Women in American History: Louisa May Alcott

On November 29, 1932, the Alcott family welcomed a daughter into their family named Louisa May. Little did they know that this bright, young girl would write the novel Little Women based upon their family.


LA Times

Louisa May Alcott

Grace O'Malley, MHS Media Writer

As a child, Louisa enjoyed both literature and writing. This was encouraged by her father who had a career in education. She was also close with her three sisters.

Though, as Louisa got older, she realized that her father was unable to support the family financially. She took several jobs to help by teaching, washing clothes, and writing.

In 1852, her first poem, Sunlight, was published under the pen name “Flora Fairfield” in Peterson Magazine.

Then, in 1855, a compilation of her short stories was published into a book.

Her family was then able to move to New Hampshire, yet Louisa settled in Boston for her career. This changed quickly when Louisa’s sister passed away and another got married. She moved back home to comfort and support her mother.

Several years later, Louisa volunteered as a nurse for a Union hospital in 1862 during the Civil War. There, she contracted Typhoid Fever which caused health issues for the rest of her life. But her time as a nurse and patient had inspired her work, Hospital Sketches, which helped Louisa to gain fame.

Soon after, Louisa was asked to write a novel for young women by her publisher. Since her family was again struggling, she wrote her most popular book, Little Women. It was an immediate success, and she was finally able to pay back her family’s debts in 1869.

She wrote two additional sequel novels and began to work with the women’s suffrage movement. She was the first woman to vote in Concord, Massachusetts.

She continued to write stories based upon the characters from Little Women, but began to struggle with health issues associated with the Typhoid Fever she had contracted as a nurse.

Louisa May Alcott died at age 56 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Louisa’s works had inspired young girls across the country and continues to do so today.