Little women book summary

Little women book summary DEFAULT


  • The March sisters live and grow in post-Civil War America.

  • Louisa May Alcott's autobiographical account of her life with her three sisters in Concord, Massachusetts in the 1860s. With their father fighting in the American Civil War, sisters Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth are at home with their mother, a very outspoken women for her time. The story tells of how the sisters grow up, find love and find their place in the world.

  • Four sisters and their mother at home. Their father is fighting in the war. Louisa May Alcott semi-autobiographical novel has captured young women and the young at heart for years. On Christmas evening they receive a lovely dinner by their nieighbor James Laurence. Jo meets the old mans grandson at a dance. Jo, Amy, Beth, and Meg befriend him. Join in the hope, joy, surprise, disappoints, and love in one of my faves Little Women. Also the books Litttle Men, and Jo's Boys and how they grew up.

  • With their father away fighting in the Civil War, Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy grow up with their mother in somewhat reduced circumstances. They are a close family who inevitably have their squabbles and tragedies. But the bond holds even when, later, men friends start to become a part of the household.

    —Jeremy Perkins {J-26}


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The March sisters contemplate a gloomy Christmas. Their father is serving as a chaplain in the Civil War and their mother, "Marmee," must work to support the family. Meg and Jo, the two oldest sisters, also have jobs. Meg is a governess and Jo is a companion to their wealthy relative, Aunt March. The two younger sisters are Beth and Amy. Beth is too shy to attend school and is taught at home. Amy attends school but the teacher is very strict.

    On Christmas morning, the girls eagerly look forward to a hearty breakfast. But Mrs. March sends word that she is helping a poor family with several children. The girls decide to take their breakfast to the family. As they leave the house, they are spotted by their neighbor, wealthy old Mr. Laurence, and his teenage grandson Laurie. The girls aren't acquainted with the Laurences but Jo impulsive waves at them. Mr. Laurence remarks that the Marches were "once one of our first families."

    Sometime later, Jo and Laurie meet at a dance. He doesn't go to school but is tutored by young Mr. John Brooke. Jo and Laurie become best friends and soon he is the brother the March girls never had. He participates in their amateur theatricals, written by Jo. She wants to be a writer and has a studio in the attic.

    Amy is disciplined by her teacher and refuses to return to school. Marmee agrees as long as Amy will keep up with her lessons at home. Jo has a hard time with Aunt March because the old woman is very critical of her. She forces Jo to read dull books aloud, but as soon as she drops off to sleep, Jo switches to more interesting ones.

    Meg feels the family's poverty much more keenly that her sisters. When she is invited to a weekend at the wealthy Gardiners' home, her sisters and mother help her put together a suitable wardrobe. Aunt March is visiting and insists that Meg must marry well, so she can help her family. But Marmee wants her girls to marry for love, not money. While at the Gardiners', Meg discovers that her "best dress" is far too simple. Sallie Gardiner offers to loan her a dress for the dance and along with her maid, transforms Meg into a fashionable girl. Laurie attends the party but is put off by Meg's face paint and low-cut dress. When she begins drinking champagne, he stops her and she storms off. Later he apologizes and Meg admits to feeling like a fool. When she sprains her ankle, Laurie packs it in snow and gives her a ride home in his carriage.

    Amy often feels left out when Meg and Jo go places with Laurie. She is furious when Jo refuses to let her tag along to the theater. While Jo is gone, Amy burns all her writings. When Jo discovers the damage, she vows she will never speak to her sister again. Marmee advises not letting the sun go down on her anger, but Jo is unrelenting. Then Amy falls through the ice while skating and nearly drowns. Jo is very sorry for her actions and vows to keep a tight rein on her temper.

    A telegram arrives with grim news. Mr. March is gravely ill in a field hospital. Marmee must go to him at once and sends Jo to borrow the train fare from Aunt March. Not wanting to endure her aunt's criticiscm, Jo sells her long hair instead. The Laurences come to the family's aid. Mr. Brooke offers to escort Marmee, which pleases Meg. It is obvious that they are in love with each other.

    While Marmee is away, Beth falls ill with scarlet fever. Mr. Laurence sends for a doctor, who advises that Marmee come home. Meg and Jo care for Beth as best they can, but she doesn't really improve until her mother arrives. Unknown to the family, the illness has weakened Beth's heart. On Christmas Eve, Beth is allowed downstairs for the first time and Mr. March returns home. Mr. Laurence gives Beth the piano that belonged to his own daughter, who died many years earlier. Meg and John announce their engagement, but it is another three years before they marry.

    The story picks up with Meg and John's wedding. Beth is now a semi-invalid. She tires easily but never complains. Amy has taken Jo's place as a companion to Aunt March. Jo's writings are now selling but she is not satisfied. She longs for excitement and adventure. After the wedding, she goes for a walk with Laurie. He proposes marriage, which she refuses because she doesn't think they are suited to each other. After an emotional scene, Laurie stalks off. Later he goes to Europe, which has always been Jo's dream.

    When Aunt March announces she is taking Amy to Europe with her, Jo is heartbroken. Marmee suggests she stretch her wings by taking a job away from home. Jo finds a position as governess in New York City. Her charges are the children of a boarding house owner. She meets Fritz Bhaer, a professor from Germany who is raising his two nephews. He is much older than Jo. When he discovers that she loves music, he invites her to an opera. He can't afford tickets but the stage manager is a friend of his and gives them seats backstage. Jo confides in Mr. Bhaer that she is selling her stories to magazines and newspapers of doubtful repute. He is alarmed by this and urges her to stop. But the pay is good and Jo is able to send money home for Beth's medical care. Mr. Bhaer reads one of her stories and pronounces it terrible. Jo is hurt and offended. Before she can confront him, she receives a telegram. Beth is very ill and won't live much longer. Jo instantly sets out for home.

    On arriving home, Jo discovers that Meg is several months' pregnant. When asked why she didn't write to Jo with the news, Meg replies primly that one doesn't speak of such things. Jo takes care of Beth until her death. The family is devastated, especially since there was no time to send for Amy.

    In Europe, Amy is taking a painting class and enjoying a romance with one of Laurie's wealthy friends, Fred Vaughn. Laurie comes to their hotel but Amy is put off by his attitude. She thinks he is running with a wild crowd and wasting his grandfather's money. He privately asks Aunt March if Amy and Fred are engaged. She says not yet. Laurie flirts with Amy and tries to kiss her but she won't let him. He asks her not to rush into an engagement she may later regret and departs for London.

    Meanwhile, Jo is regretting having refused Laurie's proposal. When she writes with the news of Beth's death, she asks him to come home. But Laurie only reads the first few lines before rushing off to be with Amy in her time of sorrow. Luckily she has refused Fred's proposal and before long she and Laurie fall in love. She wants to go home but Aunt March is too ill to travel.

    Jo begins writing a novel based on her family. She titles it "My Beth" and sends it to Professor Bhaer. He in turns sends it to a publisher, who accepts it. Jo is ecstatic and can't wait for Laurie to return home so she can tell him the good news. But when he arrives, he brings a wife -- Amy! Jo tries to cover her shock as the two explain that they were married several weeks earlier. After a while she realizes it is right and is able to congratulate them.

    Aunt March dies and leaves Jo her estate consisting of a large house and several acres. Jo decides to open a school for orphans.

    Professor Bhaer unexpectedly arrives during a family get-together. He thinks Jo and Laurie are married but is relieved when Jo explains that is not the case. In a few weeks he is leaving for the west to accept a position at a college. Impulsively he proposes to Jo and she accepts. They kiss as the rain pours down around them.

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Little Women

“Little Women” is a novel written by Louisa May Alcott and published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, respectively. Alcott wrote the book in response to a request from her friends and family to write a book for young girls.

The first novel was a huge success with readers and Alcott was inundated with letters requesting the second volume immediately. She quickly wrote the next volume to accommodate them. Eventually, the two volumes were released as one novel in 1880 called “Little Women”.

The novel continues to be very widely read and the ambitious female characters in it contributed to the rise of feminism in 20 century America. It revolves around the story of the four March sisters and their lives as they grow into adults. The girls must contend with learning to become good women and learning about who they are as people with the help of their mother and father.

Many years of their lives are covered during the course of the book and in the end, they are all married mothers with happy lives.

Book Summary

“Little Women” begins on Christmas Eve. The four daughters of the March family are gathered in the living room of their simple home. Each girl has one dollar to her name but their mother feels that it is wasteful to spend money on Christmas presents during war time. The girls lament that they are not able to buy anything for each other until they light upon the idea of using their dollar to each buy something for their mother, Marmee.

The eldest girl, Meg is sixteen and very pretty, the second girl Jo is fifteen and a bit of a tomboy who is quick to anger. Third is Beth, who is a quiet girl and thirteen. And last is Amy who is twelve and a musician. The girl’s father, Mr. March was deemed too old to be a soldier in the Union Army. He signed up to be a chaplain instead and is away. The March family misses him very much and the girls gather around their mother to read his newest letter that evening by the fire. Their father urges them to be good so that when he returns he may be fonder and prouder than ever of my little women. The girls all decide to play a game where they try to improve one thing about themselves. Meg decided to be less vain, Jo to be more feminine, Beth to be less shy and Amy to be less selfish. Their mother promises to help them on this journey as she can and to give them all etiquette guidebooks.

The next morning, the girls awake to find the guidebooks under their pillows. The girls surprise their mother with the gifts that they have bought for her and she is very pleased and touched. Friends of the family gather to watch a play that Jo has written and the girls are acting in. The play goes well despite a few prop mishaps and the family as well as their friends enjoy a nice Christmas feast afterward. The feast is a gift from Mr. Laurence, the kindly rich man who lives next door to them.

Meg and Jo attend a New Year’s Eve party nearby. Jo worried about being perceived as ladylike especially as her best dress has a burn mark on it and her gloves are stained with Lemonade. During the party, Jo meets Theodore Laurence, the nephew of her neighbor. He tells her to call him Laurie and the two get along because of their matching interest in boyish games.

After New Year’s the girls must return to work. Meg resents this as she remembers a time when Mr. March had more money before he lost his property. Meg is the governess for a wealthy family named King. Jo works as a helper for their stuffy Great Aunt March. Beth stays at home and helps the March maid, Hannah. Amy attends school and is popular among her classmates.

One day, Jo decides she wants to get to know Laurie. She throws a snowball at his window in order to get his attention and finds out that he has a head cold and is bored of staying in his bed. He invites her in and the other sisters all send gifts over for him. Beth lends her cats to Laurie and he plays with them and forgets his shyness. Laurie shows Jo his grandfather’s large library and Jo agrees to wait there while Laurie sees the doctor. Mr. Laurence stumbles across Jo in the library and the two decide to have tea together. Jo brings up that she feels that Laurie needs more company and that he is lonely. Mr. Laurence agrees that he does and decides that Laurie should spend more time with the March family. Laurie comes back and plays the piano for Jo and his grandfather. This visibly upsets Mr. Laurence and when Jo goes home later she learns that Mr. Laurence’s son married an Italian musician even though he protested the arrangement. The couple died and Mr. Laurence took in Laurie to raise. However, Laurie’s talent as a musician reminds him of his son and makes him solemn.

The March’s begin to visit the Laurence house regularly and everyone enjoys the opulence except Beth who is afraid of the stoic Mr. Laurence. Mr. Laurence overhears her saying this, however, and asks if she wouldn’t mind playing his piano for him so that it will stay in tune. Beth agrees and begins to play the piano daily. It is a dream come true for her to play on such an expensive piano. To show her gratitude, Beth makes Mr. Laurence a pair of slippers and Mr. Laurence decides to give her the old piano that his granddaughter used to play.

Beth and Mr. Laurence become friends after this. Amy buys her classmates at school a jar of pickled limes to share and breaks the school rules in the process. Her teacher punishes her by swatting her palm and making her stand in front of the class until lunchtime. This experience is humiliating for Amy as she has never been punished like this before. She leaves school and goes home of her own volition. Marmee scolds Amy for her conduct but withdraws her from school nonetheless. In retribution for not being allowed to go to the theater with Laurie, Meg and Jo, Amy burns up a manuscript book that Jo had been writing in. Jo is furious and boxes Amy’s ears. Amy realizes that she was wrong but Jo is not willing to forgive. The next day, Laurie and Jo go ice skating and Amy follows. Jo refuses to tell Amy which ice is safe to skate on and she falls through. Laurie and Jo manage to save her.

Once they get back home, Jo admits to her mother that she was so angry at Amy that she made a mistake and nearly killed her. Marmee confesses to Jo that she, too had a bad temper at her age but she later learned to control it. Jo takes comfort in this and vows to never let her anger get the better of her again.

That spring, Meg goes to spend two weeks with her friend, Annie Moffat, a wealthy girl. Meg is upset that she does not have nicer things to bring but reminds herself to be grateful for the opportunity. While attending a party at the Moffat’s, Meg overhears some gossip saying that her mother wants her to marry Laurie for his money. Meg is upset more by the fact that her friends are gossiping about her than the idea that her mother would want her to marry Laurie. She cries that night and the next morning her friends are kinder to her. Although Meg realizes that it is only because they now think that she may end up being Laurie’s wife. This amuses Meg. Another girl, Belle offers to lend Meg a dress for the next party. Meg agrees and finds that the high society people are nicer to her and pay her more attention when she is better dressed. Laurie, who is also at the party, tells Meg that he doesn’t like the way she is acting. Meg agrees that she feels uncomfortable with the attention and how she is expected to act.

