Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott, 1832–88, American author, b. Germantown, Pa.; daughter of Bronson Alcott. Mostly educated by her father, she was a friend of Emerson and Thoreau, and her first book, Flower Fables (1854), was a collection of tales originally created to amuse Emerson's daughter. Alcott was determined to contribute to the small family income and worked as a servant and a seamstress before she made her fortune as a writer. Her letters written to her family when she was a Civil War nurse were published as Hospital Sketches (1863); her first published novel, Moods, followed in 1864. She first achieved wide fame and wealth with Little Women (1868), one of the most popular children's books ever written. The novel, which recounts the adolescent adventures of the four March sisters, is largely autobiographical, the author herself being represented by the spirited Jo March. Good Wives (1869), Little Men (1871), and Jo's Boys (1886) are sequels.

Alcott's other novels for young readers include An Old-Fashioned Girl (1870), Eight Cousins (1875), and Under the Lilacs (1879). They all picture family life in Victorian America with warmth and perception. She also wrote novels for adults, including Work (1873), which is grounded in Alcott's experiences as a breadwinner for her family, and the unfinished Diana and Persis, an examination of the relationship between two women artists. Another adult volume, the novel A Long Fatal Love Chase (1866), which was originally rejected by her publisher as too sensational, was discovered in manuscript in the early 1990s and finally published in 1995. In 1996 yet another manuscript was unearthed; it contained Alcott's very first novel, written for young people, entitled The Inheritance and composed in 1849 when the author was 18.


See her letters and journal, ed. by E. D. Cheney (1889, repr. 1966); Journals of Louisa May Alcott, ed. by J. Myerson et al. (1989); Selected Letters of Louisa May Alcott, ed. by J. Myerson et al. (1987); biographies by K. S. Anthony (1938, repr. 1977) and S. Elbert (1984); dual biography of Bronson and Louisa May Alcott by J. Matteson (2009); E. LaPlante, Marmee & Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother (2012); studies by R. L. MacDonald (1983) and C. Strickland (1985).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Louisa May Alcott: Selected full-text books and articles

The Louisa May Alcott Encyclopedia By Gregory Eiselein; Anne K. Phillips Greenwood Press, 2001
Little Women By Louisa May Alcott; Valerie Alderson Oxford University Press, 1998
FREE! Little Men By Louisa May Alcott Grosset & Dunlap, 1913
FREE! Jo's Boys and How They Turned Out: A Sequel to "Little Men" By Louisa M. Alcott Little, Brown, and Company, 1906
FREE! Good Wives By Louisa M. Alcott Henry Frowde, 1908
FREE! Flower Fables By Louisa May Alcott Core Collection Books, 1898
Reading the American Novel 1865-1914 By G. R. Thompson Wiley-Blackwell, 2012
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "Domestic Feminism: The Problematic Louisa May Alcott"
Freaks of Genius: Unknown Thrillers of Louisa May Alcott By Louisa May Alcott; Madeleine B. Stern; Joel Myerson; Daniel Shealy Greenwood Press, 1991
Aesthetics and Gender in American Literature: Portraits of the Woman Artist By Deborah Barker Bucknell University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Louisa May Alcott's Women Artists: 'Proving Avis in the Wrong'"
Racial Sacrifice and Citizenship: The Construction of Masculinity in Louisa May Alcott's 'The Brothers.' By Patterson, Mark Studies in American Fiction, Vol. 25, No. 2, Autumn 1997
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Unruly Tongue: Identity and Voice in American Women's Writing, 1850-1930 By Martha J. Cutter University Press of Mississippi, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "American Women's Fiction, 1850-1880: Domestic Discourses in the Writings of Fanny Fern, Louisa May Alcott, and Harriet Wilson"
Refiguring the Father: New Feminist Readings of Patriarchy By Patricia Yaeger; Beth Kowaleski-Wallace Southern Illinois University Press, 1989
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 13 "Where the Absent Father Went: Alcott's Work"
The Political Work of Northern Women Writers and the Civil War, 1850-1872 By Lyde Cullen Sizer University of North Carolina Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "New England Daughters: Introducing Hamilton, Alcott, and Phelps" begins on p. 43, and "The 'Coming Woman': Alcott and the Woman Question" begins on p. 254
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