And when your heart is light and happy
Anna, dear, then think of me.
Poem by Louisa May Alcott
Anna Bronson Alcott, the first of Bronson and Abigail May Alcott's four daughters, was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania on March 16, 1831.
Although part of a highly individualistic, non-conformist family, Anna did fit more easily into the ideal of "Victorian Womanhood" than any of her other sisters. She was a dutiful daughter, good student, self-sacrificing governess, and eventually, a model wife and mother. Gentle and loving in temperament, she was often the one to give emotional shelter to the members of her family through life’s many storms.
Anna was stage-struck from an early age and had secret longings "to shine before the world as a great actress or Prima Donna." In her youth, she and younger sister Louisa created romantic melodramas which they performed for friends. One visitor to the Alcott home commented on the talents of these amateur actresses: "If Louisa could make our sides ache with laughter, Anna could cause handkerchiefs to come out and much swallowing of lumps in the throat."
In 1858, the year they moved to Orchard House, Louisa and Anna helped form the Concord Dramatic Union. Another member of the troupe was John Bridge Pratt; he and Anna fell in love while acting opposite each other in a play called "The Loan of a Lover."
Anna was the inspiration for "Meg March" in Little Women, with her real-life wedding to John Bridge Pratt ("John Brooke") in the Parlor of Orchard House on May 23, 1860 forming the basis for the fictional marriage of Meg and John. Of her own wedding Anna wrote:
I was in a dream, the lovely day, the bright May sunshine streaking in upon the sweet flowers and loving faces, the influence of the kind hearts around me. All seemed so beautiful that although my heart beat fast and the tears came to my eyes, I did not feel like Annie. John looked like an angel, fair, innocent, with such loving eyes that I could not look at them but only held his hand and thought, "He is my husband."
Sadly, John died after only ten years of marriage, leaving Anna to care for their two young sons, Frederick and John Jr. In 1877, with Louisa's help, Anna purchased the Thoreau House on Main Street in Concord. Her last years were spent caring for those she loved, including her own sons, her sister Louisa, and May's daughter, Lulu.