When she gets home, Meg tells her family of the odd happenings at the Moffat’s. Marmee regrets sending her but Meg insists that she is thankful for the experience as she feels it taught her a lesson. Marmee explains to her daughters that she does not wish for them to marry rich so much as she wants them to grow to be good women and find loving husbands. She trusts that truly good men will not be put off by their poverty.

The following summer, Meg, and Jo receive three months off from work as their employers are busy elsewhere. They decide to spend the summer resting and having fun. Marmee agrees to give them one week with nothing to do but warns that they will miss having some work to balance the fun. Soon, the girls discover that she is right and that they are bored. Beth soon realizes that she forgot to feed her bird, Pip all week and that he has died. The girls have a small funeral for him. Marmee asks them if they enjoyed the experience. They confirm that the idleness grew annoying and there was much work to catch up on when they started again. Marmee explains that work helps them feel independent and useful. She tells them that it’s important to balance work and fun.

One day that summer, Meg receives a poem and a glove from a man named Mr. Brooke, who is Laurie’s tutor. Marmee begins to wonder what his intentions toward Meg are. However, another boy, Ned Moffat is also interested in Meg. He makes his intentions clearer but Meg does not flirt with him as she does not want to stir more gossip.

The girls and Laurie have a picnic. The girls describe what they want for their future. Meg wants a nice home filled with kind people that she loves and nice things, Jo wants to be an author, Amy wants to go to Rome and be an artist and Beth only wishes to stay at home. Laurie confesses that he is worried his grandfather will make him go into the family business which he does not want to do. Meg tells him to be dutiful to his grandfather but Jo encourages him to go his own way.

That evening, Laurie decides to stay with his grandfather and give up on the idea of being a musician. Laurie and Jo bump into each other in town and Jo reveals that she has been to the newspaper and left two stories there. She is waiting to see if they will be printed. Laurie reveals that Mr. Brooke kept one of Meg’s gloves. He feels that the romance is sweet but Jo worries that Meg is growing up faster that she is. Soon, Jo’s story does get published in the newspaper and she reads it to the family.

That fall, Mr. March falls ill and Marmee must go to Washington to be with him. Mr. Brooke agrees to go with her as an escort. Meg is very grateful for this. Jo goes to town and returns with $25. She reveals that she sold her hair to the barber to help her father. Marmee leaves the girls with Hannah and Mr. Laurence to watch over them. Mr. Brooke writes from Washington that their father is doing better and then begins to write daily reporting on the news of his health. The girls are happy with this and throw themselves into their work to keep from worrying.

Beth goes to help a family whose baby is sick. The baby soon dies of Scarlet Fever. The doctor warns Beth to take belladonna so as not to get sick. Meg and Jo have already had Scarlet Fever and, thus, are immune, but Amy is sent to live with Aunt March for a short while so that she will not catch it. Jo begins to nurse Beth as the girl falls ill. Hannah worries that telling their mother and father of Beth’s illness will only worry them and warns the girls not to write them.

Soon, however, Beth grows worse and Mrs. March is sent for. Laurie reveals to Jo that he had disobeyed Hannah’s order and sent for Mrs. March the day before. Jo is so relieved that she kisses Laurie. She quickly gets embarrassed and thanks him again before leaving. Beth begins to recover shortly before Mrs. March arrives home.

After Marmee returns home, she tells Jo in secret that Mr. Brooke told her he plans to secure a comfortable living and then ask for Meg’s hand in marriage. Marmee intends to gauge what Meg’s feelings are for Mr. Brooke. She soon decides that her daughter does not love John yet, but she will learn to. Laurie figures out that Jo is keeping some secret related to Meg and Mr. Brooke and comes up with a plan to find out what it is. He sends a letter to Meg professing great love for her and signs it “John Brooke”. Meg tells Mr. Brooke that she is too young to marry and that she must speak to her parents. However, John is surprised to hear about the letter and he claims to have no knowledge of it.

Jo realizes that it must have been Laurie that wrote the letter and makes him apologize to Meg. Meanwhile, Mrs. March tells Meg of Mr. Brooke’s true feelings for her. Meg still feels that she is too young to marry and is uneasy at being a lover. She claims that she only wishes to be friends with Mr. Brooke. Mr. March arrives home on Christmas Day to the delight of his daughters. Mr. March notices that his daughters have changed much since he last saw them. Meg’s once beautiful, smooth hands are now rough and hardened from work, Jo has become more of a lady, Beth has gotten less shy and Amy has become more patient and less vain. Despite the happiness of having her father home, Meg still has a problem to deal with in the form of Mr. Brooke’s proposal.

One day, Mr. Brooke stops by to see Mr. March and, when he and Meg are alone he takes her hand and asks her if she cares about him. Meg answers that she doesn’t know. Aunt March walks into the room and notices the scene playing out between the two. Mr. Brooke steps out of the room and Aunt March tells Meg that if she agrees to marry Mr. Brooke, she will never give them a penny. This angers Meg, and she contrarily states that she will marry whom she likes. She defends John, saying that he is kind and courageous and works very hard. Aunt March leaves in a huff and John re-enters the room, having overheard Meg’s defense of him. He asks once again if she cares for him and Meg, passing on the opportunity to make the speech she had practiced refusing him, agrees.Jo returns and is upset to see Meg and John sitting together. Jo tells her parents and sends them to deal with the situation so that she can stay in her room and cry.

Jo returns and is upset to see Meg and John sitting together. Jo tells her parents and sends them to deal with the situation so that she can stay in her room and cry. Mr. Brooke convinces the March’s that Meg is old enough to be engaged and agrees to wait for three years with the hope that by then he will have a home and a steady income. Part two begins three years later. The war has ended and Mr. March is home full time now. He works as a minister in the town.

Part two begins three years later. The war has ended and Mr. March is home full time now. He works as a minister in the town. John Brooke was fought in the war, was wounded and honorably discharged and now works as a bookkeeper. Meg has fallen in love with him and is preparing to marry him. The two will live in a house named Dovecote, which is modest but well outfitted with help from their family and friends.

Jo devotes much of her time to writing and Beth, who remains weak from the bout of Scarlet Fever, still struggles to recover. Amy now works as a companion for Aunt March. Laurie is at college paid for by his grandfather. Meg and John marry in a simple ceremony with their families in attendance. Mr. Laurence tells Laurie that if his grandson chooses to marry he hopes that he will marry a March girl. Laurie agrees to do his best.

