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Famed novelist Louisa May Alcott was born on November 29, 1832, in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Alcott was a best-selling novelist of the late 1800s, and many of her works, most notably Little Women, remain popular today.
Alcott was taught by her father, Amos Bronson Alcott, until 1848, and studied informally with family friends such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Theodore Parker. Residing in Boston and Concord, Massachusetts, Alcott worked as a domestic servant and teacher, among other positions, to help support her family from 1850 to 1862. During the Civil War, she went to Washington, D.C. to work as a nurse.
Unknown to most people, Louisa May Alcott had been publishing poems, short stories, thrillers, and juvenile tales since 1851, under the pen name Flora Fairfield. In 1862, she also adopted the pen name A.M. Barnard, and some of her melodramas were produced on Boston stages. But it was her account of her Civil War experiences, Hospital Sketches (1863), that confirmed Alcott's desire to be a serious writer. She began to publish stories under her real name in Atlantic Monthly and Lady's Companion, and took a brief trip to Europe in 1865 before becoming editor of a girls' magazine, Merry's Museum.
The great success of Little Women (1869–70) gave Alcott financial independence and created a demand for more books. Over the final years of her life, she turned out a steady stream of novels and short stories, mostly for young people and drawn directly from her family life. Her other books include Little Men (1871), Eight Cousins (1875) and Jo's Boys (1886). Alcott also tried her hand at adult novels, such as Work (1873) and A Modern Mephistopheles (1877), but these tales were not as popular as her other writings.