Louisa May Alcott

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning how to sail my ship.

Louisa May Alcott (29 November 18326 March 1888) was an American novelist best remembered for her novel Little Women (1868).


Far away in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.
  • Women have been called queens for a long time, but the kingdom given them isn't worth ruling.
  • The child has talent, loves music, and needs help. I can't give her money, but I can teach her; so I do, and she is the most promising pupil I have. Help one another, is part of the religion of our sisterhood, Fan.
    • An Old-Fashioned Girl (1870), Ch. 13 : The Sunny Side; this has often been quoted as "Helping one another, is part of the religion of our sisterhood."
  • I believe that it is as much a right and duty for women to do something with their lives as for men and we are not going to be satisfied with such frivolous parts as you give us.
  • 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.
    • From a letter ("Louisa M. Alcott to the American Woman Suffrage Association", October 1885) in support of women's voting rights, quoted in Elizabeth Cady Stanton et al., History of Woman Suffrage, 1883-1900 (1902), p. 412.
  • Is it not meningitis?
    • Last words (6 March 1888), as quoted in Women Who Win, or, Making Things Happen (1896), by William Makepeace Thayer, p. 258
  • Far away in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.
    • As quoted in Elbert Hubbard's Scrap Book (1923) by Elbert Hubbard, p. 62
  • 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.
  • "Suppose I broke away and left you, or made it impossible for you to stay. That I was base and false; in every way unworthy of your love, and it was clearly right for you to go, what would you do then?"
    "Go away and–"
    He interrupted with a triumphant laugh, "Die as heroines always do, tender slaves as they are."
    "No, live and forget you", was the unexpected reply.
    • Phillip and Rosamund, p. 46.
  • I tell you I cannot bear it! I shall do something desperate if this life is not changed soon. It gets worse and worse, and I often feel as if I'd gladly sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom. [specific citation needed]
  • 'In the fitful light of the dusky hall the newcomer's face suddenly appeared fiery-eyed and menacing, and, glancing at a portrait of Mephistopheles, Rosamond exclaimed, "Why, you are the very image of Meph--" [specific citation needed]
  • No, I never wish that. I don't intend to die till I've enjoyed my life. Everyone has a right to happiness and sooner or later I will have it. Youth, health and freedom were meant to be enjoyed and I want to try every pleasure before I am too old to enjoy them. [specific citation needed]
  • Even at the cost of what is called honor and honesty? That is comfortable philosophy, and having preached and practiced it all my days I've no right to condemn it. But the saints would call it sinful and dangerous and tell you that life should be one long penance full of sorrow, sacrifice and psalm-singing. [specific citation needed]
  • For an hour Rosamond paced up and down the deck reveling in the breezy motion of the boat, the delicious sense of freedom which possessed her, the atmosphere of romance which surrounded her. Tempest lounged beside her, watching her beautiful face, listening to her happy voice, and enjoying her innocent companionship with the relish of a man eager for novelty and skillful in the art of playing on that delicate instrument, a woman's heart. [specific citation needed]
  • I was thinking what a curious thing love is; only a sentiment, and yet it has power to make fools of men and slaves of women. p. 45.
  • Suppose I broke away and left you, or made it impossible for you to stay. That I was base and false; in every way unworthy of your love, and it was clearly right for you to go, what would you do then? [specific citation needed]
  • I mean that it is more natural for me to be wicked than virtuous, when I do a bad act, and I've done many, I never feel wither shame, remorse or fear, I sometimes wish it was not necessary as I don't like the trouble, but as for any moral sense of principle, I haven't a particle. Many people are like me as actions prove, but they are not so frank in owning it and insist on keeping up the humbug of virtue. You'll find that is true, Rose, when you know the world better. [specific citation needed]
  • Not another day or hour would she remain, no help was possible, no atonement could retrieve the past, no love or pity, pardon or excuse should soften the sharp pang of reparation for the guilty man. To go instantly and forever was her only thought, and this gave her strength to rise and look about her. [specific citation needed]
  • Back to him she would never go, but in her lonely life still lived the sweet memory of that happy time when she believed in him and he was all in all to her.
    • From the Chapter, 'The Chase Begins,' p.96
  • The sin is yours, but the shame and sorrow are mine, the past I cannot retrieve, the future is still unspoiled and I will not embitter it by any willful sin. Before I was innocently guilty, now I should be doubly guilty if I went back to the 'gay free life I love.' Atone for the wrong you have done me by ceasing to tempt and trouble me. I will not yield, though you hunt me to death. [specific citation needed]
  • In vain she told herself that he was unworthy any woman's trust and love, still the unconquerable sentiment that once made her happiness now remained to become her torment. [specific citation needed]
  • Because in spite of this longing, I know that I shall purchase happiness at high price if I return; that new falsehood may betray me, new tyranny oppress me, and above all I feel that with this man I must lose more and more the love of all good things, so strong is his influence, so unprincipled his nature. My only hope is that I may save his soul and yet not lose my own. Can I, dare I do this? [specific citation needed]