Jo continues to submit stories to the newspaper and eventually starts earning money as a writer. Meg soon becomes pregnant and gives birth to twins named Margaret and John but which she nicknames Daisy and Demi. Amy soon receives an invitation from the girl’s aunt Carrol to go to Europe. Jo is hurt and upset that she was not asked instead but supports her sister and helps her pack. Amy asks Laurie to watch over the family while she is gone and he agrees.

While in Europe, she meets up with a college friend of Laurie’s named Fred Vaughn. She begins spending time with him and decides that if he asks to marry her she will accept. Back at home, Jo notices that Beth has been feeling a bit sad and begins to think that her sister might be in love with Laurie. She decides to make Laurie love Beth although Laurie actually loves Jo, herself. Laurie has been trying to bring up the idea of courting to Beth for years but she always ignores or denies him. She speaks to Laurie about Beth but does not mention her name. Laurie assumes that she is talking about herself and takes it as a sign that Jo will be ready to marry him after he finishes college.

Jo decides to go away for the winter to teach at a boarding house in New York in order to make Laurie forget about her and possibly start noticing Beth. Jo works with an older man named Mr. Bhaer who begins to tutor her in German. The two become friends. Jo continues to write stories and submits them to New York papers. However, in order to please the rougher, city editors she must write stories with more lurid details and less moral characters. She publishes them anonymously and does not tell anyone back home that they are hers.Mr. Bhaer realizes that she is writing the stories and becomes disappointed with her. Jo agrees that she is ashamed of writing such stories and stops writing for the rest of her time in New York.

Mr. Bhaer realizes that she is writing the stories and becomes disappointed with her. Jo agrees that she is ashamed of writing such stories and stops writing for the rest of her time in New York. When Jo returns home, Laurie has graduated from college. The day she comes back he proposes to her. Jo admits that she has tried to love him as he does her but that she cannot and apologizes. Laurie is hurt and tries to convince her that their match would still be good. Jo feels that they are both to quick-tempered to be married to each other. Laurie becomes angry and storms out of the room.

Jo begins to worry about him and goes to Mr. Laurence to tell him what has happened. Mr. Laurence decides to take Laurie with him to Europe for a few months so that he can forget about Jo. Laurie agrees to go. Jo worries that she has betrayed her best friend and that he will return differently. Jo begins to spend more time with Beth and realizes that her secret earlier that year was not that she was in love with Laurie but that she is dying. Beth admits that she has known she was weakening for a while and has made her peace with it. She only wishes to enjoy the time that she has left, peacefully.

Laurie and Amy meet up in France and begin to spend time together. They each realize that they have grown up a lot and that they may have feelings for one another. Meg begins to feel that she and her husband are spending less time together since the twins were born. Marmee encourages her to include John more in raising the children and to take more of an interest in world affairs as they affect her just as much as they affect men.

Back in France, Amy and Laurie have a conversation about Fred Vaughn. Laurie is disappointed to hear that Amy is considering marrying Fred as he is not the type of man that Laurie had pictured Amy with. The two argue over this and Amy mentions that she wishes Jo were there. Seeing Laurie’s reaction to hearing her sister’s name, Amy realizes that Jo must have refused him and that is why he has been acting differently. Amy apologizes and tells him that he needs to do something to make Jo love him. She says that he needs to leave France and go back to be with his grandfather, which he does.

Jo begins to nurse Beth again through her final months. Beth promises that she will always be with Jo and makes her promise to take care of their mother and father. Jo agrees and Beth dies peacefully the following Spring. Laurie goes to Vienna to try to be a musician. However, he soon realizes that it is more difficult than he thought. He realizes that his talent does not make him a genius and decides to give up on being a musician.

During this time, he begins to let go of his romantic feelings for Jo and is left with only a brotherly affection for her. Fred Vaughn soon returns to France and Amy realizes that her conversation with Laurie made her want to turn down Fred after all. He asks her to marry him and she declines. Amy soon learns that Beth has died. Laurie arrives soon after and the two realize that they have fallen in love although they do not say it. Soon, Laurie proposes to her and Amy accepts.

Jo begins writing again and receives acclaim from newspapers. She finally feels that she is writing what she wants to and that people are responding to it. A letter comes to tell of Laurie and Amy’s engagement and Jo feels genuinely happy for them. However, she wishes that she could find love. Laurie and Amy soon return from Europe and reveal that they have already gotten married. Laurie asks Jo if they can go back to being best friends and she happily accepts.

Jo is surprised one day when Mr. Bhaer comes for a visit. She introduces him to the family and they all befriend him immediately. Jo and Mr. Bhaer realize their feelings for one another soon after and he tells her that he is going to go west to find work so that he can provide a home for her. Jo is delighted by the idea of marrying him.

In the last chapter of the story, Aunt March dies and leaves her estate to Jo. Jo and Mr. Bhaer marry and move into the estate and decide to turn it into a school for orphan boys. Jo is happy to be surrounded by little boys and soon she and Mr. Bhaer have two sons of their own. Five years later, the family gathers at the estate to celebrate Mrs. March’s 60th birthday. The sisters sit together in the evening and remember how they wanted their lives to go as teenagers and how differently they all turned out. Meg does not have the luxurious things that she wanted but she is happy, Jo still intends to be an author, and Amy is happy to have her own daughter which she has named Beth. All three agree that they are happy and thankful.

Character Analysis

Jo March – the main character of the book. Jo is a tomboy who is quick to anger in the beginning of the novel but later overcomes this. She also has a great passion for writing. Louisa May Alcott based Jo’s character largely on herself. Jo assumes that she and Laurie will end up together eventually although she repeatedly refuses his offers of marriage.

In the end, Jo marries Professor Bhaer and realizes her love of teaching. Jo displays both good and bad traits for a young woman of the 19th century and thus was a very unusual main character for the time. However, Jo’s bad traits make her more human and lovably flawed.

Meg March – the eldest March sister. In the beginning of the novel Meg is very beautiful but very naive and delicate. She constantly struggles with her love of the finer things and eventually marries a poor man for love. Meg best represents the good, kind archetype of 19th-century literary characters. She sometimes tries to change herself to make others happy, as when she allows herself to be made over at Annie Moffat’s house. Eventually, she becomes a well-mannered, quiet housewife, forgoing anything luxurious and pretending to be interested in everything her husband likes.

Beth March – the third March sister. Beth starts out the story as a very shy, timid girl. She resents the work she must do to keep the household running. Beth is closest to Jo as they both have introverted tenancies. Beth represents a more old-fashioned heroine for the time. In killing her off, Alcott was killing off the angelic heroines of contemporary literature.

