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Louise May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women

The first film biography of an American icon

Louisa Alcott’s life was no children’s book: she worked as a servant, a seamstress, and a Civil War nurse before becoming a millionaire celebrity writing “moral pap for the young,” as she called it. Under pen names and anonymously, she also wrote stories with enough drugs, sex and crime to prove the author was no “little” woman. When she died, Alcott took her secret identity as a pulp fiction writer with her, and kept it for nearly a half-century.

Starring Elizabeth Marvel and featuring Jane Alexander, Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women tells the story of this remarkable woman’s quest to rescue her family from poverty and to find wealth, fame and happiness for herself.

Raised in the center of 19th century New England’s great transcendentalist and abolitionist movements, Louisa May Alcott learned about literature from Emerson, went on nature walks with Thoreau and saw the Civil War up close as an army nurse. Her story is also the story of three eras of American history: the Romantic Transcendental period, the Civil War, and the Gilded Age.

To make Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women, Producer-Writer Harriet Reisen and Producer-Director Nancy Porter worked from a script drawn from primary sources and filmed in many original locations, using documentary and dramatic techniques of the historical documentary, as well as experimental and flash animation, green-screen, and digital effects. The result is an inventive, entertaining, and intimate portrait of the surprising Miss Alcott.

Associated Members

Nancy Porter, Independent Filmmaker


We are grateful for the generous support of our sponsors:

Massachusetts Cultural Council
Lowel Cultural Council
Cabot Family Charitable Trust
Liberty Mutual Foundation
City of Boston Arts and Culture