Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School



By chance Louisa May Alcott grew up prepared to face life more independently than most nineteenth century women. She became a career woman when most daughters· of respectable families felt it their duty only to marry and care for their families. Even before the success of Little Women, when independence was a difficult course to pursue, Alcott was single-minded concerning her goals in life. She wanted security for her family and independence for herself. After she achieved these goals she used her influence personally and through her books to attempt to widen the sphere of proper activities for the respectable American woman. She encouraged American women to be self-reliant, to work hard and to seek the right to vote. She encouraged girls and women to learn about their bodies and about good health habits. She told the readers of her novels that useful work made an interesting life. Because Alcott emphasized the warm, familiar ideals of love, family life and dedication to duty, the American public accepted her books without realizing the force for change that was in them. Today's feminists, both radical and moderate, might feel Alcott 's books are conservative. The girls who read these books, however, were pushed toward feminism and a wider role in society by the forward thinking and strong-minded Louisa May Alcott.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Alcott, Louisa May, 1832-1888 -- Criticism and interpretation
Feminism and literature
South Dakota State University Theses



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University