The second daughter of renowned education reformer Bronson Alcott
, Louisa May Alcott was born on November 29, 1832 in Germantown, Pennsylvania, where her father was working as a teacher.
The family would soon settle in Concord, Massachusetts
, where the young girl would be exposed to the brilliant company of Ralph Waldo Emerson
, Henry David Thoreau
, Margaret Fuller
, Nathaniel Hawthorne and the rest of the Transcendentalist crowd.
The Transcendentalists taught that each person must find their own peculiar way to contribute to the world, and Louisa May found her way as a writer of popular fiction that was both wholesome and realistic. She wrote poetry and stories for Atlantic Monthly (then a relatively new New England periodical) and other magazines. She worked as a nurse in the civil war and wrote about the experience in "Hospital Sketches", published in the journal "Commonwealth". Her first book was called "Flower Fables", followed by a novel called "Moods", and then by her most popular book, "Little Women".
"Little Women" and "Little Men" were her best known works, but she wrote many more books, stories, poems and essays. She captured the experience of living in the commune her father had founded, Fruitlands, in a fondly satirical book called "Transcendental Wild Oats".
Louisa May Alcott suffered from various ailments and physical difficulties throughout her life. She died on March 6, 1888, only two days after the death of her father.The Louisa May Alcott
website is run by the organization that maintains the Orchard House, the Alcott homestead that is now open to visitors in Concord.