This Day In Literary History
On September 30th, 1868, Little Women, the classic novel by the famous American writer Louisa May Alcott, was published. The novel was published in two parts.
The second part, Good Wives, was published in 1869. In 1880, both parts would be combined and republished as a single volume, which is how the novel appears to this day.
Little Women, which tells the story of the four March sisters, (Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy) growing up in Concord, Massachusetts, was based on Alcott's experiences growing up with her own three sisters in Concord and Boston. Louisa modeled the character of Jo after herself.
Fifteen-year-old Jo March is the second oldest of the sisters. Intelligent, outspoken, and tomboyish, Jo longs to be a writer. An early feminist, Jo finds herself at odds with the restrictions placed on women in late 19th century America.
At that time, most women were unable to pursue a higher education. They were pressured to marry young and have lots of children. Employment opportunities for respectable young women were few. Worst of all, women were denied the right to vote to change the status quo.
Through the course of the novel, the March sisters become friends with Theodore "Laurie" Laurence, the handsome, charming, affluent boy next door. An orphan, Laurie lives with his grandfather. He becomes especially close to Jo.
As Laurie joins in the March sisters' adventures, they get into various scrapes. The sisters also struggle to overcome their particular character flaws (Jo has a temper, Meg is vain, Beth is shy, and Amy selfish) in order to live up to their parents' expectations and become, well, little women.
The first part of Little Women became a huge hit with both critics and readers, and an overnight success, selling over 2,000 copies in 1868. Louisa May Alcott received many letters from fans (and visits from them at her home) clamoring for a sequel.
So, in 1869, Alcott published the second part, Good Wives. Although her fans were begging for Jo to get married - especially to Laurie - she resisted the idea at first, believing that Jo should remain a "literary spinster."
Alcott changed her mind, and in Good Wives, married off not only Jo, but Meg and Amy as well. However, in a surprising twist, Jo marries Friedrich "Fritz" Bhaer, the poor German immigrant and professor who encouraged her to be a serious writer, while Amy marries Laurie.
Alcott would later write :
Jo should have remained a literary spinster, but so many enthusiastic young ladies wrote to me clamorously demanding that she should marry Laurie, or somebody, that I didn't dare refuse and out of perversity went and made a funny match for her.
In reviews that proved to be prescient, the critics of the day proclaimed Little Women to be a classic. And to this day, it remains one of the most popular works of 19th century American literature. It would be followed by two sequels: Little Men (1871) and Jo's Boys (1886).
Little Women would later be adapted many times for the radio, stage, screen, and television.
Quote Of The Day
"Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable." - Louisa May Alcott
Today's video features a complete reading of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel, Little Women. Enjoy!