  • I must know where you are, but I will not molest nor betray you till the time arrives. Go where you like, assume what disguise you choose, do what you please, except die or marry. I'll stand off and watch the play, but I must follow. I like the chase, it is exciting, novel and absorbing. I have tried and tried of other amusements, this satisfies me and I am in no haste to end it. [specific citation needed]
I am angry nearly every day of my life, but I have learned not to show it; and I still try to hope not to feel it, though it may take me another forty years to do it.
Housekeeping ain't no joke.
  • "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
    "It's so dreadful to be poor!" sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.
    "I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, with an injured sniff.
    "We've got Father and Mother, and each other," said Beth contentedly from her corner.
    The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened at the cheerful words, but darkened again as Jo said sadly, "We haven't got Father, and shall not have him for a long time." She didn't say "perhaps never," but each silently added it, thinking of Father far away, where the fighting was.
    • Ch. 1 : Playing Pilgrims, First lines
  • You think your temper is the worst in the world, but mine used to be just like it. … I've been trying to cure it for forty years, and have only succeeded in controlling it. I am angry nearly every day of my life, but I have learned not to show it; and I still try to hope not to feel it, though it may take me another forty years to do it. … I've learned to check the hasty words that rise to my lips, and when I feel that they mean to break out against my will, I just go away for a minute, and give myself a little shake for being so weak and wicked.
    • Marmee March to Jo, in Ch. 8 : Jo Meets Apollyon
  • Housekeeping ain't no joke.
    • Ch. 11 : Experiments
  • If people really want to go, and really try all their lives, I think they will get in; for I don’t believe there are any locks on that door, or any guards at the gate. I always imagine it is as it is in the picture, where the shining ones stretch out their hands to welcome poor Christian as he comes up from the river.
    • Beth's views on the Celestial City, in Ch. 13 : Castles In The Air
  • It takes people a long time to learn the difference between talent and genius, especially ambitious young men and women.
    • Ch. 22 : Artistic Attempts
  • Love is a great beautifier.
    • Ch. 24 : Gossip
  • She had a womanly instinct that clothes possess an influence more powerful over many than the worth of character or the magic of manners.
    • Ch. 34 : Friend
  • Girls are so queer you never know what they mean. They say no when they mean yes, and drive a man out of his wits just for the fun of it.
    • Laurie to Jo, in Ch. 35 : Heartache
  • It was not a fashionable place, but even among the pleasant people there, the girls made few friends, preferring to live for one another.
    • Ch. 36 : Beth's Secret
  • Simple, sincere people seldom speak much of their piety. It shows itself in acts rather than in words, and has more influence than homilies or protestations. Beth could not reason upon or explain the faith that gave her courage and patience to give up life, and cheerfully wait for death. Like a confiding child, she asked no questions, but left everything to God and nature, Father and Mother of us all, feeling sure that they, and they only, could teach and strengthen heart and spirit for this life and the life to come. She did not rebuke Jo with saintly speeches, only loved her better for her passionate affection, and clung more closely to the dear human love, from which our Father never means us to be weaned, but through which He draws us closer to Himself. She could not say, "I'm glad to go," for life was very sweet for her. She could only sob out, "I try to be willing," while she held fast to Jo, as the first bitter wave of this great sorrow broke over them together.
    • Ch. 36 : Beth's Secret
  • That's just why, because talent isn't genius, and no amount of energy can make it so. I want to be great, or nothing. I won't be a common-place dauber, so I don't intend to try any more.
    • Ch. 39 : Lazy Laurence
  • Love is the only thing that we can carry with us when we go, and it makes the end so easy.
    • Ch. 40 : The Valley Of The Shadow
  • When women are the advisers, the lords of creation don't take the advice till they have persuaded themselves that it is just what they intended to do. Then they act upon it, and, if it succeeds, they give the weaker vessel half the credit of it. If it fails, they generously give her the whole.
    • Ch. 41 : Learning To Forget
  • The invigorating air did them both good, and much exercise worked wholesome changes in minds as well as bodies. They seemed to get clearer views of life and duty up there among the everlasting hills. The fresh winds blew away desponding doubts, delusive fancies, and moody mists. The warm spring sunshine brought out all sorts of aspiring ideas, tender hopes, and happy thoughts. The lake seemed to wash away the troubles of the past, and the grand old mountains to look benignly down upon them saying, "Little children, love one another."
    • Ch. 41 : Learning To Forget
  • I love my gallant captain with all my heart and soul and might, and never will desert him, while God lets us be together. Oh, Mother, I never knew how much like heaven this world could be, when two people love and live for one another!
    • Amy, in Ch. 42 : All Alone
  • Lovely weather so far; I don't know how long it will last, but I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning how to sail my ship.
    • Amy, in Ch. 44 : My Lord and Lady; part of this has sometimes been slightly misquoted as: "I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship."

