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Louisa May Alcott was a sentimentalist and social reformer

Posted in America, English Literature, Historical articles, History, Literature on Friday, 28 June 2013

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This edited article about Louisa May Alcott originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 307 published on 2 December 1967.

Little Women, picture, image, illustration

A scene from 'Little Women' by John Keay

Ever since it was first published 99 years ago, Louisa May Alcott’s book Little Women has been a firm favourite with children throughout the world. No doubt one of the reasons for its success was the fact that it was based on the writer’s own experience of growing up with her family in New England, U.S.A.

Born on 29th November, 1832, at Germantown, Pennsylvania, Louisa had little formal education. Her father, Amos Bronson Alcott, taught her himself. The family had little money and as Louisa grew up, it became necessary for her to work as a teacher for several years. While she was helping her family in this way, she dreamed of becoming a writer, and in 1855 her first book, Flower Fables, was published. It did not receive much attention.

When the American Civil War broke out, Louisa became a Union Army nurse. When her shift was over in the wards, she worked on a series of articles called Hospital Sketches. These were read with great interest by a large public for the material was very topical. But it was in 1868 that Louisa May Alcott’s name became really famous. It followed the publication of Little Women which was hailed by the critics for its ‘charm and naturalness’.

As well as continuing her literary career (her other best-known books include Little Man, Good Wives and Jo’s Boys), Louisa devoted her life to social reform and the movement for women’s suffrage. She died on the 6th March, 1888, at Boston.

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