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This chronology is not exhaustive but highlights events discussed in this book on a timeline that allows for a comparison of the four authors’ biographies.


Elizabeth Barstow [Stoddard] is born on May 6 in Mattapoisett, MA.


Louisa May Alcott is born on November 29 in Germantown, PA.


Abby May Alcott is born on July 26 in Concord, MA. (She will later go by May.)

Constance Fenimore Woolson is born on March 5, in Claremont, NH.


The Alcotts undertake their Fruitlands experiment in June, and it will last until January 1844.


Mary Gray Phelps [Elizabeth Stuart Phelps] is born on August 31.


Stoddard’s mother, Betsy Barstow, dies.


Alcott’s first publication, the poem “Sunlight,” by “Flora Fairfield,” appears in Peterson’s Magazine.

Stoddard begins her friendship with Margaret Sweat, which will last until 1854. Stoddard attends literary gatherings in New York City and meets Richard Henry Stoddard and his circle of poet friends.


Phelps’s mother dies, after which the daughter adopts her mother’s name, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps.

Stoddard’s first publication, the sketch “Phases,” appears in the Literary World in October. Her father goes bankrupt in the same month, breaking up her family in Mattapoisett. She marries Richard Henry Stoddard in December.


Phelps’s mother’s story, “The Husband of a Blue,” is published posthumously.


Alcott’s first book, Flower Fables, is published in December.

Stoddard begins to publish her column in the Daily Alta California in October; the column will run until February 1858.


Stoddard gives birth to a son, Wilson (Willy).


Elizabeth Gaskell’s biography The Life of Charlotte Brontë is published.

Stoddard and Alcott are inspired by the book and write about it, Stoddard in her Daily Alta column and Alcott in her journal.

The Atlantic Monthly is founded.


Alcott’s first publication in the Atlantic, the story “Love and Self-Love,” appears in March. A second story, “A Modern Cinderella,” is published in the Atlantic in October. Her antislavery story “M.L.” is rejected. Alcott writes the first draft of Moods in four weeks in August.

Phelps reads Aurora Leigh and decides to commit herself to authorship.

Stoddard’s first short story, “My Own Story,” is published in the Atlantic in May.


Alcott revises Moods.

Stoddard’s son Willy dies.


In January, James T. Fields, publisher of the Atlantic, tells Alcott to give up writing and gives her money to run a kindergarten, which she does from January to April while living with the Fieldses in Boston. In December, Alcott begins her secret life as a writer of sensation stories, winning a hundred-dollar prize from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. She also begins her stint as a Civil War nurse in Washington, D.C., which will end in January 1863.

Stoddard’s first novel, The Morgesons, is published.


Alcott’s Hospital Sketches are published in the Boston Commonwealth in May and June and then in book form. She has three works published in the Atlantic: the story “Debby’s Début” in August (almost three years after it was accepted), the poem “Thoreau’s Flute” in September, and the story “The Brothers” (later retitled “My Contraband”) in November. In December, Alcott publishes a collection of her Civil War stories, On Picket Duty, and Other Tales.

Stoddard’s second son, Lorimer (Lorry), is born.


Alcott’s novel Moods is published in December. Fields rejects her story “An Hour” for the Atlantic, and the assistant editor accepts “Nelly’s Hospital” for Our Young Folks. Her relationship with the publishing firm Ticknor and Fields and their magazines terminates.


Alcott travels to Europe in July and returns in July 1866.

Stoddard’s second novel, Two Men, is published.


Stoddard keeps her writer’s journal during the summer in Mattapoisett.


Stoddard publishes her final novel, Temple House.


Alcott’s sensation Little Women is published, part 1 in October, and part 2 in April 1869.

Alcott publishes “Psyche’s Art” in book form.

Phelps’s first novel, The Gates Ajar, is published to much popular acclaim. Her first story in the Atlantic, “The Tenth of January,” appears and gains her the recognition of the literary elite.


Woolson’s father, Charles Jarvis Woolson, Sr., dies.


In April, Alcott travels to Europe with her sister May and May’s friend Alice Bartlett; she will return in June 1871.

Phelps publishes Hedged In.

