Abby May

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Abby May
Abby May Alcott.jpg
Abigail May Alcott
Born October 8, 1800
Died November 25, 1877 (aged 77)
Occupation Housewife, Social Worker
Spouse(s) Amos Bronson Alcott
Children Anna Alcott Pratt, Louisa May Alcott, Elizabeth Sewall Alcott, May Alcott Nieriker
Parent(s) Colonel Joseph May and Dorothy Sewall

Abigail "Abba" Alcott (née May; October 8, 1800 – November 25, 1877)[1] May was an activist for several causes and one of the first paid social workers in the state of Massachusetts. She was the wife of Transcendentalist Amos Bronson Alcott and mother of four daughters, including Civil War novelist Louisa May Alcott.


Family life and education

Abigail May came from a prominent New England family. On her mother's side, she was born into the families of Sewall and Quincy. Her mother, Dorothy Sewall, was the great-granddaughter of Samuel Sewall, a presiding judge of the Salem witch trials. Her father, Colonel Joseph May, was a lauded Unitarian layman.[2] As a child she did not regularly attend a formal school. Rather, she was educated in history, languages, and sciences by her tutor Abigail Allyn in Duxbury, Massachusetts. She was introduced to her future husband, Amos Bronson Alcott in Brooklyn, Connecticut. Abigail May later applied for an assistant position in Alcott's school in Boston. They married in 1830 and collaborated on projects such as the failed utopian community Fruitlands and the Temple School.[3]


Abigail May Alcott's personal writings were first collected and published in 2012, under the title My Heart Is Boundless: Writings of Abigail May Alcott, Louisa's Mother (Free Press). The collection was edited by her great-niece Eve LaPlante (descended from Abba's brother Samuel Joseph May), the author of the dual biography Marmee & Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother (Free Press, 2012).



The death of Elizabeth "Lizzie" Sewall, the model for Beth in Little Women, on March 14, 1858, made Abba May depressed and sad. Nineteen years after Lizzie's death, Abby May herself died in November 1877. Louisa wrote in her journal: "I never wish her back, but a great warmth seems gone out of life... She was so loyal, tender, and true, life was hard for her and no one knew all she had to bear but her children." Abba May is buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord alongside her husband and three of her daughters.


A woman suffragist and an activist for the temperance movement, the poor, and the abolition of slavery, May imbued strong values in her four children. She and her husband served as stationmasters on the Underground Railroad. According to her second daughter, author Louisa May Alcott, she "always did what came to her in the way of duty and charity, and let pride, taste, and comfort suffer for love's sake".[4] Such humanitarian ideals extended beyond her household to the city of Boston, Massachusetts, where she accepted a full-time job as a social worker in 1848.[5]

See also


  1. ^ [1] Abigail May Alcott at Find a Grave
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-02-03. Retrieved 2007-04-24.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) A biography of Louisa May Alcott that includes several details about Abigail May Alcott
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-05-15. Retrieved 2007-04-24.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Bronson and Abigail Alcott
  4. ^ [2] Abigail May Alcott Text
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-04-04. Retrieved 2007-04-24.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) On Abigail May Alcott
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