Click here to read reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott's take on Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women.
Louisa May Alcott will be forever known as the author of Little Women,
a book first published 140 years ago that has never been out of print.
was so much more to Louisa May Alcott, and most people would never know if not for author Harriet Reisen.
After studying Alcott’s journals and letters in the Houghton library at Harvard,
Reisen was fortunate enough to contact the widow of Alcott's oldest living relative and managed to help save papers that no one was aware still existed.
Alcott had a rather unconventional youth - living in abject poverty, raised by parents who moved constantly. She made her living as a seamstress, laundress, governess, teacher, even
Civil War nurse, yet she had many well-known and influential people in her life,
such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Thoreau.
She wrote Little Women in less that ten weeks; she later
penned the followup in just as short a time.
Alcott not only wrote children’s books, which she admitted to disliking, but she wrote over 200 more pieces
- some nonfiction, some poetry and plays. Her favorite works were the pieces she wrote as thrillers and
that are considered well beyond her time. Of her work, none sold less than 10,000 copies.
She died a multimillionaire by today’s standards.
The Woman Behind Little Women reads like a documentary,
and it was in fact adapted for the PBS series American Masters. Harriet Reisen’s wonderful work opens up the life of Louisa May Alcott and the woman she truly was.