Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott was a prominent figure in American feminist literature, and a key figure in the reform movements of her time. An abolitionist and feminist, novelist, short story writer, poet who remained unmarried throughout her life.
“I am more than half-persuaded that I am a man’s soul put by some freak of nature into a woman’s body…. because I have fallen in love with so many pretty girls and never once the least bit with any man”
She raised up between intellectuals by her transcendentalist parents in England. She received most of her education from her father, who believed in the power of self-denial. She also took lessons from naturalist Thoreau.
She worked various places because of the poverty. Writing turned into somewhere she can escape.
Alcott is quoted as saying “I wish I was rich, I was good, and we were all a happy family this day” and was driven in life not to be poor.
She served as a nurse in the period of Civil war then she collected her letters as Hospital Sketches which brought her first critical recognition for her observations and humor. After her service as a nurse, her father wrote her a poem named “To Louisa May Alcott. From her father” about how proud her father about her.
At one point in 1857, unable to find work and filled with such despair, Alcott contemplated suicide. During that year, she read Elizabeth Gaskell’s biography of Charlotte Brontë and found many parallels to her own life. In 1858, her younger sister Elizabeth died, and her older sister Anna married a man named John Pratt. This felt, to Alcott, to be a breaking up of their sisterhood.
She read the Declaration of Sentiments published at the Seneca Falls Convention and became the first woman to register to vote. Alcott wrote gothic thrillers, stories for children and her most successful novel Little Women, a semi-autobiographical account of her childhood with her sisters. Along with other female authors of the Gilded Age, Alcott challenged prevailing gender norms in her work, encouraging young female readers to be independent and assertive.
- Little Women (1868-1869), novel series
- Moods (1865), novel
- A Modern Mephistopheles (1877), novel (published anonymously)
- Flower Fables (1849), story for children
- Hospital Sketches (1863), short story
Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett
Burnett faced difficult times from an early age, with her father’s death causing financial strain on the family. She eventually found solace in reading, an activity encouraged by her grandmother. Through her own hard work and determination, Burnett was able to escape the poverty of her family and move to the United States.
Burnett then became well known in Washington, DC for her literary salon, which was attended by politicians, local literati, and other notable figures.
She loved and cared her children perfectly. She sew a lot of selective clothing for her boys and allowed them to grow long which she then shaped into long curls.
After her elder son Lionel’s death, before she sank into a deep depression, she wrote in a letter to a friend that her writing was insignificant in comparison to having been the mother of two boys, one of whom died.
After 2 years, Burnett began to work as a charity worker and eventually wrote an autobiography devoted to him titled “The One I Knew Best of All”.
Burnett is best known for her 1886 novel Little Lord Fauntleroy, a “rags to riches” story which was immensely popular in the United States. The fashions in the book became popular, with velvet Fauntleroy suits being sold and other Fauntleroy merchandise including velvet collars, playing cards, and chocolates.
She later married her secretary, even though he was 10 years younger than her, and some biographers argue that he blackmailed her.
Overall, Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett was a prolific writer and a pioneering figure in the history of American feminist literature. Her works have had a lasting impact on popular culture and remain influential to this day.
- The Secret Garden (1911), novel
- Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886), novel
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Gilman was a pioneering figure in American feminist literature, and a powerful advocate for women’s rights. Born into a notable New England family in 1860, she was a prolific writer whose works ranged from novels to short stories, essays, and poetry.
Her best-known work, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” is a powerful indictment of Victorian gender roles, and a testament to the psychological toll of oppressive social structures.
Throughout her career, Gilman was highly influential in the early feminist movement. She wrote extensively on topics such as the social construction of gender roles, the importance of economic independence for women (see also “Women and Economics” and “The Home: Its Work and Influence”), and the right of women to control their own reproductive health. She was a foremost member of the National Women’s Trade Union League, and advocated for laws to protect women in the workplace.
In addition to her writing and activism, Gilman was a prominent public speaker and lecturer. Her lectures on women’s rights and gender equality were well-attended and widely praised. She was also an early advocate of birth control, which was illegal at the time, and her views helped to shape the modern women’s movement.
Today, Charlotte Perkins Gilman is remembered as an important figure in the history.
- Woman and Economics (1898), non fiction
- The Yellow Wallpaper (1892), short story
- Herland (1915), novel