“Little Women” Author’s Sensational Early Works

By | August 1, 2018

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Circa 1860: American author Louisa May Alcott (1832 - 1888). (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Louisa May Alcott, the author of the beloved book, “Little Women”, it turns out, wrote more sensational works than the mild, PG antics of the March sisters, Jo, Beth, Amy, and Meg. Turns out, the author and suffragist penned novellas, called “potboilers”, early in her writing career under an androgynous pen name, A.M. Barnard, which feature femme fatale characters and tales of deception and intrigue.

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Alcott Hid Her Identity and Her Gender

Alcott adopted her nom de plume for two reasons. First, she wanted to keep her gender a secret. During the mid- to late-1800s, when Alcott lived, there were plenty of successful female authors but publishing companies expected different things from female authors than they did from male ones. The racier short stories that Alcott wrote as a way to financially support herself would not have been taken seriously if the publishers knew they were written by a woman. In fact, they would have probably questioned her morality.

Alcott also wanted to keep her identity hidden. From letters she wrote, we know that she only penned the potboilers to earn money so she could write the kinds of novels she really wanted to produce, like “Little Women.” She felt as though the sensational novellas were beneath her standards. She discovered what many artists before and after her learned…sometimes you have to sacrifice your art for money.