Amy March – the youngest of the March sisters. Amy is a talented musician and artist who is uncommonly good at manipulating others, sometimes without even realizing it. Amy tries, as a teenager to act like a proper lady although she does not always understand the words she is using or the things she is doing.
In the end, she succeeds in obtaining popularity, a trip to Europe and a rich husband. Like Jo, she is an artist that struggles to balance societies expectations of her role as a woman with what she really wants to do with her life. However, Jo is somewhat of a foil to Amy as she appears more generous and genuine. But both characters are accentuated by their flaws.

Laurie Laurence – neighbor to the Marches’, best friend to Jo and eventual husband to Amy. Laurie battles with his grandfathers desire for him to take over the company and struggles with telling him that he wants to become a musician instead. He bonds with Jo over these struggles as she feels similarly about becoming a lady.

In between the publication of part one of “Little Woman” and part two, Alcott received many letters from fans asking her to marry Jo and Laurie in the end. For some reason, she decided to go against this in a cheeky way and had Laurie marry Amy instead.

Louisa May Alcott Biography 

Born on November 29, 1832, which just happened to be her father’s thirty-third birthday, Louisa May Alcott grew to be not only an amazing writer but also a feminist and an abolitionist. Louisa’s family was not very wealthy, and her father often had trouble supporting his family of girls, so they women had to work,also. Louisa and her sisters filled in jobs as teacher, seamstress, governess, housekeeper, and for Louisa, she was also a writer.

Louisa’s father, Amos Branson Alcott, was a member of the Transcendental Club. He even tried to start a school for children that taught using his beliefs in transcendentalism. Transcendentalist believed in their idea of perfection and was always striving for it. They were a naturalist who thought the best way for people to move forward is by doing away with the old, set ways and find new insights. Society and it’s institutions were corrupt. They taught self-reliance and independence. But, still, Louisa’s wildness angered her father, often.

With her father as her primary teacher, and his friends, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Margaret Fuller, helping in her education, Louisa’s could hardly prevent becoming a writer. But, the surprising part was her gift for children’s books.

Louisa May Alcott’s literary work was topped by her book, “Little Women”, and the sequels, “Good Wives”, and “Jo’s Boys”. The books were semi-autobiographical and based on her life growing up, with three sisters, Anna, Elizabeth, and Abigail May. She wrote her first book in 1849 when she was seventeen, Flower Fables, as a gift for the daughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ellen. For a while, Louisa wrote passionate and sensational stories under the name A. M. Barnard. These books were aimed more for an adult audience and didn’t do as well as her children’s books. At the time the American Civil War broke out, Louisa was working as a journalist for the Atlantic Monthly.

Louisa tried to fill in as a nurse during the war. She spent six weeks at the Union Hospital in Georgetown, D. C., but was forced to quit when she contracted typhoid. She did use manage to write some letters home during her convalescence that were published in the Commonwealth as Hospital Sketches. They exposed the mismanagement of hospitals and how the surgeons she encountered showed indifference and callousness.

Having never married, Louisa explained her “spinsterhood” to having the soul of a man trapped in a woman’s body. But, she did fall in love once. While she was in Europe, she had a romance with a young Polish man, Ladislas “Laddie” Wisniewski. She based her character, Laurie on him in “Little Women”. Apparently, the romance didn’t end well, because she destroyed any evidence of him in her journals before her death. Although she never had children, she did raise her sister, Abigail May’s daughter after she died from what was termed, childbed fever. Lulu was born in 1879, and Louisa cared for her until her death in 1888.

On March 6, 1888, Louisa May Alcott died after suffering a stroke at the age of fifty-five. Her health had not been very good since the typhoid she contracted during the Civil War. She is buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. Near her are the graves of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau. The site is known as Author’s Ridge.

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Little Women

Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s most popular and enduring novel, Little Women. Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War.

It is no secret that Alcott based Little Women on her own early life. While her father, the freethinking reformer and abolitionist Bronson Alcott, hobnobbed with such eminent male authors as Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne, Louisa supported herself and her sisters with "woman’s work,” including sewing, doing laundry, and acting as a domestic servant. But she soon discovered she could make more money writing. Little Women brought her lasting fame and fortune, and far from being the "girl’s book” her publisher requested, it explores such timeless themes as love and death, war and peace, the conflict between personal ambition and family responsibilities, and the clash of cultures between Europe and America.


Summary of Little Women

Reforming Women’s Roles in 19th-Century America

In 19th-century America, women and men operated, generally, within distinct social and gender spheres: Men lived public lives – working outside the home, and involving themselves in politics and philosophy – while women were expected to embrace a role as “the angel in the house” – that is, submissive, domestically-minded femininity. When women did work outside the home, necessity drove their choices and society often viewed their labor as demeaning. However, the years leading up to the Civil War saw a marked increase in women’s involvement in public causes. Women formed volunteer organizations aimed at promoting social reform, including abolishing slavery. Society framed these efforts as an extension of females’ supposed essential moral nature. These pro-abolition groups, in turn, lay the early groundwork for the first wave of the women’s rights movement. In addition, new philosophical movements such as Transcendentalism raised questions about the validity of traditional social structures and ideals, particularly those that infringed upon individual freedoms.

The war itself brought even more women into public life. Women became factory workers, nurses and teachers, and otherwise took charge of traditionally male endeavors while their fathers, husbands and brothers were away at the front. Although most women returned to the domestic sphere after the war, their sense of independence and individuality engendered during those years didn’t dissipate entirely. Some women chose to continue working in their new professions after the war (though their male counterparts were better paid).

Many more women began to push for suffrage and to call for recognizing domestic labor as worthwhile work, despite its unpaid status. At the same time, societal pressure remained for women to adhere to gender norms, even in literature. For instance, the 1860s saw the rise of the domestically-focused “girl story” as a counterpoint to the boy’s “adventure tale.” Still, some authors, like Louisa May Alcott, though ostensibly conforming to “separate spheres” genre tropes, deliberately complicated the construct by showing how boys and girls alike could find the confines of their respective orbits artificial and stifling.


Though Alcott had already found some success writing for children prior to 1868, she was more reluctant than pleased when her publisher Thomas Niles suggested that she write a book for girls. In her diaries, Alcott noted that she didn’t enjoy producing “moral pap for the young” and thought the story “dull.” Nevertheless, she managed to produce an initial 12 chapters in just a month’s time – which, Alcott’s own tastes notwithstanding, Niles’s niece and her friends thought “splendid.” The rest of the first volume quickly followed. Alcott completed the manuscript for volume two in just three months after volume one’s publication.

