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Collection on Louisa May Alcott and family

 Collection — Box: 2
Identifier: Vault MSS 503

Scope and Contents

Contains handwritten and signed letters of Louisa May Alcott and her sister, May Alcott Nieriker, and other family members, friends, and associates. The letters are of both a private and professional nature, and discuss social engagements, familial affairs, writing schedules, and upcoming publications. Also included are two photocopied portraits, a sound recording and transcript of a 1947 radio adaptation of "Little Women," and various other writings by Alcott. Materials dated 1837-1947, with the bulk between 1837-1888.


  • Majority of material found within 1837-1947
  • Majority of material found within 1837-1888


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

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 (0.5 linear ft.)

1 half box (0.25 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



Arranged in two series: 1. Louisa May Alcott papers, approximately 1840-1947, bulk: 1862-1888. 2. Alcott family papers, 1837-1881.

Custodial History

The documents in this collection were not acquired as one unit but were gradually collected as individual items became available at auction and from dealers between 1978 and 1991. Most items were purchased in this manner from Rostenberg Rare Books, New York City, operated by Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased; Rostenberg Rare Books, New York City; 1978-1991.


Western American history—Literary history (Mormon and Western American Manuscripts Collection Development Policy V.B.5.c, 2020).

Existence and Location of Copies

Photocopies of originals and transcriptions available in Box 2. Digital copy of recording available for use in the Reading Room.

Related Materials

See also Louisa May Alcott letter to Mr. Higginson (MSS 3681), John Sewall Pratt Alcott trusteeship petition (MSS SC 102), To heaven in a swing : a monodrama based on the life, letters, and journals of Louisa May Alcott (MSS SC 2366), Madeleine B. Stern papers (MSS 1486), and MSS 3953 (Madeleine B. Stern papers on Louisa May Alcott).

Separated Materials

Research materials and exhibit labels formerly in Series 5 removed to internal case file.

Processing Information

Processed; Dennis Rowley and Helen L. Warner; 1998.

Processing Information

Processed; Amanda Crandall; December 2023.

Register of Collection on Louisa May Alcott and family
Under Revision
Leslie Evens
2011 October 28
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States