Louisa May Alcott

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Louisa May Alcott in 1957, in her mid 30's, years before the publication of Little Women.

Louisa May Alcott (Nov. 29, 1832 - Mar. 6, 1888) was an American fiction writer who wrote a novel of enduring popularity called Little Women. The book depicts the lives of four girls - Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy - as they grow up in mid-nineteenth-century New England. The novel has been adapted for film, television and stage many times.

Alcott was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, the daughter of the transcendentalist Bronson Alcott (1799-1888). The family soon thereafter moved to Massachusetts and it was there, in Boston, Massachusetts and nearby Concord, that she spent nearly all the rest of her life. Educated largely at home by her father and members of his intellectual circle, from an early age Louisa was immersed in the high-minded culture of the Concord intelligentsia, which included Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Theodore Parker.

The Alcott's were poor and, in order to contribute to the well-being of the family, Louisa took in sewing jobs, taught school for a time, and contributed stories to the Atlantic Monthly. In 1854, she published a book of short stories (Flower Fables).

During the first years of the Civil War, Alcott, who ardently opposed slavery, served as a volunteer nurse with the Union Army. Her experiences in that capacity formed the basis of her next book, a collection of letters published in 1863 as Hospital Sketches that brought her a first measure of fame. However, during the war she also contracted typhoid fever and was never in good health afterward. In 1865, show published her first novel, Moods and toured Europe.

Real fame and financial security came only with the publication in 1868-1869 of the novel Little Women, which became an immediate popular success. It remains one of the most enduring and popular books ever written. Its success led to demands for a sequel, and Alcott obliged with a follow-up book, Good Wives which today is usually published along with Little Women as the second part of that book, both going under the same title. This was followed by other books, in the same vein and more or less in the same sequence, including '[Little Men (1871), and Jo's Boys (1886).

Alcott died in Corcord, Massachussetts in 1888.