Today's Woman of the Day ♥ ♥ is Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832-March 6, 1888) she was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania (which is now a part of Philadelphia) on November 29, 1832, her fathers 33rd Birthday. She and her three sisters, Anna, Elizabeth, and May, were educated by their father, philosopher/ teacher Bronson Alcott, and raised on the practical Christianity of their mother, Abigail May.
Louisa spent her childhood in Boston and in Concord, Massachusetts, where her days were enlightened by visits to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s library, excursions into nature with Henry David Thoreau, and theatricals in the barn at "Hillside" (now Hawthorne’s "Wayside").
Like her character, "Jo March" in Little Women, young Louisa was a tomboy. "No boy could be my friend till I had beaten him in a race," she claimed, "and no girl if she refused to climb trees, leap fences ..."
For Louisa, writing was an early passion. She had a rich imagination and often her stories became melodramas that she and her sisters would act out for friends. Louisa preferred to play the "lurid" parts in these plays --"the villains, ghosts, bandits, and disdainful queens."
At age 15, troubled by the poverty that plagued her family, she vowed: "I will do something by and by. Don’t care what, teach, sew, act, write, anything to help the family; and I’ll be rich and famous and happy before I die, see if I won’t!"
Confronting a society that offered little opportunity to women seeking employment, Louisa determined, "... I will make a battering-ram of my head and make my way through this rough and tumble world." Whether as a teacher, seamstress, governess, or household servant, for many years Louisa did any work she could find.
Louisa’s career as an author began with poetry and short stories that appeared in popular magazines. In 1854, when she was 22, her first book Flower Fables was published. A milestone along her literary path was Hospital Sketches (1863), based on the letters she had written home from her post as a nurse in Washington, DC during the Civil War.
As an adult, Alcott was an abolitionist and a feminist. In 1847, the family housed a fugitive slave for one week. In 1848, Alcott read and admired the "Declaration of Sentiments" published by the Seneca Falls Convention on women's rights. Alcott, along with Elizabeth Stoddard, Rebecca Harding Davis, Anne Moncure Crane, and others, were part of a group of female authors during the Gilded Age who addressed women’s issues in a modern and candid manner. Their works were, as one newspaper columnist of the period commented, "among the decided 'signs of the times'"
When Louisa was 35 years old, her publisher in Boston, Thomas Niles, asked her to write "a book for girls." Little Women was written at Orchard House from May to July 1868. The novel is based on Louisa and her sisters’ coming of age and is set in Civil War New England. "Jo March" was the first American juvenile heroine to act from her own individuality --a living, breathing person rather than the idealized stereotype then prevalent in children’s fiction.
In her later life, Alcott became an advocate for women's suffrage and was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Massachusetts, in a school board election.
In all, Louisa published over 30 books and collections of stories. During her stint as a Civil War nurse in 1862, Alcott had contracted typhoid fever. The popular treatment for fever at the time was quinine and calomel, or mercury chloride, a mineral that cured the disease but eventually killed the patient. She died on March 6, 1888 at age 55, only two days after her father, Her last words were "Is it not meningitis? She is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord.
My book came out; and people began to think that topsy-turvy Louisa would amount to something after all ...
-Louisa May Alcott, 1855
AWU post and comments at http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2296514338331&set=o.343338393054&type=1