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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 63

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This is the grave of Louisa May Alcott.

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Born in 1832 in Philadelphia, Alcott and her family that included her father Bronson Alcott moved to the transcendentalist center of Boston in 1834. She grew up in that intellectually rich environment, having Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Nathaniel Hawthorne among others as her teachers. Her family’s home was a spot on the Underground Railroad and women’s rights was a passion of the family. But being a transcendentalist didn’t make anyone any money, the family was very poor, and Alcott went to work as a teenager, doing jobs ranging from seamstress to teacher. In 1857, unable to find work to help support the family, she considered suicide. She worked hard when she could find a job.

To deal with this, she found writing as an outlet. Her first writings were published in 1849 but it was during the Civil War she found success, first with her wonderful Hospital Sketches that detailed her time working in a hospital on the front lines, still a great thing to teach today. Her 1868 book Little Women made her famous and she followed it with a serious of novels that made her one of the leading literary lights of the early Gilded Age. Unfortunately, she also had some pretty severe health problems and was never really well in the last 20 years of her life. It is speculated that she suffered from lupus, but we will never really know. She died of a stroke in 1888 at the age of 55, 2 days after her father’s death.

Alcott’s books have been adapted to television and film many times. But she herself has been portrayed rarely. She was evidently never portrayed until this awful looking 1978 semi-documentary on near-death experiences when someone named Shelley Young played her. She has also been a character in a couple of TV movies, one about Mary Cassatt and the other called “Christmas and the Civil War,” which maybe we should all watch today.

Louisa May Alcott is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts.

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