Luminist Archives

(1832 – 1888)

Louisa May Alcott (1832 - 1888)

Louisa May Alcott  was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania. At an early age Louisa and her family moved to Boston, where her father established the Temple School. In 1840 the family moved to Concord, Massachusetts, where  she met Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. In 1843 the Alcott family joined an experimental communal village known as the Fruitlands. Unfortunately the project failed, and the family returned to Concord in 1845, where Louisa began reading for an elderly father and his invalid sister, and worked as a tutor for small children. In 1852 Louisa’s first poem, “Sunlight,” was published in Peterson’s magazine under the pseudonym Flora Fairfield. Three years later, in 1855, her first book, Flower Fables, was published. In 1862 she served as a Civil War Nurse. Like many other nurses, Louisa contracted typhoid fever. This experience 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 girl’s story” from her. The resulting novel, Little Women, published September 30, 1868, was an instant success. In fact the country was so taken with Louisa’s story that her publisher begged for a second volume. Louisa followed up her success with An Old Fashioned Girl in 1870. Little Men was published in 1871, followed by Work in 1873, Eight Cousins in 1874, and Rose in Bloom in 1876. During this time, Alcott became active in the women’s suffrage movement, writing for The Woman’s Journal and canvassing door to door to encourage women to register to vote. In 1879 Alcott became the first woman in Concord to register to vote in the village’s school committee election. Still writing as well 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. Louisa May Alcott died in Boston at the age of 56.   

Louisa May Alcott writings in the Luminist Archives:

Perilous Play

A Strange Island

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