8. Louisa May Alcott - Little Women (1868)
An odd case of do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do, Louisa May Alcott - one of the world’s best loved and most influential writers - was both a staunch advocate for temperance and purity and a secret opium and hashish addict.
The writer of Little Women, possibly America’s favourite novel, began using morphine to help with the ongoing symptoms suffered following a bout of typhoid fever contracted when she served as a nurse during the Civil War. At around the same time, she collaborated with her cousins Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin) and Catharine Beecher on an adaptation of an earlier work, The American Women’s Home. The Beecher family were infamously in favour of temperance and activism in abolitionism and the rights of women - a more right-on family you could not think to find.
Alcott’s ongoing addiction must have plagued her with guilt, as she kept her problems a secret from those closest to her. The original reason for her use of drugs had long gone by the time she Little Women was published: the issue then was simply that the withdrawal was simply worse than the self-recrimination and humiliation of needing drugs to get by.
She would continue to campaign against the evils of opium while maintaining her own long-standing habit with the drug for the rest of her life.