Little Women is 150 years old




“Moral pap for the young,” Louisa May Alcott said of her writing for girls.

She would much rather have been writing gothic fiction – but her father, a Transcendentalist educational reformer, was prepared to “starve or freeze” rather than give up his principles just so he could get a job that supported his family. Louisa hated their threadbare existence and was determined as she grew up never to be poor. “Money is the means and the ends of my mercenary existence,” she said.

Under the name A.M Barnard, she had written sensational, fiery novels and stories with gutsy heroines. But her publisher pressured her to write stories for girls and her father insisted on the need for simple stories for boys and girls about how to overcome selfishness and anger, faults which he constantly pointed out in Louisa.

The accceptance of the March girls, even Jo, of traditional womanly roles, and the almost saintly death of Beth, are very different from Louisa’s own feminist attitudes (she may have been gay, too) and from the harrowing death of her own sister.

Here’s another very different picture of the real Louisa May Alcott:




9 thoughts on “Little Women is 150 years old

  1. Did you read the book? When you were young, or when you were older? Afraid Louisa May Alcott’s father would have found the same faults in me as he did in Louisa, along with an excess of stubbornness. Not sure that I ever managed to finish the book (despite being willing to read almost anything in print). It didn’t resonate with me, in so many ways, starting with, it didn’t have any brothers or boys’ interests in it, and although I had three sisters, we never related in most of the ways described in the book (we are much closer today than as kids, with the exception of my older sister to whom I was and am close). Good to know that Louisa herself did not write an autobiographical book.

  2. Even (or especially) “pap” must be well written. I’m more of a “Just Mary” with Mr. McGarity type – then there’s always Winnie the Pooh.

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