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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Louisa M. Alcott

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Finding that there was money in sensational stories, she set herself eagerly to work, and soon could write ten or twelve a month. She says in Little Women: "As long as The Spread Eagle paid her a dollar a column for her 'rubbish,' as she called it, Jo felt herself a woman of means, and spun her little romances diligently. But great plans fermented in her busy brain and ambitious mind, and the old tin kitchen in the garret held a slowly increasing pile of blotted manuscript, which was one day to place the name of March upon the roll of fame."

But sensational stories did not bring much fame, and the conscientious Louisa tired of them. A novel, Moods, written at eighteen, shared nearly the same fate as Flower Fables. Some critics praised, some condemned, but the great world was indifferent. After this, she offered a story to Mr. James T. Fields, at that time editor of the Atlantic Monthly, but it was declined, with the kindly advice that she stick to her teaching. But Louisa Alcott had a strong will and a brave heart, and would not be overcome by obstacles.

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The Civil War had begun, and the school-teacher's heart was deeply moved. She was now thirty, having had such experience as makes us very tender toward suffering. The perfume of natures does not usually come forth without bruising. She determined to go to Washington and offer herself as a nurse at the hospital for soldiers. After much official red tape, she found herself in the midst of scores of maimed and dying, just brought from the defeat at Fredericksburg. She says: "Round the great stove was gathered the dreariest group I ever saw,--ragged, gaunt, and pale, mud to the knees, with bloody bandages untouched since put on days before; many bundled up in blankets, coats being lost or useless, and all wearing that disheartened look which proclaimed defeat more plainly than any telegram, of the Burnside blunder. I pitied them so much, I dared not speak to them. I yearned to serve the dreariest of them all.

"Presently there came an order, 'Tell them to take off socks, coats, and shirts; scrub them well, put on clean shirts, and the attendants will finish them off, and lay them in bed.'

"I chanced to light on a withered old Irishman," she says, "wounded in the head, which caused that portion of his frame to be tastefully laid out like a garden, the bandages being the walks, and his hair the shrubbery. He was so overpowered by the honor of having a lady wash him, as he expressed it, that he did nothing but roll up his eyes and bless me, in an irresistible style which was too much for my sense of the ludicrous, so we laughed together; and when I knelt down to take off his shoes, he wouldn't hear of my touching 'them dirty craters.' Some of them took the performance like sleepy children, leaning their tired heads against me as I worked; others looked grimly scandalized, and several of the roughest colored like bashful girls."

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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