Louisa May Alcott Additional Biography


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Alcott was a productive and astute writer, assessing the needs of her audience and writing what would sell. Whether writing in the sentimental or gothic vein, realistic novels for children or for adults, Alcott expressed her respect for individualistic women, her scorn for women’s limited economic opportunities, and her esteem for the family unit. Her characters are memorable, her dialogues demonstrate an ear for conversation, her descriptions are strong and picturesque, and her narratives are unfailingly vivid and fast-paced.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Louisa May Alcott was the second daughter of Abby May and Amos Bronson Alcott, a leader in the Transcendentalist movement headed by essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. When it became evident that Bronson Alcott would not be a reliable provider, Louisa perceived it as her mission in life to support the family. The death of her younger sister and the marriage of her older sister were traumatic experiences for her; partly to fill the void left by their absence and partly to seek some purpose in life and to participate in the Civil War in the only way open to women, Alcott became an army nurse in Washington, D.C. After six weeks, she contracted typhoid fever, an illness from which she never fully recovered, owing to the effects of mercury poisoning from her medication. Alcott recorded her experiences during this time in Hospital Sketches, the work that would establish her as a serious writer.

Alcott had also begun writing gothic thrillers, which brought in money for the family but did not enhance her literary reputation. Her first novel appeared in 1864. In 1865, Alcott toured Europe, and soon after her return she became editor of the children’s magazine Merry’s Museum. About that time, the editor Thomas Niles urged Alcott to write a novel for girls; the result was Little Women, an overnight success. After her father suffered a stroke in 1882, Alcott moved him to Boston, where she continued to try to write. Sensing by this time that she would not regain her health, she adopted her nephew, John Sewell Pratt, who would become heir to her royalties and manage her affairs after her death. Louisa May Alcott died on March 6, 1888, two days after the death of her father. The two are buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Louisa May Alcott was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, on November 29, 1832, to Amos Bronson Alcott and Abigail May Alcott, but she spent most of her life in Massachusetts, mainly Concord and Boston. Considered spirited and willful, she did not fit the image of the ideal, docile child of which her Transcendentalist father approved, but she did not allow her spirit to be broken. Like the beloved character Jo in Little Women, Alcott actively participated in drama and literature, writing plays and a newspaper based on the childhood capers of her and her three sisters. Although her family was often on the brink of poverty, partly because of her father’s novel teaching methods and frequent moves, the family’s friendship...

(The entire section is 677 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Louisa May Alcott, the famous daughter of a famous father, was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1832, but her early life was spent in the vicinity of Concord and Boston, where she grew up under the influence of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Her father, Bronson Alcott, was a transcendentalist and a nonresident member of Brook Farm. Reformer, scholar, and educator, he founded the well-known Temple School in Boston.

Early in life Louisa May Alcott realized that her impractical father needed financial assistance to run his household. Accordingly she worked as a domestic, as a seamstress, and as a teacher. Alcott’s publishing career began as Flora Fairfield with “Sunlight,” an 1851 poem, and “The Rival Painters: A Tale of Rome” (1852). Her first book, Flower Fables, carried Alcott’s own name. Over the next decade, she published extensively, particularly in The Atlantic Monthly. Her repertoire of children’s stories, melodramas, reviews, essays, sketches, and thrillers, including Moods, appeared under her own name or a pseudonym (Fairfield or A. M. Barnard).

During the Civil War she served as a nurse in the Union Hospital in Georgetown. As a result of this experience her health was impaired. The letters she wrote home to her family were later revised and published as Hospital Sketches in 1863.

In 1868 she became editor of a children’s magazine, Merry’s Museum. Later that year Little Women appeared and was an immediate success, both in English and in translation. This perennially popular volume described a normal, pleasant American family life and included plays Alcott had written in 1848. The March family of the novel is drawn from her own family. Jo March is Louisa herself, and the March sisters represent the other girls of the Alcott family. Little Women provided financial freedom for the family, and Alcott continued to satisfy her public mainly with children’s books and short stories.

Her last years were spent in Boston, where she died two days after her father, on March 6, 1888. An ardent abolitionist and advocate of woman suffrage, Alcott maintains a host of admirers for her sentimental novels and gains new ones for her other writings. Little Women, called the most popular girls’ book ever written, remains her chief claim to fame.


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Louisa May Alcott was born on November 29, 1832, in Germantown, Pennsylvania, where her father, Bronson Alcott—a transcendentalist...

(The entire section is 474 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

While Louisa May Alcott is associated with the New England setting where she lived most of her life, she was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, on November 29, 1832, the second of four daughters born to Amos Bronson and Abba May Alcott. Louisa’s father, friend and admirer of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, was a man of great vision and idealism but few practical skills. His inability to provide for his family of six became increasingly apparent as time went on. Soon after Louisa’s birth, Bronson moved his family to Boston, where he organized the Temple School. While the school had much to recommend it, it was much more liberal than many Bostonians could accept, and six years later Bronson was forced to close its...

(The entire section is 966 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Louisa May Alcott Published by Gale Cengage

Born on November 29, 1832, in Germantown, Pennsylvania Louisa May Alcott is best remembered for her...

(The entire section is 652 words.)