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Louisa May Alcott papers, approximately 1840-1947, bulk: 1862-1888

Identifier: Vault MSS 503 Series 1

Scope and Contents

Contains correspondence with family, friends, and others about Louisa May Alcott's writing and publishing work, daily life, family events and struggles, housing and finances, travel, etc. Writings include two poems, two short stories, and manuscript fragments of two novels, as well as a radio adaptation of "Little Women" from 1947. Also includes a cancelled check signed by Alcott, and two photocopies of portraits made near the end of Alcott's life. Materials dated approximately 1840 to 1947 (bulk of materials dated 1862 to 1888). Although many of Louisa May Alcott's letters are not dated, approximate dates are derived from the content of each letter.


  • approximately 1840-1947
  • Majority of material found within 1862-1888


Conditions Governing Access

Originals restricted. Photocopies available for public use.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright of this collection rests with the estate of Theresa W. Pratt and the Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish any item in its entirety must be obtained from Reference Services at

Biographical / Historical

From the Collection:

Louisa May Alcott, author of the "Little Women" series, was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, on November 29, 1832, to Bronson and Abigail (Abba) May Alcott. In 1840, the Alcotts moved to Concord, Massachusetts, where their neighbors included Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. During the short time the Alcotts lived in Concord, Louisa began to write dramas for her sisters to enact in the barn. The memories of these barnyard melodramas and other childhood experiences would later find their way into Louisa's books, especially "Little Women." In September 1851, Louisa's first poem, entitled "Sunlight," was published in Peterson's Magazine under the pseudonym of "Flora Fairfield." This was followed by several other "Flora Fairfield" compositions, including a book of fairy stories written for Emerson's daughter, Ellen. Louisa's first novel, "Moods," was begun in 1860-1861. In September of 1867, Thomas Niles of Roberts Brothers Publishing asked Louisa if she would write a children's book for him and, in May 1868, "Little Women" began to take shape. In this children's novel about the March family, Louisa encapsulated the Alcott home, presenting a cheerful account of her own early life in New England. The book gained instant recognition upon its publication in 1869. During the 1870s, Louisa published prolifically, completing at least one book per year. Toward the end of her life, Lousia constantly suffered from poor health, concentrating on rearing her niece, Louisa May ("Lulu") Nieriker, the daughter of her sister May and Ernest Nieriker. May had died in 1879 shortly after Lulu's birth. In June of 1887, Louisa began her last novel, "A Garland for Girls," which was published in November. In July of 1887, she wrote and signed her will. On March 6, 1887, Louisa May Alcott died in Boston, Massachusetts. She was fifty-six years old.


1 box

Language of Materials



Arranged in three subseries: 1. Louisa May Alcott correspondence, 1862-1888. 2. Louisa May Alcott writings, approximately 1840-1947 (bulk 1867-1888). 3. Louisa May Alcott portraits, approximately 1886.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital copy of recording available for use in the Reading Room.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States