In her introduction, Meigs states that she was able to interview direct witnesses who had known Alcott. Thus, a rich record of her life has been preserved through the people who actually knew and loved her. Meigs demonstrates Alcott’s strong personality and her determination to improve her life and that of her family. This determination was evident in her early efforts in writing. A noted magazine publisher had read one of her stories and told her that she would never be a writer. Instead of being discouraged, however, she decided that one day she would have something published in his magazine.

Lurid romance novels had been in vogue before Alcott entered the new field of family stories. She had written dozens of these romance novels, trying to earn a living for her family, without much success. What she received for her romantic tales was hardly more than a pittance, but she was writing stories for the famous magazine whose editor had told her to “stick to her teaching.” When Alcott tried to write these romance novels, her writings were artificial and stilted. As a nurse in Wash-ington, D.C., during the Civil War, she attained greater success writing stories about the men whom she nursed. Her real talent, however, was in writing about incidents that actually happened in her own family.

Thomas Niles was the publisher who almost turned down Alcott’s Little Women. At first, he had urged her to write a book for girls, but, when he...

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