e_moon60 (e_moon60) wrote,

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Louisa May Alcott

Watched a PBS "American Masters" show on Louisa May Alcott last night.   Humbling, to the 20th and 21st century writer.   The poverty, the kinds of work available to women of that era...laundry, sewing, heavy housework in someone else's house, being a "companion" (if you were lucky.)   The total inability of her father to do anything useful...while still of course eating (and having to be cooked for, clothed, and cleaned up after.)   It's likely she was not getting adequate food for much of her young life, unlike her mother who had been brought up in a stable and well-to-do family.  Her stint as a nurse in a Civil War hospital, and the typhoid fever...a major killer until people finally figured out how to provide safe water supplies. 

She wrote everything by hand, of course.  Not even a typewriter.  All longhand, all in ink.  
Incredible amount of work...true of all writers in that era, of course.   She wrote enough, fast enough, to support her family and even, later, provide them a degree of opulence.  No wonder she had periodic breakdowns and finally died at 56--early for a woman who was never pregnant.  (Pregnancy and childbirth were the main cause of early death in women; childbed fever killed one of her sisters.)   Her mother lived to age 77; her  father lived to be almost 90 (dying just a few days before Louisa did.)   

I remember getting Little Women as a birthday present one year...though at the time I wasn't planning to be a writer, I certainly admired Jo more than the others.   I was already trying to write stories (but didn't think it could ever make a living for me.)    Irony strikes...yes, it can, if you go at it the way Louisa did (and I finally did) with complete concentration and determination.   I spent too much time in those books being furious with the Aunt March sorts of characters and not enough noticing Jo's work habits.  
Tags: the writing life
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