One of the great things about living in Massachusetts is its wealth of history. From the landing of the Pilgrims in Plymouth in 1620 to the infamous Salem Witchcraft Trials; from the first shot of the Revolutionary War in Lexington to Massachusetts becoming the sixth state in the Union (1788); and from Massachusetts troops being the first to die for the Union Cause in the American Civil War, to the election of Edward Brooke as the first black elected to the United States Senate since the Civil War era, if you live in Massachusetts you have many historical sites and museums to visit.
The Bay State has also been home to many famous leaders, poets, and authors: John Quincy Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Edgar Allan Poe, Dr. Seuss, and Henry David Thoreau, to name a few.
The Orchard House at 399 Lexington Avenue, in historic Concord was the home of another famous author.
Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women while her family resided at The Orchard House.
By the time Alcott was 15, she was determined to make something of herself, but the times in which she lived offered very little to women seeking employment. Not easily deterred, Alcott did any work she could find.
In 1854, her first book, Flower Fables was published. During the Civil War, Alcott was a nurse stationed in Washington, D.C.. Her letters home became the basis for her book, Hospital Sketches, which was first published in 1863.
At the age of 35, Alcott was approached by her publisher to write a book for girls. Set in Civil War New England, Little Women told the story of the March sisters. Alcott based the March sisters on herself and her own sisters: Anna, Elizabeth, and May. Not surprisingly, the character of Jo March is very much like Louisa May Alcott.
Little Women was originally published in two parts. The success of Little Women and her other children's books supported her family, something she had been determined for many years to do.
Her sister May married and died only a few weeks after giving birth to a daughter. May had asked that her daughter (Louisa May) be sent to live with Alcott, and she cared for the child for many years.
Louisa May Alcott died on March 6, 1888, only two days after her father.
On the same birthday that I received my treasured Anne of Green Gables three-book set, I received a beautiful six-book set of stories by Louisa May Alcott: Little Women, Little Men and Jo's Boys--all about the March family, Jack and Jill, Eight Cousins, and Under the Lilacs. This edition was printed in 1956 by Nelson Doubleday and was illustrated by Ruth Ives. Each leather bound edition is half cream and half green, with a color illustration on the inside cover and black and white illustrations throughout.
This set must have cost a pretty penny in the 1970's when it was bought. I've read all the books about the March family, but never ventured to read the last three books in the series. Strangely enough, Eight Cousins is included in this set, but its sequel, Rose in Bloom is not. It is still available at Amazon, so I might pick it up.
Little Women remains Louisa May Alcott's most famous work. Having been made into movies, mini-series, musicals and a couple of television series, Little Women even has a Little House on the Prairie connection.
In Season 3 of Little House on the Prairie, the episode "Little Women" aired. Walnut Grove's teacher, Miss Beadle, allows the students to put together skits based upon popular literature so that they can perform for their parents. Laura and Mary Ingalls team up with Nellie Oleson and Ginny Clark (a one-episode character) to act out the infamous scene where Jo presents Mrs. March with the money she earned from cutting off her hair and selling it to a wig shop so that her mother can visit their father, who is an ailing Civil War chaplain.
For the strong woman she was, for all she experienced, for how much she helped her family with her writing, and for the legions of fans who have been inspired by Little Women and her other works, Louisa May Alcott, is certainly a literary hero.