We recently shared with everyone some classic reads for the young and the young at heart, one of them penned by one of the most influential lady writers in history. For this installment of American Masters, the spotlight is on the life and work of celebrated novelist Louisa May Alcott.
American novelist Louisa May Alcott was born in November 29, 1832, the second of four daughters of Amos Bronson Alcott, an educator and transcendentalist, and Abigail May Alcott, a social worker. In 1838, Alcotts moved to Boston, where Louisa’s father established an experimental school and joined the Transcendental Club along with Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
As a young girl, Alcott’s main teacher was her strict father, but she also received lessons from other prominent educators and writers who were also family friends. Among them were her father’s transcendental colleagues Thoreau and Emerson, novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, and journalist Margaret Fuller.
Alcott was driven by poverty to take on several jobs at a young age, and it was during these trying times that she turned to writing as an emotional and creative outlet. In 1849, she published her first book entitled Flower Fables, comprised of stories she wrote for Ellen Emerson, the daughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Later in the mid-1960s, she took the nom de plume A. M. Barnard, under which she wrote several fiery, pulp fiction thrillers which featured gritty, gutsy characters that are worlds apart from her wholesome stories for children. This so-called literary double life remained a secret until the 1940s.
Alcott remains best known for “Little Women,” the coming of age novel now considered as a classic literature for children and women of all ages. Loosely based on her childhood life with her three sisters, the novel was also written and set in Orchard House, the family home in Concord, Massachusetts. She based the novel’s feisty heroine, Jo March, on herself. However, unlike her literary counterpart who married towards the end of the story, Alcott never married. She continued to write until she passed away on March 6, 1888 in Boston. She was 55.
American Masters pays tribute to some of the best artists who have contributed award-winning works in their respective fields. Read more articles on the American Masters series.