Abigail May Alcott, 1800 - 1877
Abigail May Alcott was a social reformer, abolitionist, and strong advocate of women's rights. Always a relentless critic of the ills of society, she was very aware of the needs of the poor and of the class struggles existing under what was supposedly a democratic government. In 1848 she became a full-time, paid social worker in Boston, Massachusetts--one of the first, if not the first, in that city. Like her husband, Amos Bronson Alcott
, she consistently practiced what she preached with regard to temperance, cleanliness, and diet. In an 1851 letter to her brother, the Reverend Samuel J. May
, she expressed her commitment to reform: "My life is one of daily protest against the oppression and abuses of Society. I find selfishness, meanness, among people who fill high places in church and state."
Though immortalized as the kind and generous "Marmee" of her daughter Louisa May Alcott
's Little Women
, Abigail May Alcott was all that and much more. Louisa noted once in her journal that Bronson was not the only philosopher in the family: "All the philosophy in our house is not in the study; a good deal is in the kitchen, where a fine old lady thinks high thoughts and does kind deeds while she cooks and scrubs."