“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

 

In September 1868 Little Women, was published for the first time. Since then, the story of the March family, set during the American Civil War, has inspired generations of readers. While their father is away fighting, the four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy live their hopes, dreams and fears at home with their mother. They are helped by a kind, wealthy neighbour, Mr Laurence and his grandson Laurie. Poverty, love, illness and death are all important themes in this classic story.

Louisa May Alcott was born in Massachusetts in 1832 where her family were friends and neighbours of important American writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau. She studied at home with her father and, like Jo March, was more interested in feminism and politics than more ladylike activities. She wrote Little Women at the age of 36 and included many autobiographical details in it. The story has many parallels with her own life and her own three sisters. Like the March family, the Alcott family went from being very rich to extremely poor and her own sister, Lizzie died of scarlet fever like Beth did in the story. Little Women was followed by Little Men (1871) and Jo’s Boys (1886).

 

Illustration by Marina Marcolin, taken from Little Women, by Louise May Alcott, Green Apple, Step One (CEFR A2).