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The author of Little Women was educated at home by her father, Amos Bronson Alcott, founder of the innovative Temple School in Concord as well as of the Fruitlands utopian community in Harvard, Massachusetts—both of which quickly failed. Bronson was never able to provide adequately for his wife and daughter through his traveling lectures on Transcendental philosophy, so young Louisa did varied available work to help support the family. Her interest in writing led to a publisher’s suggestion that she write a girls’ book. This autobiographical book about her family was an immediate bestseller.
Louisa had access to the library of Ralph Waldo Emerson and was acquainted with Margaret Fuller. As her family’s breadwinner, she wrote hundreds of articles and books—both popular fiction and fact—almost one book per year, including Hospital Sketches, reporting on her experience as a Civil War nurse. She contracted typhoid fever and suffered continuing ill health and exhaustion. When her father was dying in Boston, she visited despite her weakness and died just two days after his death. At age fifty-five she was buried beside her parents in Concord’s Sleepy Hollow.