I chose this book for the 48HBC as part of my ongoing Newbery Challenge (I did this last year as well, but with Smoky the Cowhorse.) Invincible Louisa, by Cornelia Meigs, won the 1934 Newbery Medal. I was pleasantly surprised to find this biography an enjoyable read, and I’m sure fans of Little Women will get even more out of this book.
While Invincible Louisa is filed under biography and author Meigs did mention her source names and titles, unlike the non-fiction of today, Meigs does not include a bibliography or cite her quotes. Please take these fun Louisa facts with a grain of salt.
- even though Louisa May Alcott is associated with the towns of Concord and Harvard, she was actually born in Germantown, Pennsylvania.
- Louisa’s father, Bronson Alcott, was an eccentric and principled man who believed in a model of simple living akin to the Shakers’, but without the separation of men and women, so the Alcotts never had much money and moved around a LOT
- young Louisa listed “love of cats” as her worst sin
- as a teenager, Louisa had a huge crush on family friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, and would leave little poems, wrapped around rocks, on his doorstep
- Louisa was a nurse in DC during the Civil War. She wrote about the patients she met, and unlike other war writers, she did not romanticize any of it
- as a nurse, Louisa caught typhoid fever and when she was ill, she had to cut off her floor length hair–her only vanity
- Mr. Niles, of Roberts Brothers publishing house, first gave Louisa the idea to write about girls. She replied that she could only write about boys.
- while most characters in Little Women are based on Louisa’s family and friends, Jo’s love interest, Mr. Bhaer, is based on……nobody.
- when Mr. Niles read Louisa’s manuscript, he wasn’t sold on Little Women, so he gave it to his neice for her opinion. The rest is history.
And my biggest takeaway: it’s still uncanny just how much Little Women is basically just Louisa’s entire life.