Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is one of those books that every child knows. The antics of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy stay with us long after we reach adulthood. It reminds us that a good life has its hardships, even in fiction. The resilience of the March sisters gives us hope that we can survive our trials.
This book has been made into movies and continues to inspire readers. Its characters live on as readers pass it down to their children. What do we know about the author, though?
Alcott was a unique woman for her time. A defender of women’s rights and fiercely independent, her life can inspire us as much as her book has done. Here are five amazing facts about Louisa May Alcott.
1- She Turned Down A Marriage
Mr. Condit was a prosperous manufacturer of silk hats. He proposed to Louisa in 1860. Her family was in a hard place financially, making it difficult to refuse, but she did not love him.
What was more, she feared that her career as a writer would vanish if she took a husband. In the end, she chose her writing over a loveless union.
2- She Was A Civil War Nurse
In 1861, the Civil War hit. Alcott was not the sort of woman to be idle in dire times. First, she volunteered to sew uniforms for the soldiers. Itching to become more involved, she became a nurse, going straight into the chaos.
Alcott saw horrible things while tending to wounded soldiers. In a Washington D.C. tent-hospital, she comforted wounded men as they died. These events left profound scars from which she found solace in writing.
Alcott recorded her experiences in journals and letters to family. She published Hospital Sketches in 1863. It is a fictionalized account based on her letters. The book became massively popular and was reprinted with more material.
3- She Didn’t Want To Write Little Women
Alcott wrote her most famous book, Little Women, after much resistance.
Her father was asked by an editor at a publishing house if she would write a novel for little girls. Louisa was not keen on the idea of writing for children. She refused and a year passed.
When her father was trying to publish his own book on philosophy, the editor once more requested a book for little girls. He would publish the philosophy book if Louisa agreed.
Giving in, she used her childhood with her sisters as a topic for the book. The first part of Little Women was published in 1868. It became a huge success—perhaps to her chagrin–and she went on to write the sequels, Jo’s Boys and Little Men.
4- She Adopted Her Niece
Alcott never had children, but was able to experience motherhood at the age of forty-seven. In 1879, her sister May died after giving birth to a daughter. On her deathbed, May told her husband that she wanted the child to go to Louisa.
He honored his wife’s last wish and trusted the baby to Alcott. She was named Louisa after her aunt and nicknamed LuLu. Alcott raised the girl during the final years of her own life.
Alcott died of a stroke when LuLu was 8 years old, and LuLu was sent back to Switzerland with her father. Though they were together for a short time, Lulu carried fond memories of her aunt Louisa.
5- She Was A Suffragette
Alcott advocated for women’s rights when the movement was in its infancy. She wrote for a women’s periodical in the 1870s and went door-to-door, encouraging women in Massachusetts to vote.
In 1869, the state passed a law that would allow women to vote on any issue involving education and children. Alcott registered and became the first woman in Concord to vote.
She and nineteen other women voted that year, initiating a great change. Alcott was passionate about making sure that women’s voices were heard. The Nineteenth Amendment was cast in 1890—decades after Alcott’s death.
Louisa May Alcott was a devoted writer. Though she is best known for Little Women, her collection of complete works is staggering. More attention should be given to this impressive and fearless woman.
Behind every great story is a greater story; in the case of Little Women, it is the writer’s life. She valued her independence, worked to support her family, and fought for the woman’s vote.
We miss out on a great deal when we don’t look at an author’s background. Timeless stories don’t come out of the blue; there is always a fascinating chain of events forming the foundation of a classic.