Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888)

  • Born in Germantown, Pennsylvania

  • Parents:

    • Father: Amos Bronson Alcott​

      • Transcendentalist​

        • Inherent goodness in people and in nature.

        • Societal institutions corrupt the individual

        • People are at their best when independent

      • Educator - Opened experimental school in Boston​

    • Mother:  Abigail "Abby May" Alcott​

      • One of the first professional social workers in ​Massachusetts

      • Suffragette and temperance advocate

      • Came from a prominent New England family

  • Moved first to Boston, then to a planned utopia called Fruitlands, then finally to Concor​​d

  • Three sisters:

    • Older sister Anna Bronson Alcott (Meg)​

    • Elizabeth Sewell "Lizzie" Alcott (Beth)

    • Abigail May Alcott (Amy)

  • Early education came in part from father's friends Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathan​iel Hawthorne

  • Family was poor - Louisa took jobs as a teacher, seamstress, governess, maid, and writer

Abigail "Abby May" Alcott (October 8, 1800 – November 25, 1877)

"Marmee"

  • Born in Boston to a prominent New England family

  • Educated primarily by a tutor in Duxbury, Massachusetts

  • Abigail was an active suffragette and supported the temperance movement

  • She and her husband served as stationmasters on the Underground Railroad

  • Louisa said her mother "always did what came to her in the way of duty and charity, and let pride, taste, and comfort suffer for love’s sake".

Anna Bronson Alcott (March 16, 1831 – July 17, 1893)

"Meg"

  • Oldest Alcott sister, also born in Germantown

  • Homeschooled by her parents and she was an excellent student.

  • Remembered as "dutiful, self-sacrificing, and loving"

  • Fit the mold of a "Victorian woman" more readily than her sisters.

  • Anna had the "theatre bug" and dreamed of being a stage actress

  • She and Louisa helped form the Concord Dramatic Union in 1858.  ​​

    • Performances of plays were undertaken for the benefit of charitable organizations

    • Often benefitted interests relating to abolition and child welfare

    • The company remained in existence into the 20th Century; re-named "The Concord Players."

  • Anna met her husband, John Bridge Pratt, while the two worked with the Concord Dramatic Union

  • Anna and John gave birth to twins and later lived in the Thoreau house in Concord.

Elizabeth Sewell Alcott (June 24, 1835 – March 14, 1858)

"Beth"

  • According to Alcott, Elizabeth "seemed to live in a happy world of her own, only venturing out to meet the few whom she trusted."

  • Contracted scarlet fever in 1856 while working with a poor German family

  • She recovered from the illness but never regained her full strength.

  • She continued to deteriorate and by February 1858 was refusing medication.

  • She died a few months short of her 22nd birthday.

  • During her illness she told her father "I can be best spared of the four."

Abigail May Alcott (July 26, 1840 – December 29, 1879)

"Amy"

  • Youngest of the four Alcott sisters.

  • May shared her sister Louisa's artistic talent, but with painting and drawing.

  • Began her studies learning to be a teacher in 1859

  • Taught at the first kindergarten in Peabody for a month, then taught an early version of Art Therapy

  • Her sister's success with Little Women funded her studies abroad in Europe

    • Studied in Paris, where she exhibited​

    • Further trips saw her study in London and Rome

    • In 1877, her still life was the only painting by an American woman exhibited at the Paris Salon

  • Married Ernest Nieriker, a Swiss tobacco merchant, in London in 1878, a man 16 years her junior.​

  • She gave birth to a daughter, Luisa May "Lulu" Nieriker, in 1879; May died just two months later.

  • Her sister took care of Lulu while Ernest traveled, when Louisa May passed away in 1888 Ernest and the child moved to Zurich where she spent the rest of her life. 

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