A prolific author of books for American girls, Louisa May Alcott is best remembered for Little Women, one of the 270 published works by the Pennsylvania-born woman. This endearing novel captured forever the period’s ideals and values of middle class domestic life. The book has appeared continuously in print since its first serial publication in 1868-70.
The popular novel drew largely upon her personal experiences. The second of four daughters, Alcott began her writing to support her perpetually impoverished family. Her strong and loving mother was a significant force in her life. “I think she is a very brave, good woman,” Alcott wrote of her mother. “And my dream is to have a lovely, quiet home for her, with no debts or troubles to burden her.”
Beginning with the publication of the poem Sunlight under a pseudonym in 1851, Alcott poured forth a variety of thrillers, poems, potboilers and an occasional juvenile tale. In 1867, she became editor of a children’s magazine, Merry’s Museum. At the urging of her publisher there, Alcott undertook the writing of Little Women. The novel, like her other works, was formed largely in her mind before she took pen to paper. The entire novel was written in two six-weeks periods.
In 1879, Alcott was the first woman to register in Concord when Massachusetts gave women school, tax and bond suffrage. Eventually she persuaded her publisher to publish Harriett Hanson Robinson’s Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement in 1881. In her final novel, Jo’s Boys (1886), Alcott made arguments for women’s rights and other reforms. She said, “I can remember when anti-slavery was in just the same state that suffrage is now, and take more pride in the very small help we Alcotts could give than in all the books I ever wrote…”