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 descended from the distinguished Quincy and Sewall
families of New England. Her great aunt was Dorothy Quincy, the Revolutionary War belle who
married John Hancock, the first governor of Massachusetts and signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Abigail, or "Abba" as she was called, had a passionate temperament, a fine mind, and a
generous heart. She keenly felt the injustices of the world and worked energetically for
various causes, especially those that helped the poor or furthered the causes of abolition, womens rights, and temperance. Louisa said of her mother's time as a social worker in Boston that "... she always did
what came to her in the way of duty and charity, and let pride, taste, and comfort suffer
for loves 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, Mr. Alcott, "a shy lover," communicated his sentiments
to Miss May by letting her read passages he wrote about her in his journal. Bronson and Abba
were married in Kings Chapel in Boston on May 23, 1830.
Abbas love for her visionary husband was a mainstay in calm and storm. Although
frequently frustrated by his inability to support his family, Mrs. Alcott believed in her husband and his
ideals -- even when it seemed that 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
Abba May Alcott served as the beloved prototype for "Marmee" of Little Women. To her four
daughters, both in fact and fiction, she was "the most splendid mother in world," who devoted herself to
each one, encouraging their talents and giving them practical rules by which to live. One of her favorite inspirational quotes still fuels those who are affiliated with Orchard House today: "Hope,
and keep busy."
When Mrs. Alcott died in November of 1877, Louisa wrote, "I never wish her back, but a great
warmth seems gone out of life. ... She was so loyal, tender, and true" and led "such a lovely, unselfish life."
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 to email your photo request, or, write to
Orchard House, Attn: Photo Requests, PO Box 343, Concord, MA 01742-0343