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Tonight on PBS, ‘Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women’

For all the quaint New England charm exuded by her classic and beloved novel, “Little Women,” Louisa May Alcott was a more complicated literary figure than most give her credit for. Raised as a vegetarian on a failed utopian commune in the heart of Transcendentalist country, she studied literature with Ralph Waldo Emerson and botany with Henry David Thoreau. She was a nurse during the civil war, and she valued adventure and independence. To pay the bills, she wrote children’s literature, what she called “moral pap for the young,” but she also published tales about less savory characters than her heroines Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy. Under the pen name A.M. Barnard, she wrote pulp fiction with murders, drug addiction and sexual transgression. The story of her dual literary personae, and what it bestowed to American history and literature, is told through dramatic reenactments and interviews on tonight’s episode of American Masters, “Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women.”

Watch a clip from the documentary:

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