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Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, on November 29, 1832. 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. Like her character Jo March from Little Women, young Louisa was a tomboy.

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. At age fifteen, troubled by the poverty that plagued her family, she vowed to make something of herself. Confronting a society that offered little opportunity to women seeking employment, Louisa remained determined; 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 twenty-two, her first book, Flower Fables, was published. Another milestone along her literary path was Hospital Sketches, which was based on the letters she had written home from her post as a nurse in Washington, D.C., during the Civil War.

When Louisa was thirty-five, her publisher asked her to write a book for girls. Thus, she wrote Little Women, which 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 that was then prevalent in children's fiction.

In all, Louisa published over thirty books and collections of stories. She died on March 6, 1888, only two days after her father.

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