Alcott shaped Little Women’s characters after her family: the indomitable Abigail May became Marmee. Alcott’s eldest sister Anna, who easily embraced domestic life, became “Meg.” Elizabeth, who died at 23, became “Beth.” Artistic, charming May became “Amy.” And Louisa May Alcott herself was the model for literary, boyish “Jo.” Alcott’s friend, Alf Whitman, with whom she acted in the Concord Dramatic Union, and a young Polish musician named Ladislas “Laddie” Wisniewski, whom Alcott met during her travels in Europe, together formed the basis for “Laurie.”

Inspiration for many of the book’s events came from Alcott’s memories and those of her mother, Abigail. Many of the lessons Alcott incorporates into the March saga reflect the transcendental ideals that informed her upbringing: self-reliance, independence, love of nature, belief in self-denial and a general Christian ethos. Likewise, Abigail’s fierce belief in women’s rights informs the March sisters’ ambitions and, in particular, Jo’s struggles against societal limits. Other autobiographical elements showcased in Little Women are less true to life: While Mr. March is a mild-mannered war hero who enjoys spending time at home, is a kind father and works gainfully as a chaplain, Alcott’s own dictatorial father was often away on lecture tours and earned scant money. Likewise, the Marches’ genteel privation is a decidedly romanticized depiction of the dire poverty Alcott experienced in childhood.

Reviews and Legacy

The first printing of volume one of Little Women, published in September 1868, sold out quickly. Roberts Brothers had trouble keeping up with the popular demand for more copies. The first volume ended with a declaration that the author would offer a conclusion to the Marches’ story if the “reception given the first act” warranted it. In response, Alcott received a tidal wave of letters from fans, eager to know the fate of the March girls especially, who they would marry. The author quickly produced the novel’s second volume, Good Wives, published in April 1869. Later editions of the novel typically combined both volumes.

At the time of its publication, critics received Little Women as warmly as Alcott’s lay readers. While some recent analyses of the text critique her sentimentality and idealization of “hearth and home,” other critics argue that the author leverages “the familiar construct of domesticity” in the service of more radical, proto-feminist ideas. Nineteenth-century women looking for models of female autonomy could, these critics suggest, find one, at least in part, in Jo, while all the March women, in their own ways, illustrate the complexity of women’s struggles for social identity.

Little Women remains a popular novel today. A recent BBC poll listed it as fourth on a list of “Best-Loved Novels” and a School Library Journal survey recognized it as one of the all-time greatest children’s novels. The novel has been adapted for film four times, most notably by George Cukor in 1933 and by Gillian Armstrong in 1994. It has been made into a musical, an opera, a stage-play, and, in 2014, into a web video series on YouTube. The BBC debuted its new television adaptation in late 2017.


Women summary little book

Little Women Summary

Little Women Summary

Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy March are four sisters living with their mother in New England. Their father is away serving as a chaplain in the Civil War, and the sisters struggle to support themselves and keep their household running despite the fact that the family recently lost its fortune. In the process, they become close friends with their wealthy neighbor, Theodore Laurence, known as "Laurie."

As the girls grow older, each faces her own personal demons and moral challenges. Jo, our beloved protagonist, must tame her tomboyish ways and learn to be more ladylike while pursuing her ambition to be a great writer. Meg, the oldest, must put aside her love of wealth and finery in order to follow her heart. Beth, the shy one, must conquer her bashfulness, while Amy, the youngest, has to sacrifice her aristocratic pride. The girls are guided in their personal growth by their mother, "Marmee," and by their religious faith.

The family's tight bonds are forever changed when Meg falls in love with John Brooke, Laurie's tutor. Meg and John marry and begin a home of their own, quickly populated by twins Daisy and Demi. Another marriage seems imminent when Laurie reveals to Jo that he has fallen in love with her, but she declares that she cannot care for him in the same way. Jo goes to New York as the governess for a family friend, Mrs. Kirke, experiencing the big city and trying her hand as a professional writer. Meanwhile, Amy travels through Europe with her wealthy Aunt Carroll and cousin Flo, nurturing her artistic talent. Separately, Laurie goes to Europe accompanied by his grandfather. He pursues his passion for music and tries to forget Jo.

While in New York, Jo meets German expatriate Professor Bhaer, whose intellect and strong moral nature spark her interest. Across the Atlantic, Laurie and Amy discover that they lack the genius to be great artists, but that they make an excellent romantic pairing. When Beth, who has never been strong, dies young, the sorrow of their loss solidifies Amy's bond to Laurie. Back in the States, Jo returns home to care for her bereaved parents and learns to embrace her domestic side.

All the loose ends are tied up as Jo and Professor Bhaer marry and start a boarding school for boys, while Amy and Laurie marry and use the Laurence family wealth to support struggling young artists. The Brooke, Bhaer, and Laurence households flourish, and the novel ends with a birthday party for Marmee, celebrating the extended March family connections and the progress of Jo's boarding school, Plumfield.

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Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) Book Summary

Little Women

Coming-of-age novel by Louisa May Alcott

This article is about the novel. For other uses, see Little Women (disambiguation).

Houghton AC85.Aℓ194L.1869 pt.2aa - Little Women, title.jpg

First volume of Little Women (1868)

AuthorLouisa May Alcott
CountryUnited States
SeriesLittle Women
GenreComing of age
PublisherRoberts Brothers

Publication date

1868 (1st volume)
1869 (2nd volume)
Media typePrint
Followed byLittle Men 

Little Women is a coming-of-age novel written by American novelist Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888).

Originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, Alcott wrote the book over several months at the request of her publisher.[1][2] The story follows the lives of the four March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy—and details their passage from childhood to womanhood. Loosely based on the lives of the author and her three sisters,[3][4]: 202  it is classified as an autobiographical or semi-autobiographical novel.[5][6]: 12 

Little Women was an immediate commercial and critical success, with readers eager for more about the characters. Alcott quickly completed a second volume (titled Good Wives in the United Kingdom, though the name originated with the publisher and not Alcott). It also met with success. The two volumes were issued in 1880 as a single novel titled Little Women. Alcott subsequently wrote two sequels to her popular work, both also featuring the March sisters: Little Men (1871) and Jo's Boys (1886).

The novel has been said to address three major themes: "domesticity, work, and true love, all of them interdependent and each necessary to the achievement of its heroine's individual identity."[7]: 200  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 genre. Elbert argues that within Little Women can be found the first vision of the "All-American girl" and that her various aspects are embodied in the differing March sisters.[7]: 199 

The book has been translated into numerous languages, and frequently adapted for stage and screen.

