Born November 29, 1832, the daughter of Bronson and Abigail May Alcott, Louisa made her appearance on her father's birthday. Bronson was unable to support his family, and as a young girl Louisa vowed "I will do something, by and by. Don't care what, teach, sew, act, write, anything to help the family; and I'll be rich and famous and happy before I die, see if I won't."
Alcott succeeded beyond what anyone could predict. Beginning with a short poem, "Lines to a Robin" written when she was eight, Alcott's writing career was launched. Mary McNamara called her "a woman of extraordinary talent and determination who became as great a celebrity in her day as J.K. Rowling is in ours." Her most well-known book, Little Women, was written at the request of an editor, Thomas Niles. Some of her works were generated to fulfill requests.
St. Nicholas was a children's magazine in the 1800s and early 1900s. Mary Mapes Dodge, the author of Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates, was the editor and many authors, like Stephen Vincent Benet, started their careers within the pages of the magazine. Alcott was a regular contributor. She made arrangements for St. Nicholas to publish Eight Cousins, while she retained copyright hoping to be able to sell rights to serialize it in England. Upon her death in March 1888, St. Nicholas ran tributes to Alcott. Lucy Chandler Moulton's article "Louisa May Alcott" was one of these.
Alcott was careful with her relationships with publishers and editors and strived to protect them. She wrote a letter to Mr. Sanborn asking for his silence on a serial for publication in St. Nicholas that she had mentioned because it was "as yet unsettled." The writing process in the late 1800s was very laborious. Multiple copies needed to be made reflecting both revisions by the author and the editor. A manuscript page from Jack and Jill shows Alcott making changes on the manuscript. Comparison with the Plumfield Edition of 1928, shows a word change from the manuscript as well as many changes in punctuation.
While she is loved for her children's literature,, Alcott viewed it primarily as "pap." It was the end of the 20th century before the lurid pulp fiction that she wrote under the name A. M. Barnard was connected to her. These novels, like her children's writings, were fast and easy for her and very profitable. She had hopes that she could write a serious adult novel to secure her place in the literary world. She died without realizing that in Little Women she had created an enduring masterpiece loved by both children and adults.