|Concord, MA||August 30, 2010|
“I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle, something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all some day. I think I shall write books, and get rich and famous, that would suit me, so that is my favorite dream.” So declares the ambitious and independent Jo March in the 13th chapter of the two-volume novel Little Women. In this and other ways, the fictional protagonist is a reflection of her author. Two decades earlier, 15-year-old Louisa May Alcott had written in her diary, “I will do something by and by. Don’t care what, teach, sew, act, write, anything to help the family; and I’ll be rich and famous and happy before I die, see if I won’t!” Jo March and her sisters have remained perennial figures of American pop culture since the 1860s, and the feminist that created them still inspires and attracts visitors to her gravesite in the twenty-first century.
Alcott is interred upon Authors Ridge at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. Her neighbors in the cemetery were her contemporaries in life. Other literary luminaries laid to rest in the hill are Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Louisa May’s father, Bronson. The Alcott family patriarch died just two days before his acclaimed daughter in March 1888. This ornate monument commemorates their lives and those of the other Alcotts buried alongside them at Sleepy Hollow.
Each occupant of the Alcott burial plot has their grave marked with a pointed semioval, into which their initials and years of life are carved. These stones stand upright, but Louisa has an additional, rectangular marker that lies flush with the ground. Here I am pictured crouching beside the author’s resting place in August 2010, when I was 15 years old.
This image provides a clearer view of the half navette-shaped stone erected six feet above Alcott’s remains. Alcott was 55 years old when she died.
Little Women was Alcott’s most celebrated literary work during her lifetime and has remained so since her death, but it was not her only published prose. She wrote sequels to the March sisters story, as well as novels and numerous short stories. The longtime Massachusetts resident was also a noted proponent of women’s suffrage and the abolition of chattel slavery.
Born: November 29, 1832 in Germantown, Pennsylvania
Died: March 6, 1888 in Boston, Massachusetts
Cause of Death: Stroke
Last Words: “Is it not meningitis?”
Interment: Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts
"If I can do no more, let my name stand among those who are willing to bear ridicule and reproach for the truth's sake, and so earn some right to rejoice when the victory is won.
"Most heartily yours for woman suffrage and all other reforms."
- Louisa May Alcott
in a letter sent to be read at the 17th annual meeting of the American Woman Suffrage Association, held October 13-15, 1885 at Christ the Redeemer Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Alcott died at 2 Dunreath Place in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. The site is now occupied by St. John Missionary Baptist Church, at the corner of Warren Street and Dunreath Street.
Sources Consulted and Further Reading
Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. Boston, 1868-1869; Project Gutenberg, November 27, 2021. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/514/514-h/514-h.htm.
Anthony, Susan B. and Ida Husted Harper, ed. The History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. 4. 1883-1900. Indianapolis: Hollenbeck Press, 1902.
Cheney, Ednah D., ed. Louisa May Alcott: Her Life, Letters, and Journals. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1890.
City Council of Boston. Reports of Proceedings of the City Council of Boston, for the Municipal Year, Commencing Monday, January 3, 1887, and ending Saturday, December 31, 1887. Boston: Rockwell and Churchill, City Printers, 1888. https://books.google.com/books?id=Udk-AAAAYAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s.
City Council of Boston. Reports of Proceedings of the City Council of Boston, for the Year, Commencing Monday, January 7, 1889, and ending Saturday, January 4, 1890. Boston: Rockwell and Churchill, City Printers, 1890. https://books.google.com/books?id=0lcxAQAAMAAJ&dq=dunreath+place+rhoda+lawrence&source=gbs_navlinks_s.
Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House. “Louisa May Alcott.” Accessed October 25, 2022. https://louisamayalcott.org/louisa-may-alcott.
Reisen, Harriet. Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women. New York: Macmillan, 2010.