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Women Writers: Louisa May Alcott

August 13, 2018

Louisa May Alcott is easily one of my favorite women writers from three centuries ago. I’ve read Little Women (1868), recently, but not Little Men (1871) or Jo’s Boys (1886), years ago. She was a published author in the 1860s who wrote contemporary stories. Many famous writers had pen names in those time periods. Hers was A. M. Barnard, which helped her publish stories about spies, revenge, and cross dressers. Little Women is loosely based on having three sisters. She was the daughter of a social worker, Abby May and her dad was Amos Branson Alcott. Both transcendentalists, they encouraged Louisa May Alcott to seek perfection. Branson Alcott had many conflicts with his independent and strong-willed daughters.

His daughter had to work at an early age because her family was not economically well off like others, another similarity between Little Women and her real life. Alcott had been a teacher, seamstress, governess, domestic helper, and writer. Her sisters also had to work, as seamstresses, but in 1847, they housed an escaped slave as part of the Underground Railroad. She served as a nurse during the American Civil War, for six weeks in 1862-1863. She based “Jo” on herself but she never married like Jo did at the end of the story. Both an abolitionist and a feminist, Louisa May Alcott died of a stroke two days after her father’s death in 1888. I need to read the Little Women sequels as I had no idea they existed.

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