A Tribute to Womanhood

Welcome to "I Am Woman"...a tribute to all those women who had the courage and perseverance to stand up and fight for their rights. Thanks to those who came before us we enjoy a freedom unknown to women not too long ago. But, sadly, in many parts of the world, women continue to be repressed. In fact, even in this country there are women living today under the threat of violence...completely controlled by a violent spouse. Some may make it; others won't. Hopefully, one day ALL women will be free. May that day come soon.

7/20/2010

Louisa May Alcott


"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sale my ship."--Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott was born November 29, 1832 in Germantown, Pennsylvania.  She was the second of three daughters.  Louisa and her sisters were educated by their father, Bronson Alcott who was a philosopher and a teacher.  At an early age, the family moved to Boston so her father could pursue a teaching career.  A close family friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, helped the family set up residence.  Young Louisa loved the atmosphere and spent her days with visits to Emerson's library or walks in nature with Henry David Thoreau. 

Writing was an early passion for Louisa; she had a rich imagination and took great pride in the stories that she wrote.  It was almost as if her writing was means of escape.  Her father's non-traditional teaching methods had been a failure, and by 15, she began to feel more and more responsible for the families financial needs, taking on as many jobs as she could find...such as reading for an elderly father and his invalid sister.  She took teaching jobs and mended and washed laundry to help the family.  Then, in 1852, her first poem "Sunlight" was published.

Then, in 1854, when she was only 22, her first book "Flower Fables" was published.  At this point, her family had moved to New Hampshire, but Louisa stayed in Boston to further her literary career, but then tragedy struck the Alcott family.  Louisa's younger sister, Lizzie, contracted scarlet fever, and the family moved back to Massachusetts.  Lizzie recovered the first time the illness struck, but when it returned a few months later, she passed away.  

When the Civil War broke out, Louisa headed to Washington, DC to serve as a Civil War nurse, and there, like many other nurses, she contracted typhoid fever, and although she would recover, she would continue to suffer the poisoning effects of mercury...which was used in the form of a drug, calomel, which was used to cure typhoid.  It was during her stay in Washington that she wrote "Hospital Sketches", an account of her Civil War experiences that confirmed her desire to be a serious writer.  

Louisa was 35 years old when her publisher asked her to write a book for girls.  She wrote for two and a half months and produced "Little Women" (one of my all-time faves) based on her own experiences. In this book, her family was represented by the "March" family with the character of "Jo" representing her. The novel, which was published on September 30, 1869 was an instant success.  Louisa would go on to continue the story with two later books..."Little Men" in 1871 and Jo's Boys in which she made arguments for women's rights and other reforms in 1886.

During this time, Louisa also became active in the women's suffrage movement and canvassed door to door trying to encourage women to register to vote.  In 1879, Louisa became the first woman in Concord to register to vote in the village's school election.  

In 1877, tragedy struck again when Louisa's mother passed away.  Then, in 1879, her sister, May died from complications of childbirth, and her dying wish was for Louisa to care for her daughter...her namesake, Louisa May Nieriker.  The infant brought much joy and contentment into her life, and Louisa moved what was left of her family into an elegant home in Boston.  She continued to write as best she could, but the mercury poisoning was beginning to take its toll.  Then, early in 1888, her father's health failed and he died in March.  Two days later, at the age of 56, Louisa May Alcott died in Boston.  She is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. 

Louisa had never found much personal happiness in her life and she never seemed bitter about the struggles of her early years. She left behind a legacy in wonderful books that will continue to be admired and cherished for generations to come.



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