away just 2 days before she did. She is buried on “Authors’ Ridge” in Concord’s Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, with her family.

Louisa May Alcott lived a long, prosperous life. She was not only an excellent writer, but also an active abolitionist, suffragist, and feminist.

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Biography Louisa May Alcott. (2018, Oct 07). Retrieved from