Spotlight On: Louisa May Alcott

Hi everyone,

Today’s post is another installment of my “Spotlight On:…” series and I’ve been looking forward to writing this one all week.

Today I’m going to be writing about the life of Louisa May Alcott, having just recently watched the 1994 Little Women movie adaptation.

As always, the post will be divided up into 6 different parts:

1. A little bit about their life

2. Their works I have read

3. Their works I am yet to read

4. Great film/TV adaptations based on their works

5. Quotes

6. An author biography recommendation

So without further ado…


A Little Bit About Their Life

Louisa May Alcott was born 29th November 1832 in Germantown, Pennsylvania. She had three sisters. Louisa was the daughter of Bronson Alcott and spent most of her life in Boston and Concord, Massachusetts where she was taught by her father at his school, Temple School in Boston. She also studied informally with family friends Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. The Alcott family lived in Hillside which was a well-known stop on the Underground Railroad. It is likely that the Alcott’s, fervent abolitionists, would have helped fugitive slaves.

Alcott realised quite early on that her father was not able to provide for his wife and daughters and so took it upon herself to earn money. Her father had once said he would “starve or freeze before he will sacrifice principle to comfort.” His innovative teaching methods got him kicked out of his school and the Alcott family moved around 20 times in Louisa’s life. In order to provide for her very poor family, Louisa taught briefly, worked as a domestic and began to write. During the Civil War, she went to Washington, D.C. to work as a nurse.

Unknown to many people, Louisa May Alcott had been publishing her works since 1851 under pseudonyms including Flora Fairfield and A.M. Barnard. Some of her works were performed on small stages in Boston but it was her Hospital Skills (1863) on her experiences during the Civil War that cemented her desire to be a serious writer.

She began to publish stories under her real name in Atlantic Monthly and Lady’s Companion, and took a brief trip to Europe in 1865 before becoming editor of a girls’ magazine, Merry’s Museum.

Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women in 1868-9 and it was an immediate success. Originally, Alcott did not want to write the book, however, her publisher said he would not publish her father’s philosophy works unless she wrote it. She wrote the book to help her father out.

The book is based on her recollections of her childhood and her relationship with her sisters. She followed Little Women’s success with further domestic narratives drawn from her early experiences: An Old-Fashioned Girl (1870); Aunt Jo’s Scrap Bag, 6 vol. (1872–82); Little Men (1871); Eight Cousins (1875); Rose in Bloom (1876); and Jo’s Boys (1886).

Alcott never married though she did raise her niece after her sister, Abigail May, died in childbirth. Louisa May Alcott spent the last two decades of her life in Boston and Concord, caring for her sick mother, who died in 1877, and her father. Alcott died of a stroke at age 55, two days after her father’s death. Louisa May Alcott lived her life a staunch feminist and abolitionist. Her mother, Abby Alcott was a suffragette, and Louisa continued her work and became one of the first twenty women ever to vote in Concord, MA. Little Women is still regarded as one of the greatest children’s classics ever written.


Their Works I Have Read/Am Yet To Read

I have only read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. If I’m honest, I hadn’t heard of too many of her other books (besides the follow-on books to Little Women) however, writing this blog post has made me realise how interested I would be to read more of her work.


Great Film/TV Adaptations Based On Their Works

Of course I have to mention both versions of the Little Women film (1994 and 2019) which are both amazing and equally as warming and comforting.


Quotes

“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”

“The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.”

“There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping, and the sweet, sunshiny presence vanishes, leaving silence and shadow behind.”

“Human minds are more full of mysteries than any written book and more changeable than the cloud shapes in the air.”


An Author Biography Recommendation

If you want to learn more about Louisa May Alcott’s life and her inspirations I would recommend reading Louisa May Alcott by Susan Cheever, as well as Marmee & Louisa: The Untold Stories of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother by Eve LaPlante.


Have you enjoyed any of Louisa May Alcott’s works?

Thanks for reading!

Love, Zoë xx

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