Little Women is a novel by American author Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888), which was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. Alcott wrote the books over several months at the request of her publisher. Following the lives of the four March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy—the novel details their passage from childhood to womanhood and is loosely based on the author and her three sisters. Scholars classify Little Women as an autobiographical or semi-autobiographical novel.
Little Women was an immediate commercial and critical success with readers demanding to know more about the characters. Alcott quickly completed a second volume entitled Good Wives in the United Kingdom. It was also successful. The two volumes were issued in 1880 as a single novel entitled Little Women.
Little Women “has been read as a romance or as a quest, or both. It has been read as a family drama that validates virtue over wealth”, but also “as a means of escaping that life by women who knew its gender constraints only too well.” According to Sarah Elbert, Alcott created a new form of literature, one that took elements from Romantic children’s fiction and combined it with others from sentimental novels, resulting in a totally new format. Elbert argued that within Little Women can be found the first vision of the “All-American girl” and that her multiple aspects are embodied in the differing March sisters.
The book has been adapted for cinema; twice as silent film and four times with sound in 1933, 1949, 1978 and 1994. Six television series were made, including four by the BBC—1950, 1958, 1970, and 2017.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888) was an American novelist and poet best known as the author of the novel Little Women (1868) and its sequels Little Men (1871) and Jo’s Boys (1886). Raised in New England by her transcendentalist parents, Abigail May and Amos Bronson Alcott, she grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of the day, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Alcott’s family suffered from financial difficulties, and while she worked to help support the family from an early age, she also sought an outlet in writing. She began to receive critical success for her writing in the 1860s. Early in her career, she sometimes used the pen name A. M. Barnard, under which she wrote novels for young adults that focused on spies and revenge.
Published in 1868, Little Women is set in the Alcott family home, Orchard House, in Concord, Massachusetts, and is loosely based on Alcott’s childhood experiences with her three sisters. The novel was very well received and is still a popular children’s novel today, filmed several times.
Alcott was an abolitionist and a feminist and remained unmarried throughout her life. She died from a stroke, two days after her father died, in Boston on March 6, 1888.