Stoddard publishes her only story about a woman writer, “Collected by a Valetudinarian,” in Harper’s.

Woolson’s first publications appear in July, “The Happy Valley” in Harper’s and “Fairy Island” in Putnam’s.


Phelps publishes The Silent Partner. She also publishes her essays “Unhappy Girls” and “The True Woman” in the Independent.

Stoddard publishes “A Literary Whim” in Appletons’ Journal. Over the next two years, with her husband as editor, she publishes many pieces (some under pseudonyms) in the Aldine Press.


Alcott publishes Aunt Jo’s Scrap-Bag: Shawl Straps. In December, serialization of her novel Work begins.

Woolson’s first publication in the Atlantic, the poem “Ideal. (The Artist Speaks.),” appears in October.


Woolson begins her extensive travels through the South with her mother, continuing through 1879. Her first book, The Old Stone House, a book for children, is published under the pseudonym “Anne March.”


Stoddard publishes her children’s book, Lolly Dink’s Doings.


Woolson’s first collection, Castle Nowhere: Lake Country Sketches, is published.


May Alcott returns to Europe, where she will live until her death.

Phelps gives her lectures on George Eliot at Boston University and builds her house, which she called her “old maid’s paradise,” in Gloucester.

Woolson publishes her poem “To George Eliot” in the New Century for Woman.


Alcott publishes A Modern Mephistopheles in Roberts Brothers’ No Name series. Her mother, Abigail Alcott, dies in November.

Phelps publishes The Story of Avis.


May Alcott marries Ernest Nieriker in March. Alcott begins to write Diana and Persis.


May Alcott gives birth to a daughter, Lulu, and dies seven weeks later, December 29, in Paris.

Alcott stops writing Diana and Persis.

Phelps publishes An Old Maid’s Paradise about her residence in Gloucester.

In January and February, Woolson publishes two reviews of James’s Europeans in the Atlantic’s “Contributors’ Club.” Her mother, Hannah Cooper Pomeroy Woolson, dies on February 13. In November, Woolson travels to Europe. She will not return to the United States.


Lulu Nieriker arrives from Europe to be cared for by Alcott.

Phelps publishes “A Plea for Immortality” in the Atlantic.

Woolson meets Henry James in late April in Florence. In May, her story “‘Miss Grief’” is published in Lippincott’s. In December, her first novel, Anne, begins serialization in Harper’s. It will be published in book form in 1882.


Phelps publishes Dr. Zay.

Woolson publishes her story “The Street of the Hyacinth” in Century magazine in May and June.

Alcott publishes a revised Moods to little critical notice.


Woolson publishes her second novel, For the Major.


Alcott publishes Jo’s Boys, the final book in the Little Women trilogy.

Phelps’s close friend, Dr. Mary Briggs Harris, with whom she sometimes lived, dies.

Woolson lives in Aurora Leigh’s villa at Bellosguardo in Florence with artist friends and publishes her novel East Angels.


Woolson publishes “At the Château of Corinne” in Harper’s in October.


Bronson Alcott dies on March 4; Louisa May Alcott dies on March 6.

Phelps marries Herbert Dickinson Ward.

With the help of Edmund Clarence Stedman, Stoddard’s novels Two Men and Temple House are republished, the former with a laudatory introduction by Stedman.


Ednah D. Cheney publishes Louisa May Alcott: Her Life, Letters, and Journals.

Stoddard’s novel The Morgesons is republished.


Phelps publishes the story “The Rejected Manuscript” in Harper’s.


Shortly after finishing her final novel, Horace Chase, and suffering from influenza, Woolson commits suicide in Venice on January 24.


Stoddard’s selected Poems, spanning her entire career, are published by Houghton, Mifflin.

Phelps publishes her autobiography, Chapters from a Life.


The Authors’ Club honors Richard Henry Stoddard with a public dinner to commemorate his career, and Elizabeth Stoddard, although she must sit in the balcony with the other women, is also honored.


All three of Stoddard’s novels are again republished. The Morgesons contains a new preface by the author, including recollections of how she developed as a writer and an excerpt from a letter by Hawthorne.


Stoddard dies on August 1.

Phelps publishes the novel Confessions of a Wife.


Phelps dies on January 28.

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