Abigail Abba Alcott

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Abigail Abba Alcott (May)

Also Known As: "Abby May", "Abba /May/"
Birthdate: (77)
Birthplace: Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
Death: November 25, 1877 (77)
Boston, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Joseph May and Dorothy May
Wife of Amos Bronson Alcott
Mother of Anna "Meg" Bronson Pratt; Louisa May Alcott; Elizabeth Sewell Alcott; Frederick Alcott and Abigail "Abby" May Nieriker
Sister of Louisa Caroline Bond; Reverend Samuel Joseph May; Charles May; Catharine Windship; Eliza May and 2 others

Managed by: Private User
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About Abigail Abba Alcott

Abigail May Alcott (October 8, 1800-November 25, 1877), abolitionist, women's rights activist, and pioneer social worker, supported her husband and the Fruitlands community through her labor and resources. She provided the model for "Marmee" in her daughter Louisa May Alcott's novel, Little Women.

Abigail, the youngest child of Dorothy Sewall and prominent Unitarian layman Col. Joseph May, had been given a largely informal education, though, like the rest of her family, she was well-read. As a young adult she had studied history, languages, and science in Duxbury, Massachusetts under tutor Abigail Allyn, daughter of liberal Congregationalist minister John Allyn. Having met Alcott while staying with her brother in Brooklyn, she applied for the position of assistant in Alcott's new Boston school. A few months later she wrote her brother, "I am engaged to Mr. Alcott not in a school, but in the solemn—the momentous capacity of friend and wife." She rejoiced that she was not only Alcott's lover, but "his pupil, his companion." Alcott was pleased to discover that "philosophy is no enemy of love," rather "its intimate friend." They were married in 1830 by Francis Greenwood at King's Chapel, the Mays' church.


Abigail May Alcott was born on October 8, 1800. The youngest daughter of Colonel Joseph May and Dorothy Sewall, she was a descendent of the distinguished Quincy and Sewall families of New England. Her great aunt was Dorothy Quincy, the revolutionary belle who married John Hancock, the first governor of Massachusetts.

Abigail, or Abba as she was called, had a passionate temperament, a fine mind and a generous heart. She felt keenly the injustices of the world and worked energetically for various causes, especially to help the poor, for women’s rights, temperance and abolition. Louisa said of her mother as a social worker in Boston: "...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." Abba May met Amos Bronson Alcott in Brooklyn, Connecticut at the home of her brother, Samuel Joseph May, the first Unitarian minister in the state. Throughout their long courtship, Bronson Alcott, a shy lover, communicated his sentiments to Miss May by letting her read passages about herself in his journal. Bronson and Abba were married in King’s Chapel in Boston on May 23, 1830.

Abba’s love for her visionary husband was a mainstay in calm and storm. Although frequently frustrated by his inability to support his family, she believed in him and his ideals even when it seemed the rest of the world did not. She wrote in her journal that she could never live without him, "I think I can as easily learn to live without breath."

Mrs. Alcott is the beloved "Marmee" of Little Women. To her four daughters she was "the most splendid mother in world." She devoted herself to them, encouraged them in their talents, and gave them practical rules to live by. Some of her sayings were: "Rule yourself," "Love your neighbor," "Hope and keep busy."

When Abba died in November 1877, Louisa wrote: "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."

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Abigail Abba Alcott's Timeline

October 8, 1800
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
March 16, 1831
Age 30
Germantown, Philadelphia, PA
November 29, 1832
Age 32
Germantown, Pennsylvania, United States
June 24, 1835
Age 34
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
April 4, 1839
Age 38
July 16, 1840
Age 39
Concord, Middlesex, MA
November 25, 1877
Age 77
Boston, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts