May Alcott Nieriker
A maiden full of lofty dreams
Slender, fair, and tall
As all the goddesses she traced
Upon her chamber wall
-from "Our Madonna" by Louisa May Alcott
May Alcott, the youngest of four sisters, was born in Concord, Massachusetts on
July 26, 1840.
Like "Amy March" in Little Women, May was a blue-eyed golden girl who possessed from
childhood an intense love of beauty and all things artistic and elegant. "She is so
graceful and pretty and loves beauty so much, it is hard for her to be poor and wear other
peoples ugly things," wrote Louisa to Anna in 1854. "I hope I shall live
to see the dear child in silk and lace with plenty of pictures and bottles of
cream, Europe, and all the things she longs for."
May had a talent for drawing and painting. She studied art in Boston where her most
influential teachers were Dr. William Rimmer and William Morris Hunt. She dreamed of going
to Europe, and it was Louisas success with Little Women in 1868 that provided
that opportunity. She took three trips there and studied art in London, Paris, and Rome.
May and Louisa, although unlike each other in many respects, shared an artistic
temperament which expressed itself in ambition, willfulness, and a certain competitive
spirit. When the Paris Salon accepted her still life painting in 1877, May wrote,
"Who would have imagined such good fortune and so strong proof that Lu does not
monopolize the Alcott talent. Ha! Ha!, sister, this is the first feather plucked from your
In 1878, she married a young Swiss businessman and musician, Ernest Nieriker. The
couple settled in Meudon, a suburb of Paris, leading what May called "an ideal life --
painting, music, and love ..."
In November 1879, May gave birth to a daughter, Louisa May, nicknamed "Lulu." May tragically died six weeks after the baby was born, but had earlier requested that her baby
be sent to Louisa in Concord, feeling that her sister would love the child as she would
have done herself.
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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