Wednesday, November 25, 2009

by Harriet Reisen

Although depicted as Jo March in Little Women, Louisa May Alcott was so much more than her alter ego. Louisa's life encompassed deprivation, poor health, tragedy, independence and, eventually, success. (Her book sales would surpass prominent authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was a good friend of the family.)
She and her three sisters were the daughters of Bronson and Abigail. The family moved thirty times due to Bronson's incapacity to have a steady job. He was a transcendentalist, with utopian dreams, which always fell short. For a while, he taught, until the parents took their children out of the schools due to his radical thinking.
Alcott had a tumultuous childhood. She was known as a tomboy and was quite boisterous with one hell of a temper. Always the ringleader amongst her siblings and the neighborhood children, she would relish being the center of attention.
Later, when she took up writing, she would harness these experiences in some of her stories.
Harriet Reisen has done a marvelous job of sifting through Alcott's journals, letters, and recollections with family and friends to reveal quite a portrait of a fascinating character.
Here are some less known facts about her: she was a Civil War nurse, an abolitionist, and a feminist, who,
secretly, wrote pulp fiction using a pseudonym, A. M. Barnard.
An absorbing account of an extraordinary woman.