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 womens 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 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, 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 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, 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
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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