Louisa May Alcott is best known as a children’s author, yet her own life was much harder than Little Women would suggest. Before Alcott became the J.K. Rowling of her time, she worked as a servant, a seamstress and Civil War nurse. She grew up in the thick of the abolition and woman suffrage movement and lifted her family from dire poverty to great wealth. American Experience illuminates some surprising aspects of her life and work in a film shot on nearby locations including Orchards House in Concord, Emerson’s house in Concord and Fruitlands in Harvard, site of the Alcott’s utopian experiment.

Watch Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women tonight at 8pm on WGBH World