Development history[edit]

In 1868, Thomas Niles, the publisher of Louisa May Alcott's works, recommended that she write a book about girls that would have widespread appeal.[4]: 2  At first, she resisted, preferring to publish a collection of short stories. Niles pressed her to write the girls' book first, and he was aided by her father Amos Bronson Alcott, who also urged her to do so.[4]: 207  Louisa confided to a friend, “I could not write a girls' story knowing little about any but my own sisters and always preferring boys”, as quoted in Anne Boyd Rioux's Meg Jo Beth Amy, a condensed biographical account of Alcott's life and writing.

In May 1868, Alcott wrote in her journal: "Niles, partner of Roberts, asked me to write a girl's book. I said I'd try."[8]: 36  Alcott set her novel in an imaginary Orchard House modeled on her own residence of the same name, where she wrote the novel.[4]: xiii  She later recalled that she did not think she could write a successful book for girls and did not enjoy writing it.[9]: 335-  "I plod away," she wrote in her diary, "although I don't enjoy this sort of things."[8]: 37 

By June, Alcott had sent the first dozen chapters to Niles, and both agreed that they were dull. But Niles's niece, Lillie Almy, read them and said she enjoyed them.[9]: 335–336  The completed manuscript was shown to several girls who agreed it was "splendid.” Alcott wrote, "they are the best critics, so I should definitely be satisfied."[8]: 37  She wrote Little Women "in record time for money,"[7]: 196x2  but the book's immediate success surprised both her and her publisher.[10]

Explanation of the novel's title[edit]

According to literary critic Sarah Elbert, when using the term "little women", Alcott was drawing on its Dickensian meaning; it represented the period in a young woman's life where childhood and elder childhood are "overlapping" with young womanhood. Each of the March sister heroines has a harrowing experience that alerts her and the reader that "childhood innocence" is of the past, and that "the inescapable woman problem" is all that remains.[7][page needed]

Other views suggest the title was meant to highlight the unfair social inferiority, especially at that time, of women as compared to men, or alternatively, describe the lives of simple people, "unimportant" in the social sense.[11]

Plot summary[edit]

Part One[edit]

Four sisters and their mother, whom they call Marmee, live in a new neighborhood (loosely based on Concord) in Massachusetts in genteel poverty. Having lost all his money, their father is serving as a chaplain for the Union Army in the American Civil War, far from home. The mother and daughters face their first Christmas without him. When Marmee asks her daughters to give their Christmas breakfast away to an impoverished family, the girls and their mother venture into town laden with baskets to feed the hungry children. When they return, they discover their wealthy, elderly neighbor Mr. Laurence has sent over a decadent surprise dinner to make up for their breakfast. The two families become acquainted following these acts of kindness.

Meg and Jo must work to support the family: Meg tutors a nearby family of four children; Jo assists her aged great-aunt March, a wealthy widow living in a mansion, Plumfield. Beth, too timid for school, is content to stay at home and help with housework; and Amy is still at school. Meg is beautiful and traditional, Jo is a tomboy who writes; Beth is a peacemaker and a pianist; and Amy is an artist who longs for elegance and fine society. The sisters strive to help their family and improve their characters as Meg is vain, Jo is hotheaded, Beth is cripplingly shy, and Amy is materialistic. The neighbor boy Laurie, orphaned grandson of Mr. Laurence, becomes close friends with the sisters, particularly the tomboyish Jo.

The girls keep busy as the war goes on. Jo writes a novel that gets published but is frustrated to have to edit it down and can't comprehend the conflicting critical response. Meg is invited to spend two weeks with rich friends, where there are parties and cotillions for the girls to dance with boys and improve their social skills. Laurie is invited to one of the dances, and Meg's friends incorrectly think she is in love with him. Meg is more interested in John Brooke, Laurie's young tutor.

Word comes that Mr. March is very ill with pneumonia and Marmee is called away to nurse him in Washington. Mr. Laurence offers to accompany her but she declines, knowing travel would be uncomfortable for the old man. Mr. Laurence instead sends John Brooke to do his business in Washington and help the Marches. While in Washington, Brooke confesses his love for Meg to her parents. They are pleased, but consider Meg too young to marry, so Brooke agrees to wait.

While Marmee is in Washington, Beth contracts scarlet fever after spending time with a poor family where three children die. As a precaution, Amy is sent to live with Aunt March and replaces Jo as her companion and helper. Jo, who already had scarlet fever, tends to Beth. After many days of illness, the family doctor advises that Marmee be sent for immediately. Beth recovers, but never fully regains her health and energy.

While Brooke waits for Meg to come of age to marry, he joins the military and serves in the war. After he is wounded, he returns to find work so he can buy a house and be ready when he marries Meg. Laurie goes off to college. On Christmas Day, a year after the book's opening, the girls' father returns home.

Part Two[edit]

(Published separately in the United Kingdom as Good Wives)

Three years later, Meg and John marry and learn how to live together. When they have twins, Meg is a devoted mother but John begins to feel neglected and left out. Meg seeks advice from Marmee, who helps her find balance in her married life by making more time for wifely duties and encouraging John to become more involved with child rearing.

Laurie graduates from college, having put in the effort to do well in his last year with Jo's prompting. Amy is chosen over Jo to go on a European tour with her aunt. Beth's health is weak due to complications from scarlet fever and her spirits are down. While trying to uncover the reason for Beth's sadness, Jo realizes that Laurie has fallen in love. At first she believes it's with Beth, but soon senses it's with herself. Jo confides in Marmee, telling her that she loves Laurie like a brother and that she could not love him in a romantic way.

Jo decides she wants a bit of adventure and to put distance between herself and Laurie, hoping he will forget his feelings. She spends six months with a friend of her mother who runs a boarding house in New York City, serving as governess for her two children. Jo takes German lessons with another boarder, Professor Bhaer. He has come to America from Berlin to care for the orphaned sons of his sister. For extra money, Jo writes salacious romance stories anonymously for sensational newspapers. Professor Bhaer suspects her secret and mentions such writing is unprincipled and base. Jo is persuaded to give up that type of writing as her time in New York comes to an end. When she returns to Massachusetts, Laurie proposes marriage and she declines.

Laurie travels to Europe with his grandfather to escape his heartbreak. At home, Beth's health has seriously deteriorated. Jo devotes her time to the care of her dying sister. Laurie encounters Amy in Europe, and he slowly falls in love with her as he begins to see her in a new light. She is unimpressed by the aimless, idle, and forlorn attitude he has adopted since being rejected by Jo, and inspires him to find his purpose and do something worthwhile with his life. With the news of Beth's death, they meet for consolation and their romance grows. Amy's aunt will not allow Amy to return unchaperoned with Laurie and his grandfather, so they marry before returning home from Europe.

