Little Women is one of those books. We devoured them as kids. They were our gateway drugs to the power and possibilities that only a book can create. Louisa May Alcott‘s tale of four sisters growing up in Civil War era Massachusetts will live on forever as a testament of not only what it is to be a woman, but to be a sister and to have a sister.
Today is Alcott’s 184’s birthday. While she is known for other novels, Little Women will always stand out for me.
While the four March sisters are archetypes, they stand alone as individuals. The eldest, Meg is the typical eldest sister: steady, reliable and thinking with a clear head. The next eldest daughter, Josephine, or Jo as she is known as, is the tomboy and the rebel. She is the son her father never had. The third daughter, Beth, prefers to stay within the confines of home and family to the world outside. She also has the biggest heart. The baby of the family, Amy, is not unlike other youngest children in that she is spoiled. Though she is a bit of a drama queen, she knows that family is the most important thing at the end of the day.
There is magic in this book. The magic comes from the four sisters, whose lives and relationships feel human, alive and relevant. Using real life as an inspiration, Alcott was the second of four daughters. She received an extraordinary education for a girl from her era, learning from noted Gilded era intellectuals Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Independent and free thinking, Alcott never married.
Louisa May Alcott is part of a short, but important list of women writers who opened the door for women to not just earn their livings as writers, but do whatever they want to do with their lives.
Happy Birthday, Louisa May Alcott. I raise my glass and my very old edition of Little Women to you.