Louisa May Alcott wrote almost 300 books, stories, and poems, but she is best known for the novel Little Women. This children’s classic is about four teenage sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March—and their family life in a New England village during the time of the American Civil War. Alcott herself was one of four sisters, and the story is largely based on her own life.
The Alcott family moved to Concord, Massachusetts, when Louisa May Alcott was eight years old. Her father, Bronson Alcott, was a teacher, but he had problems supporting his family. Among his friends were two great writers, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. They helped Alcott develop her writing ability. She started writing when she was 19, to earn money for the family.
Alcott’s first book, Flower Fables, was published in 1854. But her first success came in 1863 with Hospital Sketches, which was based on her experiences as a nurse during the Civil War. Little Women, published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, was an immediate success. Her publisher originally decided not to publish Little Women, but his children read the manuscript, loved it, and talked him into it. She later wrote several sequels about the March family, including Little Men and Jo’s Boys.