Invincible Louisa



Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of “Little Women”

by Cornelia Meigs

Age: 11+

Interests: biography, writers, nonfiction, American history, strong girls, Little Women

Little, Brown & Co.: 1933

252 pp. – 10 chapters

This straightforward chronicle of the life of Louisa May Alcott captures the tenacity and strength of this exceptional American author, and how the writing of Little Women came about – as well as who the inspirations were for each of the main characters.

Naturally this book will hold a special interest for any fans of Little Women, though it is also a telling chronicle of a period of turmoil in American life, particularly the section dealing with the Civil War and Louisa’s work in a military hospital in Washington.

English: Headshot of Louisa May Alcott (Novemb...

Louisa May Alcott (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More than anything, however, it is a tribute to those who struggle through great poverty and work desperately hard to keep a family afloat and happy. Louisa’s father Bronson Alcott was an educational reformer and a bit of a flighty dreamer, and his attempts to found schools were not always financially successful. Despite hardships and frequent moves, the Alcott household was always a lively, fun place, full of jokes and books and high-minded talk. While inheriting much of her father’s poetic nature, Louisa received much more of her mother’s strength and practicality. Louisa was just as invincible as the title claims, as she toiled at many jobs to survive, but also worked determinedly at her writing until she hit unexpectedly upon fame and fortune.

She was writing melodramas for magazines – just as Jo does – but after the unexpected success of her wartime letters, which were published serially and became very popular,  publisher Thomas Niles made the suggestion “I think, Miss Alcott, that you could write a book for girls. I should like to see you try.” Louisa then complained to her mother, “I don’t know anything about girls, except just ourselves.” And that, of course, was where the book came from. Niles himself was disappointed with the manuscript, and had decided not to publish it at all, but first very wisely gave it to his niece to read. When she became quite “breathless with enthusiasm” he changed course and Little Women was published to instant acclaim and adoration.

Louisa-May-Alcott-Little-WomenMeigs writes that Little Women was “almost the first book of its kind, a direct, natural, truthful tale, with no straining after emotion and effect. It was just what girls had been starving for, although scarcely anyone knew it.”

While this biography moves a little slowly, particularly in the opening chapters about the many moves and changing fortunes of the young Alcott family, this book paints a vivid portrait of a remarkable lady, and shows how poverty can inhibit an artist’s career – as the constant struggle for money dictates all aspects of one’s life.

Again, this book will be of primary interest to those who love Alcott’s Little Women and they will be particularly interested to see how closely the book mirrors the lives of Louisa and her sisters.

(available at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
%d bloggers like this: