When the state of Massachusetts finally passed a law in 1879 allowing women the right to vote in town elections on issues involving children and education, Louisa May seized the chance.
Realizing the importance of this new opportunity for women, Louisa May got to work trying to encourage women to register and vote in the next town election by organizing reading groups on the importance of voting and passing around petitions encouraging women to vote.
Louisa May quickly became frustrated by the resistance she encountered. The local Concord women were not the least bit interested in voting.
Many of the women complained they were too busy running their households to bother. Louisa May wrote about her frustration with the women in her journal:
“Trying to stir up the women about Suffrage. So timid & slow…Drove about & drummed up women to my Suffrage meeting. So hard to move people out of the old ruts.”
To help motivate them Louisa May stated she “gave them a good scolding & offered to drive the timid sheep to the fatal spot where they seem to expect some awful doom.” She then declared proudly that she was “the first woman to register my name as a voter.”
On March 29, 1880, Alcott, along with 19 other women, attended the Concord Town Meeting and officially cast her ballot. After the women voted, Alcott reported, “No bolt fell on our audacious heads, no earthquake shook the town.”
In another town election the following year, Louisa May encountered more resistance from local women:
“Saw my townswomen about voting &c. Hard work to stir them up. Cake & servants are more interesting.”
Even in the 1883 town election, she stated not much had changed:
“seven women vote. I am one of them & Anna [her sister] another. A poor show for a town that prides itself on its culture & independence.”
Louisa May continued to vote and encourage other women to vote until her death in 1888.
Alcott, Louisa May. The Journals of Louisa May Alcott; Louisa May Alcott. University of Georgia Press, 1997.
Reisen, Harriet. Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women. Picador, 2009.