Monday, March 16, 2009


In part four of this "mini" series of remembering Louisa May Alcott I am going to share with you a little bit about of Louisa's childhood and how she grew up.

Most of her childhood was spent in Concord Massachusetts, where her days were enlightned by visits to Ralph Waldo Emerson's library, excursions into nature with Henry David Thoreau and theatricals in the barn at Hillside. Like her character Jo March in Little Women, young Louisa was a tomboy: "No boy could be my friend till I beat 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 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 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 a 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.

What most people know about Louisa May ALcott is only that after some success at writing short stories and well-received novels, she wrote Little Women. It quickly became one of the most beloved books of its time in the late 19th century, was celebrated around the world and is still read today. Louisa's writing came out of necessity to help feed her family.

Louisa was a strong-minded woman who was ahead of her time and far more complex than the portrait of the dainty lady that others remember. Most people don't realize that Louisa was such a prolific writer, often turning out pulp fiction thrillers with plots that included the use of hashish and smoking opium, things that no proper Victorian young lady was suppose to know about. But knew them, she did from a stint at a Washington hospital during the Civil War where desperately injured soldiers underwent amputations without the benefit of ether. "Go nurse the soldiers", had her neighbor said when Louisa had stated "I want something to do."In 1862-1863 Louisa served at the Union Hospital in Georgetown, D.C. during which time she contracted typhoid and was sent home. Louisa was treated with large doses of calomel, a mercury compound and never completely recovered from the cure.

Hope you enjoyed! Erin

1 comment:

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