Louisa May Alcott, still most famous as the author of Little Women ( 1868- 1869), was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, on November 29, 1832. Her father, Amos Bronson Alcott, was an idealistic, reform-minded educator and philosopher; he was not, however, a reliable source of economic support for the family. Louisa's mother, Abigail (Abba) May Alcott, was a strong and caring woman, a supportive and practical mother, from a prominent family of New England social reformers. Louisa was the second of the Alcotts' four daughters, and these four girls, Anna, Louisa, Elizabeth, and May, would become the Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy of Little Women.
In September 1834, the Alcotts moved to Boston, where Bronson opened his innovative Temple School. Following the failure of the school, the family moved to Concord, Massachusetts, in March 1840. In Concord, Bronson was closer to his friends, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, than to his family. They seemed to respect and sympathize with the odd but enthusiastic educator. Louisa herself became a frequent visitor to the Emersons' home and an admiring, perhaps infatuated, student of Thoreau's. Louisa's foremost instructor was always her father, however, whose most resolute lessons concerned self-denial and self-control.
Out of work and depressed, Bronson traveled to England in 1842 (with monetary help from Emerson) to meet a group of English reformers impressed with his educational theories. Bronson returned with plans to establish a utopian community that would live by certain reformist principles: the "Consociate Family," communal work, vegetarianism, and other asceticisms--"high talk and low diet," as an early biographer put it ( Moulton35). Their utopia in Harvard,