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Chapter 3 - Invincible Louisa


Louisa May Alcott has gotten a lot of press lately with the release of the movie Little Women in December. While this was one of my favorite stories growing up, the story of Louisa and her family is even more remarkable. In addition, I recently visited Orchard House the home of the Alcotts in Concord, Massachusetts which just fueled more fire to write about her.

Louisa was born to Bronson and Abigail Alcott in 1832. Her parents were part of a group known as Transcendentalists and consisted of people like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau. Her father served as a teacher and lecturist but did not believe in charging for his services so the family was often impoverished. Any money they received came from Abigail's family and was doled out by her brother who managed her inheritance.

Louisa knew at an early age that she would have to provide for the family. She started writing lurid short stories which brought in some money but she hit the big time with the first volume of Little Women which ended with Meg's marriage. Because Louisa's audience wanted the "rest of the story", she wrote the second volume which concludes with Jo meeting up with Professor Bhaer. Most incredible of all, Louisa became the highest paid author of her generation.

Here are Louisa's books I recommend and some about her and her family.

Little Women - It is all well and good to see the movies but you miss so much of the richness of her writing if you don't read the book. This is one I reread from time to time.

Eight Cousins - Another one of my favorites, Rose's parents have died and she goes to live with one of her uncles and is introduced early on to all her boy cousins. Being a relatively sheltered girl she has no idea what is in store for her.

An Old Fashioned Girl - Many of Alcott's stories include the fashionable young women meeting up with a more wholesome girls and this is no different. Polly Milton, a country girl, visits her big city friend Fannie Shaw and sees that the grass is not always greener for the rich. As they grow, the women stay friends and the Shaw family becomes richer for knowing Polly even as their fortunes tumble.

Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs - This is a pretty authentic account of the life of Louisa and the Alcott family. While it was written as a children's book, it has the unique advantage of giving great descriptions as well as accuracy.

Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux - This nonfiction book was published in 2018, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Little Women's publication. Rioux takes us through the history, legacy and influence of the original book.

The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper - This often overlooked novel tells about May Alcott (the model for Amy) who was a celebrated artist of her own time. She didn't like the fact that Little Women portrayed her as a conceited child as she was not only was a well respected copyist but also had gallery exhibits in Paris during her short lifetime.

If you get a chance I recommend a visit to Orchard House in Concord and, by the way, do see the new movie which may be my favorite yet!

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