Little Women and Feminism

Published: 2021-06-29 06:45:40
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Category: Social Issues

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Louisa May Alcott, author of "Little Women", was the second daughter born to Abigail May Alcott and Amos Bronson Alcott. She had an older sister named Anna and eventually two younger sisters named Elizabeth and Abigail May (called May by her family). Louisa was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania on November 29th, 1832. When Louisa was just two years old, the family moved to Boston, Massachusetts where her father, a teacher, opened the Temple School. After only five short years, the Temple School closed and the family moved several times in an effort to make a living. They eventually settled in Concord, Massachusetts.
Louisa was home schooled by her father and developed "a love of learning as well as a strong sense of self" (Aronson 1). Friends of the family, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, helped tutor Louisa and let her use their libraries. Besides developing a love for reading and writing, she loved to "climb trees, explore the woods and had no interest in girlish things" (Aronson 1). Around 1845, Louisa started writing poetry, fairy tales, plays and short stories. Life was very difficult for the Alcotts and money was in short supply because Louisa's father didn't work according to Aronson (1). In 1847, at the age of 15, Louisa tutored Ralph Waldo Emerson's children. After tutoring, working as a servant and a seamstress, "Louisa published a family newspaper called The Olive Leaf in 1849" (Little 1). Louisa realized that her father would not provide for the family and felt responsible for their wellbeing. According to Aronson (2), Louisa's life was set and she decided not to marry or have children. She wanted to focus on her career as a writer to earn money to support herself and her family. Although she published her first poem, Sunlight in 1851, she wasn't paid for any of her works until 1854. In 1858¸ her sister Elizabeth died. By 1860, Louisa earned a steady income from writing and she was able to help her family pay the bills. Louisa was now paid for what she called "Blood and Thunder Tales" (Rompalske 1), but was a bit embarrassed by them because they were vulgar and
violent, so she used pen names such as A.M. Barnard and Flora Fairfield.
In 1861, the Civil War began. Being the independent person that she was, she went to Washington, D.C. to volunteer as a nurse. While working as a nurse, she wrote about what she observed. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the publications in 1863 of her letters in a book called Hospital Sketches brought her the first taste of fame. Louisa's time as a nurse did not last long because she contracted Typhoid and was sent home. Louisa continued her writing and published her third book Moods in 1864. In 1867, she became the editor of a children's magazine called "Merry's Museum" and was asked by a Boston publisher to write a book for girls. With encouragement from her father to "base the story on her own family" (Rompalske 1), Louisa started writing Little Women. It was an immediate success. The book emphasized strong moral values, the importance of family and shared social responsibilities. Little Women was so much of a success; Alcott no longer needed to worry about money or how to pay the bills. Neither she nor her family would ever struggle for money again. Her popularity allowed her "to demand a high salary" (Aronson 2) for all of her future writings. Although she wrote in other styles, the success of Little Women "stereotyped her as a children's writer which became her main source of income" (Aronson 2).

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