The acclaimed author and poet most
well-known for her novel Little Women,
Louisa May Alcott, was born on this day in 1832. Although Louisa never
explicitly stated her sexuality, there has long been scholarship speculating on
her being a lesbian.
A 1865 head shot of author Louisa May Alcott (x).
Louisa May Alcott was born on
November 29, 1832 in Germantown, Pennsylvania and was the second of 4
daughters. Her mother, Abby May, worked as a social worker and her father Amos
Alcott, was an educator and a staunch transcendentalist. The family moved to
Boston in 1834 so that Amos could join the Transcendentalist Club and be among
the likes of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Financial
difficulties would force the family to move once more to Concord, Massachusetts
in 1840. It was there where Louisa left school and began working as a
seamstress and a governess in order to help support the family, as well as
where the Alcotts opened up their home as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
At the outbreak of the American
Civil War, Louisa served as a nurse in a Union Hospital in Georgetown. This
resulted in her first taste of literary success with Hospital Sketches, a collection of the letters she wrote home
during her time as a nurse that was eventually published in Commonwealth, an abolitionist newspaper
based in Boston. For many years after, she became a popular pulp novelist under
the pen name A.M. Barnard. Her legacy was made in 1868 when the first part of
the Little Women series was published. Good Wives, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys would eventually follow, cementing
the “March Family Saga.”
An original cover spread of Little Women as it was published in 1868 (x).
The lesbian-coding of the
character Jo from Little Women and its subsequent series has often been a piece
of evidence scholars point to in arguing Louisa’s own lesbianism. Beyond that,
though, she also never married and was once quoted as
saying, “I am more than half-persuaded that I am a man’s soul put by some freak
of nature into a woman’s body…because I have fallen in love with so many
pretty girls and never once the least bit with any man.” She also proudly proclaimed
herself as living a life of “spinsterhood.” In her later years, Louisa took in
her sister’s daughter – also named Louisa, but nicknamed Lulu
and raised her
to adulthood after her sister passed away from childbed fever in 1879.
Louisa herself passed away on March 6,
1888 at the age 55. She had long been suffering from health problems such as
vertigo and lupus, but her final cause of death was a stroke. She is buried in
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts in an area known as “author’s
hill.” Throughout her life, she published over 30 writings and is now known as
one of the leading feminist American writers of the 19th century.
In honor of the upcoming film adaptation of Little Women by none other than (lowkey lesbian icon) Greta Gerwig, starring (highkey lesbian icon) Saoirse Ronan!