Born in Germantown, Pennsylvania; 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 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. 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.
See her letters and journal, ed. by E. D. Cheney (1889, repr. 1966); Selected Letters of Louisa May Alcott, ed. by Joel Myerson and others (1987), Journals of Louisa May Alcott, ed. by Joel Myerson and others (1989); biographies by K. S. Anthony (1938, repr. 1977) and Sarah Elbert (1984); studies by R. L. MacDonald (1983) and C. Strickland (1985).