Louisa May Alcott Biography

Start Your Free Trial

Louisa May Alcott Biography

Louisa May Alcott had the good fortune to be raised by highly unconventional, literary-minded parents. Her mother was a pioneer in the women’s suffrage and abolitionist movements, and her father was a transcendentalist philosopher and social reformer. Alcott’s first and still best-known novel, Little Women, was an immediate popular success and continues to enjoy a wide readership. Largely based on her own childhood experiences, Little Women recounts the story of sisters Jo, Amy, Beth, Meg, and their mother, “Marmee” March. The March women must learn to fend for themselves when their father leaves home to fight in the Civil War. Little Women and Alcott have rallied generations of women who find strength in the love, support, and success of her dynamic female characters. Alcott would go on to write three follow-up novels about Jo March as well as numerous other novels, poetry, and nonfiction.

Facts and Trivia

  • Her father, Amos Bronson Alcott, moved the family to a commune called “Fruitlands” when Louisa was eleven years old.
  • Regular visitors and family friends to the Alcott home included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
  • Until she was a successful author, Alcott held various low-paying jobs, including working as a servant and a seamstress.
  • Want to read all of Alcott’s works? Early poems and later, racy mysteries (A Long Fatal Lovechase and Pauline’s Passion and Punishment ) were penned under the pseudonym “A. M. Barnard.”
  • Alcott is buried in Concord, Massachusetts, in Author’s Ridge of the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. She died in 1888 at the age of 56, just two days after her father.


(History of the World: The 19th Century)

Download Louisa May Alcott Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Article abstract: Assuming financial responsibility for the support of her family, Louisa May Alcott launched a literary career as a prolific writer of works for both adult and juvenile audiences. Her writing reveals the vitality of everyday life, with the family being her most frequent subject.

Early Life

Louisa May Alcott was devoted to her family throughout her life. Her father, Bronson Alcott, was an educator who struggled to earn a decent living for his family. Soon after Louisa’s birth, her father moved the family to Boston. During the years preceding Louisa’s success at writing, her family lived in poverty. This poverty forced the young Alcott daughters to work in order to contribute to the family funds. The family moved frequently, covering the areas from Boston to Concord. The four sisters, Anna, Louisa, Elizabeth, and Abba May, were reared by their father and their mother, Abigail (Abba) May.

As a result of their frequent relocations, the Alcotts came into contact with a variety of people. Through contact with Quaker neighbors, Louisa was exposed to Quaker notions of simplicity, which emphasized family relationships, rather than materialistic acquisitions. The Alcott family’s admiration for this ideal of simplicity made their poverty more bearable. Louisa was also exposed to Transcendentalism by her father, a serious philosopher who believed that honesty, sincerity, unselfishness, and other spiritual characteristics were more important to acquire and practice than the material pursuit of wealth and comfort. Bronson Alcott launched a utopian communal experiment on a farm known as Fruitlands in Harvard, Massachusetts, where the girls maintained the family garden and worked in the barley fields. During this time, the family was influenced by their close proximity to the Shakers, who owned property in common and who worked together to complete tasks.

Because her father was interested in philosophy and education, Louisa and her family were acquainted with many of the great minds of the time. Bronson Alcott was a close friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, and these men greatly influenced Louisa, who had little formal education. After Thoreau’s death, Louisa wrote a poem, entitled “Thoreau’s Flute,” which was published in Atlantic in May, 1863.

In Concord, at the...

(The entire section is 3,227 words.)