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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Louisa M. Alcott

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She began to teach school with twenty pupils. Instead of the theological talks which her father gave his scholars, she told them stories, which she says made the one pleasant hour in her school-day. Now the long years of work had begun--fifteen of them--which should give the girl such rich yet sometimes bitter experiences, that she could write the most fascinating books from her own history. Into her volume called Work, published when she had become famous, she put many of her own early sorrows in those of "Christie."

Much of this time was spent in Boston. Sometimes she cared for an invalid child; sometimes she was a governess; sometimes she did sewing, adding to her slender means by writing late at night. Occasionally she went to the house of Rev. Theodore Parker, where she met Emerson, Sumner, Garrison, and Julia Ward Howe. Emerson always had a kind word for the girl whom he had known in Concord, and Mr. Parker would take her by the hand and say, "How goes it, my child? God bless you; keep your heart up, Louisa," and then she would go home to her lonely room, brave and encouraged.

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At nineteen, one of her early stories was published in Gleason's Pictorial, and for this she received five dollars. How welcome was this brain-money! Some months later she sent a story to the Boston Saturday Gazette, entitled The Rival Prima Donnas, and, to her great delight, received ten dollars; and what was almost better still, a request from the editor for another story. Miss Alcott made the Rival Prima Donnas into a drama, and it was accepted by a theatre, and would have been put upon the stage but for some disagreement among the actors. However, the young teacher received for her work a pass to the theatre for forty nights. She even meditated going upon the stage, but the manager quite opportunely broke his leg, and the contract was annulled. What would the boys and girls of America have lost, had their favorite turned actress!

A second story was, of course, written for the Saturday Evening Gazette. And now Louisa was catching a glimpse of fame. She says, "One of the memorial moments of my life is that in which, as I trudged to school on a wintry day, my eye fell upon a large yellow poster with these delicious words, 'Bertha, a new tale by the author of The Rival Prima Donnas, will appear in the Saturday Evening Gazette.' I was late; it was bitter cold; people jostled me; I was mortally afraid I should be recognized; but there I stood, feasting my eyes on the fascinating poster, and saying proudly to myself, in the words of the great Vincent Crummles, 'This, this is fame!' That day my pupils had an indulgent teacher; for, while they struggled with their pot-hooks, I was writing immortal works; and when they droned out the multiplication table, I was counting up the noble fortune my pen was to earn for me in the dim, delightful future. That afternoon my sisters made a pilgrimage to behold this famous placard, and finding it torn by the wind, boldly stole it, and came home to wave it like a triumphal banner in the bosom of the excited family. The tattered paper still exists, folded away with other relics of those early days, so hard and yet so sweet, when the first small victories were won, and the enthusiasm of youth lent romance to life's drudgery."

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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