Monday, June 12, 2006

Louisa May Alcott

Another real-life heroine I based my fictional heroine, Cassidy Stuart, on in my novel, Under the Guns, was Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women. Although my fictional character didn't aspire to be a writer, like Alcott, she was raised in a middle-class family in the North and longed to break the conventions of the ideal of Victorian womanhood.
Like Alcott, Cassidy became a nurse volunteer during the Civil War.
Louisa May Alcott was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania on November 29, 1832. While she was still young her family relocated to Boston, Massachusetts. She obtained most of her education from her father, who was a teacher. The family later moved to Concord where author and friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, helped them set up residence.
Louisa received guidance from him as well as Theodore Parker and was also instructed by Henry David Thoreau.
She began writing at an early age and penned her first book by age sixteen. Louisa also helped her family make ends meet by taking in sewing, and working as a teacher and domestic servant. She tried acting at age seventeen, but preferred to write plays, rather than perform in them.
At age 30, she entered the nursing sevice at the Union Hospital in Georgetown in 1862. While there, she contracted typhoid fever. She recovered, but suffered the effects of mercury poisoning the rest of her life. At the time calomel (a drug laden with mercury) was used by doctors as a cure for typhoid.
While in Washington, Louisa wrote Hospital Sketches, published in 1863, followed by Moods in 1864.
She next produced the novel, Little Women, published September 30, 1868. She based the book on her own experience growing up. The book sold more than 2,000 copies. She next wrote a second volume that sold more than 13,000 copies.
Sources: In Hospital and Camp by Harold Elk Straubing, Stockpole Books 1993
ISBN 0-8117-1631-7

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