Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of “Little Women,” Cornelia Meigs has written a biography that reflects the political, social, and economic history of the times in which Louisa May Alcott lived. Meigs records the poverty that her family endured and its involvement in two cooperative experimental communities, the socialist Brook Farm and the vegetarian Fruitlands. She also examines the closeness of the Alcotts, their reaction to slavery, the Civil War, women’s rights, and educational reforms.

Bronson Alcott, a noted philosopher and educational reformer, married Abba May in 1830. In 1831, they were living in Germantown, Pennsylvania, when their first child, Anna, was born, followed by the birth of Louisa a year later. Louisa May Alcott came into the world lively, vigorous, and extremely remarkable and remained so the rest of her life.

Bronson was an educational reformer far ahead of his time and was the school-master at the Germantown school, under the guidance of his Quaker friend Reuben Haines. Bronson’s idealistic project flourished at first, but it eventually failed. Alcott’s philosophical father could never face the realism of providing food and shelter for his family, and as his movements failed, the family spent much time moving and being dependent upon the generosity of friends. These friends were some of the nation’s most notable people, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Tho-reau. William...

(The entire section is 573 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The biography begins with Louisa's birth in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1832 and ends with her death in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1888. For...

(The entire section is 215 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

In chronicling Louisa May Alcott's life, Meigs provides a historical account of life in the 1800s. Louisa's personal experiences with...

(The entire section is 296 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Because Louisa May Alcott and her family were sensitive and socially conscious, there is very little opportunity for Meigs's biography to be...

(The entire section is 323 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Louisa's family moves twenty-nine times in twenty-eight years. Considering that the Alcotts repeatedly return to homes or areas they...

(The entire section is 248 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Read Little Women. Compare the main characters in that novel with the main characters in Meigs's biography of Louisa May Alcott....

(The entire section is 259 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

A very condensed summary of Invincible Louisa, entitled "The March Family," appears in Cornelia Meigs's A Critical History of...

(The entire section is 98 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Janeway, Elizabeth. "Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, and Louisa." New York Times Book Review (September 29, 1968): 46. A brief, balanced review of...

(The entire section is 273 words.)