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louisa may alcott bookmark Louisa May Alcott (1832–1897)

“Talent isn’t genius and no amount of energy can make it so.”

At the age of 16, after her father’s Utopian community, Fruitlands, proved a failure, Louisa May Alcott took on the responsibility of earning money to support her family. She worked as a teacher, a tutor, a seamstress, a servant. None of it brought in enough. In 1862, she went to Washington, D.C., to serve as a nurse during the Civil War, and her letters home became the basis for her first popular book, Hospital Sketches, in 1863.

Her publisher suggested she write a book for young girls. The result was the semi-autobiographical Little Women. Published in 1868, it was an instant hit, selling 2,000 copies in the first month. She followed it up with a sequel the next year; it sold 13,000 copies in its first month.

As a nurse during the Civil War, she’d contracted typhoid fever in the hospital. Though she recovered, the cure gave her mercury poisoning, which caused her ill health for the rest of her life. Nonetheless, she succeeded in supporting her family quite richly through the publication of over 30 novels and collections of stories.
Louisa May Alcott