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...
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