Abigail May Alcott

A great heart that was home for all.

-Louisa May Alcott

Abigail May Alcott was born on October 8, 1800.  The youngest daughter of Colonel Joseph May and Dorothy Sewall, she was a descendent of the distinguished Quincy and Sewall families of New England.  Her great aunt was Dorothy Quincy, the revolutionary belle who married John Hancock, the first governor of Massachusetts.

Abigail, or "Abba" as she was called, had a passionate temperament, a fine mind and a generous heart.  She felt keenly the injustices of the world and worked energetically for various causes, especially to help the poor, for women’s rights, temperance and abolition.  Louisa said of her mother as a social worker in Boston, "... she always did what came to her in the way of duty and charity, and let pride, taste, and comfort suffer for love’s sake."

Abba May met Amos Bronson Alcott in Brooklyn, Connecticut at the home of her brother, Samuel Joseph May, the first Unitarian minister in the state.  Throughout their long courtship, Bronson Alcott, a shy lover, communicated his sentiments to Miss May by letting her read passages about herself in his journal.  Bronson and Abba were married in King’s Chapel in Boston on May 23, 1830.

Abba’s love for her visionary husband was a mainstay in calm and storm.  Although frequently frustrated by his inability to support his family, she believed in him and his ideals even when it seemed the rest of the world did not.  She wrote in her journal that she could never live without him:  "I think I can as easily learn to live without breath."

Mrs. Alcott is the beloved "Marmee" of Little Women.  To her four daughters she was "the most splendid mother in world."  She devoted herself to them, encouraged them in their talents, and gave them practical rules to live by.  Some of her sayings were, "Rule yourself," "Love your neighbor," "Hope and keep busy."

When Abba died in November 1877, Louisa wrote, "I never wish her back, but a great warmth seems gone out of life. ... She was so loyal, tender, and true, life was hard for her and no one knew all she had to bear but her children."

Archival photographs of the family and objects in the collection are available for a fee.

All requests must be made in writing, allowing at least 2-3 weeks for processing.

Please click here to e-mail your photo request, or, write to Attn:  Photo Requests,
PO Box 343, Concord, MA  01742-0343.

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Louisa May Alcott Memorial Association/Orchard House