Louisa May Alcott was born in 1832 in Philadelphia. She was the second of four girls. Her father was a noted Transcendentalist, her mother a women's rights advocate, and her family dedicated abolitionists. Alcott studied with fellow Transcendentalists Thoreau, Emerson, and Hawthorne as a child, but was mostly educated by her father. Her family mostly lived in poverty during her childhood, and she started work early as a teacher, seamstress, governess, and occasional writer.
In 1860, Alcott began writing for The Atlantic Monthly. She later became the editor of a children's magazine, Merry Museum. She also wrote popular novels under a pseudonym, A.M. Barnard, and moralistic children's tales under her own name, most notably 1868's Little Women and its several sequels.
Alcott never married, but she adopted her two year-old orphaned niece in 1879.
Late in her life, Alcott became involved in women's suffrage. In 1879, she was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Massachusetts.
Alcott died in 1888 in Boston.