Hello readers! Welcome to the last article of the poetry column for the year. This time, I wanted to write a biography about an author whose books often take the spotlight over her little-known but equally fantastic poetry. The famous Louisa May Alcott is renowned for her most popular book, Little Women. She also wrote thrillers, romances, and a sequel to Little Women called Little Men.
Louisa May Alcott was born November 29, 1832 in Germantown, Pennsylvania. She was a very different girl than most, unable to sit still and just be quiet for long periods of time. She had three sisters: Anna, Elizabeth, and May. They would frequently play together in the woods near their house. Even at a young age, Louisa had a vivid imagination. Her sisters and herself would pretend to be horses or fairies outdoors. Louisa also loved to run when she was by herself. Many people looked down on her for this—women were supposed to show decorum and grace in the presence of others. A girl running or doing any hard, physical activity was unheard of in Louisa’s time, but she ignored every judging eye and continued with what she loved.
At the end of every day, Louisa Alcott would write in her diary. We still have some of her diary pages today, but Louisa burned and destroyed most of them for unknown reasons. In her diary she would quickly recount her day, and sometimes she would add in a poem she had written. The Alcotts did not believe in keeping their personal thoughts and diaries hidden from the rest of the family. They would read through each other’s journals and make encouraging notes or comment on something in the entry. Louisa found many of her mother’s notes to her inspiring and helpful. Her mother also wrote poetry, frequently to one of her four children. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Louisa would often author poetry and give it to someone she knew. She would even send them in letters to her family if they were away from one another. Louisa and her sisters were educated mainly at home, although her parents would send them to school as often as they could.
The Alcotts had many hardships. They moved twenty-nine times in the first twenty-eight years of Louisa’s life, they never had very much money, and they experienced frequent illness. But in this time of struggle, Louisa had her first writing break. Mr. Alcott found a short story Louisa had written for a friend, and he brought it to one of his own friends who was a publisher. His friend approved of it and had it printed. People enjoyed it, and her other stories were gathered into a small book called Flower Fables. Louisa was very excited but made fun of herself, calling her first published story “great rubbish.” But shortly afterwards, she moved to the city because she felt she would be able to write better in that environment. She was never happy with her works, but things finally started to go her way. She accepted any small job she could get for money, such as tutoring and sewing, but the majority of her time was spent writing. Her father took one of her stories to another one of his friends, an editor of a famous magazine, but the man told Mr. Alcott that Louisa would be better off with her teaching. Louisa declared that she would never quit writing and that she would even write for the editor’s own magazine, and she kept her word. One of her pieces was finally published in the magazine, but just as she started having better luck, the Civil War began. Louisa felt strongly opposed to slavery and wanted to help, so she worked in a hospital as a nurse. While she was there she wrote about what she saw and sent her observations as letters so that her family at home could experience exactly what she was seeing. While she was recovering from an illness at home, her letters about the war and hospital were published with the title Hospital Sketches. People had been craving any news of the hospitals, and they demanded more. Louisa agreed and more “Hospital Sketches” were published. Even though the public loved her, she still thought of herself as a failure.
She started writing Little Women, but the story initially received a lot of skepticism. Her newfound editor disliked the idea and thought that people wouldn’t want to read something of its style. However, once printed it was an immediate success, and even Louisa knew she had done a good job. She felt happy with her work, and suddenly she became very prosperous.
Louisa passed away at the age of 55 on March 6, 1888 from a steadily worsening illness. Her time in the hospital had weakened her immune system, but the exact cause of her suffering is still unknown.
Louisa May Alcott was a loving and caring individual, no matter what she said about herself. She was such a blessing to others, and her hardships shaped her into a better person and allowed her to help others on a higher level. Despite all of the criticism and ridicule she received at times, she continued on and never conformed to the person the world thought she should be. Her writing will continue to be passed down from generation to generation in honor of the young woman who never stopped persevering and chasing her dreams.
Graves, Kerry. The Girlhood Diary of Louisa May Alcott. Mankato: Capstone Press, 2001. Print.
Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House. “Home of Little Women.” http://www.louisamayalcott.org/index.htm
Meigs, Cornelia. Invincible Louisa. Canada: Little, Brown & Company, 1968. Print.
Search Engine Land. “Louisa May Alcott Google doodle marks 184th birthday of ‘Little Women’ author.” https://searchengineland.com/louisa-may-alcott-google-doodle-marks-184th-birthday-little-women-author-264221. Accessed April 21, 2019.