As the 150th anniversary of Louisa May Alcott’s groundbreaking 1868 novel Little Women approaches, women’s rights activists and literature aficionados alike are celebrating the author’s contribution to women’s empowerment — both in her written work and personal life.
Alcott, who grew up in poverty but with progressive parents who encouraged her to write at a time when scientists claimed writing was bad for women’s psychological health, was the first woman to register to vote in Concord in 1879, when Massachusetts gave women the right to vote on education and children’s issues.
“No bolt fell on our audacious heads, no earthquake shook the town,” wrote Alcott after she and 19 other women cast ballots in a town meeting in 1880.
Ten years earlier, Alcott was asked by publisher Thomas Niles to write a “girls’ story,” and instead produced a coming-of-age epic that has been translated into more than 50 languages, inspired films, musicals, and a recent PBS Masterpiece miniseries. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning Alcott historian John Matteson, she faced significant pressure from fans and her publisher to “marry off” main character Jo March to neighbor boy Laurie. But Alcott, who had watched her mother struggle to keep the family afloat financially, was unwilling to do so.
“She knew what a trap marriage could be,” said Matteson. “She very much intended not to marry Jo off at all.”
Alcott, who remained unmarried throughout her life, would eventually compromise by introducing a German professor to serve as March’s husband.
As Alcott scrambled to help provide for her family, she also took on a variety of jobs — one of which ended with her quitting due to sexual harassment. Even in the modern era, historians and women’s rights advocates have noted, Alcott’s life and literature remain relevant — and relatable — for many.
Read the full story at The Associated Press.