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Famous Authors Born This Month: Louisa May Alcott

Written by Margaret Andracchi
Reference Librarian, Will Library
Waiting for the next book of one of my favorite series, The Lady Sherlock, to arrive in the mail

Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, was born on November 29, 1832. She was one of four daughters (mirroring her famed book characters) and grew up in Massachusetts under the guidance of her beloved father and mother. Alcott’s influence and popularity in the world has not lessened since the 189 years of her most celebrated book’s publication, and probably never will.  

Originally released as a serial in the 1860s, the popularity of Alcott’s Little Women’s spiked so quickly that it was swiftly published into two book volumes, the first one in 1868. The full length novel we know and love today (and you can of course borrow from your local library) finally came together in 1880. The heartwarming story is greatly influenced by experiences in Alcott’s own life, largely those involving her family. Like the famous March sisters, Alcott held special bonds with her siblings, pursued to be a writer like Jo, deeply loved her parents, and advocated for Women’s Rights and other progressive reforms. Needing to provide for her family during difficult times (which was unfortunately very often), she even served as both a teacher and nurse during the Civil War before realizing her true calling as a writer.

For die hard fans out there, in Concord, Massachusetts you can actually visit the place where Alcott lived as well as used as the setting for Little Women. It is open year round for visits, both in person and even virtually! It’s an immersive experience that helps visitors understand the way of life back in the 1800s as well as how Aclott and her writing were personally influenced by her surroundings. To find more information about visiting this memorable home, check out the website, louisamayalcott.org, where you can also learn about more exciting events and programs related to Louisa May Alcott. 

 Alcott also wrote two popular sequels to Little Women: Little Men: Life at Plumfield with Jo’s Boys (1871) and Jo’s Boys and How They Turned Out (1886). Among her other works are An Old-Fashioned Girl, two collections of thrillers titled Behind a Mask and Plots and Counterplots, the children’s novel Under the Lilacs, and a collection of feminist writings in Louisa May Alcott : Work ; Eight cousins; Rose in bloom; Stories and other writings.

Oddly, and sadly, Aclott herself never received any awards for her writing. But her fame and legacy, still very much alive in today’s day and age, surely compensate for it. Little Women has sprung numerous adaptations from television, to movies, Broadway, and even the Opera. Famous names have stepped into the shoes of the March girls over the years, such as Katherine Hepburn in 1933, Elizabeth Taylor and Janet Leigh in 1944, Winona Ryder and Kirsten Dunst in 1994, and most recently Saorise Ronan, Emma Watson, and Florence Pugh in 2019. Collectively, the film adaptations have received over 10 Academy Award nominations. 

That’s not even to mention the flood of book retellings that continue to spring from Alcott’s original story! Well, maybe to mention just a few (how can I not?),there is Virginia Kantra’s modern day March Sisters series which begins with Meg and Jo (2019), Margaret Sohl and Melissa de La Cruz’s redo of Laurie possibly getting the girl in Jo & Laurie (2020), and Bethany C. Marrow’s So Many Beginnings: A Little Women’s Remix (2021) which reimagines the sisters as POCs during the Civil War. It seems people can’t get enough of the March family and their charming neighbor Laurie almost 200 years later. 

What better way to celebrate Louisa May Alcott’s birthday than by taking an afternoon to read or watch any of her works, adaptations, or retellings? You can find many of the titles mentioned in this post to read and watch on Overdrive, Libby, and Hoopla as well as clicking on them below to see what library you can borrow them from. And don’t forget to wish this beloved author a Happy Birthday on November 29th!

“I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.” Louisa May Alcott, Little Women