Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888) is best known as the author of Little Women and its sequels, including Little Men, though the scope of her work goes far beyond these beloved books. She also wrote essays, poems, and pseudonymous thrillers. Alcott was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, and was raised in Concord, Massachusetts.

Alcott conducted her career as a professional determined to profit from her pen
Financial need stoked her drive as she became the primary breadwinner in her family at a young age. Inspiration was all around her, as she grew up in the midst of the Transcendentalists. Her father, Bronson Alcott, was one of its most passionate and radical proponents.

She credited hard work rather than talent for her success
Though Alcott claimed that her greatest reward was the esteem of the “young folks” who were her readers, she was never modest in her demands to be paid what she felt she was worth, and lived to see her work earn a fortune. Alcott looked up to Charlotte Brontë and longed to gain recognition for her work, as Brontë had.

Jo March, Alcott’s most iconic character, was her idealized alter ego
 She was the aspiring writer among the sisters portrayed in her best-known and most autobiographical work, Little Women, published in 1868. What’s less well-known and more surprising is that Alcott cranked out a large body of thrillers, gothics, and sensational tales under various pseudonyms, allowing her to support her family while searching for her literary voice. Contrary as they seemed to her own life and values, she seemed to take some perverse pleasure in dark themes, returning to them even after financial need no longer compelled her to do this sort of formula writing.

Louisa May Alcott quotes

Here are some of Louisa May Alcott’s best loved quotes

Louisa May Alcott was always a staunch feminist
She promoted women’s rights and campaigning for women’s suffrage. Her views were espoused by her lead characters, strong young women who wanted more from life than to get married and have babies. Alcott herself never married nor had children.

She was alarmingly naïve about the nature of her sexuality

Alcott confessed in an 1883 interview: “I am more than half-persuaded that I am a man’s soul, put by some freak of nature into a woman’s body … because I have fallen in love in my life with so many pretty girls and never once the least bit with any man.” Perhaps unknowingly, the repressed nature of her sexuality helped her avoid the circumscribed path of marriage and motherhood, and allowed her to view the institution dispassionately.

A brief experience with motherhood
May, the youngest Alcott sister, trained as an artist in Europe (subsidized by Alcott’s earnings). There she met a man, married, and had a daughter.  She died within a year of giving birth. Alcott wanted to raise the child, and earned the father’s family’s consent do so. Adopted at the age of two, the little girl was her Aunt Louisa’s namesake (and nicknamed Lulu);  from all accounts, the nine years they spent together before Alcott’s death were happy ones.

Chronic illness and death
Louisa May Alcott was 55 years old when she died of a stroke in Boston in 1888. Her death came just two days after her father’s. She had long suffered from chronic illness, thought to have been caused by the mercury-laced medicine she took as a cure for the typhoid fever she suffered while serving as a nurse during the civil war. However, modern scholars believe that she may have had an autoimmune disease, perhaps lupus.

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