Life, Letters, and Journals. (1898)

  • I had a pleasant time with my mind, for it was happy.
    • Early Diary kept at Fruitlands, 1843.[1]


  • Stay is a charming word in a friend's vocabulary.
    • Amos Bronson Alcott, her father, in Concord Days (1872), p. 124 : "Stay is a charming word in a friend's vocabulary. But if one does not stay while staying, better let him go where he is gone the while."

Quotes about Louisa May Alcott

  • When I read Alcott, I knew that these girls she was talking about were all white," Angelou told The Week in 2013. "But they were nice girls and I understood them. I felt like I was almost there with them in their living room and their kitchen.
  • I was reading all of Louisa May Alcott. In her book, there is a white girl, and I suppose it's sort of daring, but she marries a Chinese guy. He has a long pigtail. He's fat, short, weird. He was mainly a character of fun and so stereotyped, although I suppose it was accurate-by that time they hadn't cut off their pigtails yet. Up to that time, I had identified with all those little women, then I saw this guy and I thought, "My God, that's who I'm supposed to be this little 'chinaman' guy." It ejected me out of literature. A few years later, I read Jade Snow Wong and she brought me back in. There were such wonderful illustrations of little kids that looked like me, and most importantly, written by a Chinese American woman. So, she gave me this great welcome and send-off, so I continued writing.
  • Even today, Little Women is still widely read, though it may now seem nostalgic and old-fashioned rather than, as in 1868, innovative and sometimes almost shocking. It is impossible to know now whether the work Louisa May Alcott might have produced if she had had more free time and no practical worries would have made a more brilliant and literary volume in the Library of America; but it is unlikely that it would have been better loved by generations of children, or done more to further progressive education and women's independence.


  1. Alberghene, Janice; Clark, Beverly, eds (2013). Little Women and the Feminist Imagination: Criticism, Controversy, Personal Essays. Routledge. ISBN 9781138798977. 
Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikisource has original works by or about:
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: