The Bibliography Of Louisa May Alcott English Literature Essay
February 20, 2013
Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott was an famous and accomplished author of the 1800s. Her works have been published and republished. Louisa’s stories are well-known throughout the world. Louisa was a supporter of women’s rights, abolition, and temperance (Goodwin). Louisa was also good friends with many famous authors (Matteson, 178-181). She was mostly recognized as a children’s writer and was called "The Children’s Friend" since her books were mostly for children (Ruth, 8).
Louisa M. Alcott was born on November 29, 1832, in Georgetown, Pennsylvania, to her happy parents ("Louisa May Alcott"). She was the daughter Amos Bronson Alcott and Abigail (Abba) May, whom she called "Marmee" (Ruth, 22). With dark gray eyes and a dark olive complexion, she resembled her Portuguese Jewish Ancestors on her mother’s side of the family (Ruth, 9). Her sister Anna was born a year earlier in March (Ruth, 8). At a young age, their father could tell the clear difference between Anna and Louisa. Anna was polite, calm, and sentimental. Louisa, on the other hand, was an energetic, temperamental, practical child (Ruth, 9). Bronson’s favorite was Anna, though he loved Louisa in a different way yet tenderly (Ruth, 10). Louisa’s sisters, Elizabeth and May, were born in 1835 and 1840 respectively (Warrick, 23-26). Out of all her sisters, Louisa felt closest to Elizabeth. All of the Alcotts were abolitionists. At age three, Louisa was saved from drowning by a little black boy. She said, "I was an abolitionist at age three" (Ruth, 13). In 1834, Bronson moved his family to Boston and
started Temple School (Matteson, 54). Bronson’s teaching style was to make his students to understand what they learned instead of memorization. He also encouraged individual thought. Bronson did not like the normal textbooks. In place of the normal textbooks, he taught from classical and philosophy books(Ruth, 10-11). Many liked this method of teaching. In fact, a lady named Elizabeth Peabody liked his style enough to support Bronson’s school financially. In spite of all of this, the school lasted only five years due to a Boston publicist printed some of Bronson’s conversations while teaching, and parents pulled their children out of his school due to embarrassment (Ruth, 11-15). Bronson taught his children at home using the same methods that he used in his school. Though he was strict, he wanted his daughters to have some fun at time to time (Ruth, 14-15). A fond family friend and famous writer Ralph Waldo Emerson helped the family out financially (Warrick, 31). In 1836, Bronson became a transcendentalist, like his good friend Emerson (Matteson, 116). The Alcotts moved to Concord, Massachusetts in 1840 to be closer to Emerson. It was in Concord that Louisa met many incredible thinkers and writers like Henry David Thoreau who became one of her greatest influences. She also met Margaret Fuller, the editor of a transcendentalist magazine named The Dial. From Fuller, Louisa learned about women’s potential in society (Ruth, 21-22). It was during this time that her father met Charles Lane, a fellow transcendentalist who purchased a hundred-acre farm near Harvard, Massachusetts devoted to a potential utopian community called "The Fruitlands". Bronson and Lane became partners in trying to create this utopia. This partnership with Lane caused the Alcotts to move to this farm, become vegetarians, become more restricted in the use of time, and be more stern in their family life. This utopian community affected Louisa by stirred her creativity when she took trips to the woods. There she wrote poems to her sisters and created games to play. Though it had its good points, Fruitlands was falling apart. Tension built
in their home, especially when Lane urged Bronson to leave his family to join a religious group called the Shakers. Bronson refused, and the Lane family left Fruitlands to join this religious community in Boston. At this point, Fruitlands had fallen apart, and the Alcotts moved to Still River and were left penniless. The only good thing that can out of Fruitlands was Louisa’s story about the whole experience called Transcendental Wild Oats. They moved once again to be closer to their friend Emerson who still helped them financially. At this point in time, Louisa’s writings had begun (Ruth, 27-41).
At the age of thirteen, Louisa was writing poems, plays, thrillers, and books. Writing was always natural to her, even at an early age. Since she was surrounded by famous writer friends, Louisa was always encouraged to write (Warrick, 25). She was mostly inspired by her home Hillside with its scenery and peacefulness. In this place, she also felt God in a strong way (Ruth, 45). As a philosopher, Bronson had his head in the clouds and made little money. Bronson tried to teach again, but the whole situation with Temple School was still fresh in parents’ minds (Ruth, 45). Louisa and her sisters did sewing, housework, and teaching to earn money for the family (Goodwin). At age fourteen, Louisa was determined to improve her writing skills so that she could earn money in her writings to support her family financially (Ruth, 53). Emerson hired Louisa to teach his three children when she was fifteen. While she was teaching Emerson’s children, she wrote her first book Flower Fables. This book was written to Ellen Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s daughter and Louisa’s favorite pupil (Ruth, 52-53). In 1848, the Alcotts moved to Boston where Louisa’s mother accepted a job as a social worker. At first, they lived in a cramped apartment but then moved to a stylish home which belonged to Louisa’s uncle. It was during this time that she and her sisters published a family paper "Olive Leaf" which contained stories, articles, and poems written by the sisters. Louisa wrote The
Inheritance, her first book, at age seventeen. In May, 1852, Louisa wrote "The Rival Painters" and sold it to the magazine Olive Branch for five dollars. This started her career in writing. When times became tough, Louisa went as far as selling her hair in order to support her family, an incident recorded in Little Women. In December of 1854, Louisa finally published Flower Fables which brought a fair amount of money to the family. She kept writing stories and poems for different magazines and saved her money for a later time. In 1855, Louisa decided to go out on her own and write for the Saturday Evening Gazette. In 1857, Louisa returned home to care for her sister Elizabeth. Some years back, Elizabeth caught scarlet fever and never fully recovered from it. Louisa and her family tried to nurse Elizabeth back to health; but unfortunately, Elizabeth died on March 14, 1858 (Ruth, 51-70). Elizabeth’s death helped Louisa to become a better writer by making Louisa write what she felt. Louisa wrote with such intensity that she could not stop once an idea hit her. Often, she would work fourteen hours a day and even forget to eat. Since her passion was so great, Louisa did not write any rough drafts or re-writes, only final drafts. She wrote under the pen name of A. M. Barnard. Her family was not even aware of her pen name. She used the name on her magazine stories that she called "rubbish." She had to keep writing in order to earn money for her family. Her father later got a job as the superintendent of education in Concord which made him happy to be in education again (Ruth, 71-72). She quit teaching and started working for the Atlantic Monthly (Merriman). Louisa now worked in both Boston and Concord. When the Civil War began, Louisa worked as a Union nurse during the war. During this time, she wrote Hospital Sketches which described her experience as an army nurse (Ruth, 78-80). Louisa ended her nursing career when she became gravely ill with typhoid pneumonia (Warrick, 60-64). After she recovered, Louisa finished writing an old novel Moods and published it in 1864. In 1865, she accomplished one of
her dreams by traveling to Europe with her friend Anna Weld (Shealy, 15). They went to England, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and France. Before Louisa returned home, she completed a British copy of Moods. After her trip, her publisher encouraged Louisa to write a book for girls. At this time, Louisa was working for Merry’s Museum, a children’s magazine. She did not like the publisher’s idea since she would rather write for boys. Despite her disliking the idea, she started to write a girl’s story. This was interrupted by her mother’s need for nursing. She moved back to Concord to take care of her mother. During this time period, Louisa figured out her idea for writing her girl’s book. She based her story on her life with her sisters. Louisa recorded their childhood stories and the characters of the March family in her book Little Women. Meg March represented her oldest sister Anna in her beauty, optimism, and longing for a more comfortable life. Elizabeth Alcott was portrayed by Beth March in her sweet nature and humility. May Alcott was characterized in Amy March in her artistic skills and lively spirit. She embellished her story to help her father look better. Louisa portrayed her mother as herself with the nick-name of Marmee. Louisa was very protective of her sisters, and it was even portrayed in the book. When Anna married, Louisa felt as though she was losing another sister. Anna’s marriage to John Pratt was even mentioned in the book when Meg met a young man and later married him. When Little Women was published, it became a tremendous success. Louisa wrote the story, and May drew the illustrations (Ruth, 89-97). Since her children’s writings were more successful than her adult ones, she kept writing books for girls and boys (Warrick, 72-80). In 1871, she published Little Men in honor of her two nephews, Anna’s sons. She wrote the book so that she could give the money to Anna since Anna’s husband John died. On November 25, 1877, Louisa’s mother died in Louisa’s arms (Warrick, 80). After her mother’s death, her father Bronson started the successful School of Philosophy (Ruth, 105). May and she visited Europe
together where May stayed to pursue her art career. While in Europe, May met and married a Swiss businessman named Ernest Nieriker and later had a daughter who she named Louisa May. She nicknamed her daughter Lulu. Unfortunately, May died of meningitis seven weeks after her daughter’s birth (Ruth, 110-112). May left Lulu to Louisa in her will (Warrick, 96). In 1882, her dear friend Ralph Waldo Emerson died. Louisa wrote and published Jo’s Boys in 1886. Her father passed away two years later in March from a stroke (Ruth, 114). Two days after her father’s death, Louisa May Alcott passed away on March 6, 1888, from pneumonia and other illnesses (Ruth, 115).
After Louisa had become a famous writer, she could chose her own themes for her books. Some of the themes in her book were women’s rights, education, and labor issues. For example, her book Work tackled rights for women and also reflected parts of her working life. The main theme in Little Men and Eight Cousins was educational reform. Silver Pitchers talked against alcoholic beverages (Ruth, 108-109). She wrote reform articles in the Woman’s Journal. In her spare time, Louisa coordinated meetings against alcohol and organized meetings for women’s suffrage. She also worked in orphanages and prisons. Louisa also helped finance the careers of women doctors (Ruth, 106-107).
Louisa never married because she wanted to be the supporter for her family. To Louisa, family was more important than money, fame, or friends. It was through this love for family that her famous Little Women was inspired. She left behind a story that would be known by the whole world and a writing style that would change children’s literature. That story has been made into movies and plays. Little Women also has been rewritten into over fifty languages (Ruth, 115-118). Louisa wrote twenty-seven books in her last eighteen years of life (Ruth, 107). Louisa was commemorated twice on United States’ stamps in 1940 and 1994. She was a
memorable writer that influenced the lives of many people across the United States and around the world. Her old home the Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts, was made into a museum where children could learn how to write like Louisa and paint like her sister May. Louisa is remembered by her ability to bring back childhood in her novels. To many, Louisa May Alcott was "The Children’s Friend"(Ruth, 115).