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MonkeyNotes-Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
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Background Information LITERARY/HISTORICAL INFORMATION

Louisa May Alcott was the second daughter born to Abigail and Bronson Alcott. Her life was one of extremes, going from a well-do-to Bostonian lifestyle to the abject poverty .Her father responded to the despair of debt by indulging in transcendental philosophy and forcing a "natural" way of living onto his wife and children. Abigail, however, was a forceful woman and eventually stood up to her husband, taking her family’s well being into her own hands. Thus both mother and the two oldest girls took on work to keep the family going. Louisa engaged in sewing and teaching for many years, but she had become writing in earnest while living in their primitive home in fruitwood and gradually earned more money from her written work.


Louisa’s writing was always done for the purpose of making money. She wrote what she referred to as "lurid"stories as well as horror stories under several pseudonyms and was moderately successful. Little Women was written at the request of her editor who wanted her to write a "story for girls." Alcott wrote the novel quickly, writing a chapter a day and basing the story on the real lives and events of herself and her sisters. Although both she and her editor considered the story "flat," the response of the public was overwhelmingly positive. It was the first novel of its kind, being straightforward and true to life rather then existing solely to expound religious didacticism or male views on how girls ought to behave. The book brought Alcott fame and wealth almost overnight, but ultimately did not ease the pressures of her private life. After a life of continuously fluctuating finances, she never felt secure in her wealth. Furthermore, she took on the burdens of her mother’s illness and the care of the family, struggling with a sense of loss over each death or marriage. She died in her mid 50's after struggling with years of illness resulting from mercury poison-a "cure" from pneumonia which she contracted during her years of nursing civil war soldiers.

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