Louisa May Alcott is one of the most famous American authors. Best known for her cherished novel, “Little Women,” she was an important voice for women during the Gilded Age and showed people how valuable a strong female voice can be.
Did you know that “Little Women” was based on her life story?
Louisa was born in Philadelphia in 1832 but grew up in Massachusetts after her family moved to Boston two years after she was born. In 1840, her family moved into Orchard House, the famous cottage in Concord where “Little Women” takes place. Like the book’s protagonist, Jo, Louisa was one of four sisters.
Louisa’s parents were a part of the transcendentalist religious movement and highly valued education and learning.
As a child, Louisa’s parents introduced her to writers and philosophers like Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathanial Hawthorne. She quickly found a passion for writing and started writing her own stories at a young age.
When her family entered a period of financial struggle, Louisa had to stop going to school consistently and began taking on various jobs, from teaching to cleaning.
She eventually learned she could sell her stories to contribute to her family’s income. But because it was harder to get work published as a woman, Louisa began selling stories under a pseudonym.
She published her first book of short stories in 1854. Then, when the Civil War broke out, she briefly worked as a nurse at a Union hospital but became a patient there when she got typhoid fever. She wrote about this experience in her 1863 novel “Hospital Sketches.”
Louisa couldn’t help but notice the limited power women had in the world she grew up in, as not only were they unable to vote or hold down jobs, but they could hardly have anything of their own.