Professor Bhaer is in Massachusetts on business and visits the Marches' daily for two weeks. On his last day, he proposes to Jo and the two become engaged. Because the Professor is poor, the wedding must wait while he establishes a good income by going out west to teach. A year goes by without much success; later Aunt March dies and leaves her large estate Plumfield to Jo. Jo and Bhaer marry and turn the house into a school for boys. They have two sons of their own, and Amy and Laurie have a daughter. At apple-picking time, Marmee celebrates her 60th birthday at Plumfield, with her husband, her three surviving daughters, their husbands, and her five grandchildren.


Margaret "Meg" March[edit]

Meg, the oldest sister, is 16 when the story starts. She is described as a beauty, and manages the household when her mother is absent. She has long brown hair and blue eyes and particularly beautiful hands, and is seen as the prettiest one of the sisters. Meg fulfils expectations for women of the time; from the start, she is already a nearly perfect "little woman" in the eyes of the world.[12] Before her marriage to John Brooke, while still living at home, she often lectures her younger sisters to ensure they grow to embody the title of "little women".[13]

Meg is employed as a governess for the Kings, a wealthy local family. Because of their father's family's social standing, Meg makes her debut into high society, but is lectured by her friend and neighbor, Theodore "Laurie" Laurence, for behaving like a snob. Meg marries John Brooke, Laurie's tutor. They have twins, Margaret "Daisy" Brooke and John Laurence "Demi" Brooke. The sequel, Little Men, mentions a baby daughter, Josephine "Josie" Brooke,[14] who is 14 at the beginning of the final book.[15]

According to Sarah Elbert, "democratic domesticity requires maturity, strength, and above all a secure identity that Meg lacks".[7]: 204  Others[who?] believe Alcott does not intend to belittle Meg for her ordinary life, and writes her with loving detail, suffused with sentimentality.[citation needed]

Josephine "Jo" March[edit]

The principal character, Jo, 15 years old at the beginning of the book, is a strong and willful young woman, struggling to subdue her fiery temper and stubborn personality.[16][17]

Second oldest of the four sisters, Jo is boyish, the smartest and most creative one in the family; her father has referred to her as his "son Jo," and her best friend and neighbor, Theodore "Laurie" Laurence, sometimes calls her "my dear fellow," while she alone calls him Teddy. Jo has a "hot" temper that often leads her into trouble. With the help of her own misguided sense of humor, her sister Beth, and her mother, she works on controlling it. It has been said that much of Louisa May Alcott shows through in these characteristics of Jo.[18] In her essay, "Recollections of My Childhood", Alcott refers to herself as a tomboy who enjoyed boys' activities like running foot-races and climbing trees.

Jo loves literature, both reading and writing. She composes plays for her sisters to perform and writes short stories. She initially rejects the idea of marriage and romance, feeling that it would break up her family and separate her from the sisters whom she adores. While pursuing a literary career in New York City, she meets Friedrich Bhaer, a German professor. On her return home, Laurie proposes marriage to Jo, which she rejects, thus confirming her independence. Another reason for the rejection is that the love that Laurie has for Jo is more of a sisterly love, rather than romantic love, the difference between which he was unable to understand because he was "just a boy", as said by Alcott in the book.

After Beth dies, Professor Bhaer woos Jo at her home, when "They decide to share life's burdens just as they shared the load of bundles on their shopping expedition."[7]: 210  She is 25 years old when she accepts his proposal. The marriage is deferred until her unexpected inheritance of her Aunt March's home a year later. According to critic Barbara Sicherman, "The crucial first point is that the choice is hers, its quirkiness another sign of her much-prized individuality."[19]: 21  They have two sons, Robert "Rob" Bhaer and Theodore "Ted" Bhaer. Jo also writes the first part of Little Women during the second portion of the novel. According to Elbert, "her narration signals a successfully completed adolescence".[7]: 199 

Elizabeth "Beth" March[edit]

Beth, 13 when the story starts, is described as kind, gentle, sweet, shy, quiet, honest and musical. She is the shyest March sister and the pianist of the family.[20]: 53  Infused with quiet wisdom, she is the peacemaker of the family and gently scolds her sisters when they argue.[21] As her sisters grow up, they begin to leave home, but Beth has no desire to leave her house or family. She is especially close to Jo: when Beth develops scarlet fever after visiting the Hummels, Jo does most of the nursing and rarely leaves her side. Beth recovers from the acute disease but her health is permanently weakened.

As she grows, Beth begins to realize that her time with her loved ones is coming to an end. Finally, the family accepts that Beth will not live much longer. They make a special room for her, filled with all the things she loves best: her kittens, her piano, Father's books, Amy's sketches, and her beloved dolls. She is never idle; she knits and sews things for the children who pass by on their way to and from school. But eventually she puts down her sewing needle, saying it grew "heavy." Beth's final sickness has a strong effect on her sisters, especially Jo, who resolves to live her life with more consideration and care for everyone. The main loss during Little Women is the death of beloved Beth. Her "self-sacrifice is ultimately the greatest in the novel. She gives up her life knowing that it has had only private, domestic meaning."[7]: 206–207 

Amy Curtis March[edit]

Amy is the youngest sister and baby of the family, aged 12 when the story begins. Interested in art, she is described as a "regular snow-maiden" with curly golden hair and blue eyes, "pale and slender" and "always carrying herself" like a proper young lady. She is the artist of the family.[22] Often coddled because she is the youngest, Amy can behave in a vain and self-centered way, though she does still love her family.[23]: 5  She has the middle name Curtis, and is the only March sister to use her full name rather than a diminutive.[24]

She is chosen by her aunt to travel in Europe with her, where she grows and makes a decision about the level of her artistic talent and how to direct her adult life. She encounters "Laurie" Laurence and his grandfather during the extended visit. Amy is the least inclined of the sisters to sacrifice and self-denial. She behaves well in good society, at ease with herself. Critic Martha Saxton observes the author was never fully at ease with Amy's moral development and her success in life seemed relatively accidental.[23] However, Amy's morality does appear to develop throughout her adolescence and early adulthood, and she is able to confidently and justly put Laurie in his place when she believes he is wasting his life on pleasurable activities. Ultimately, Amy is shown to work very hard to gain what she wants in life and to make the most of her success while she has it.

Additional characters[edit]

  • Margaret "Marmee" March – The girls' mother and head of household while her husband is away. She engages in charitable works and lovingly guides her girls' morals and their characters. She once confesses to Jo that her temper is as volatile as Jo's, but that she has learned to control it.[25]: 130  Somewhat modeled after the author's own mother, she is the focus around which the girls' lives unfold as they grow.[25]: 2 
  • Robert March – Formerly wealthy, the father is portrayed as having helped a friend who could not repay a debt, resulting in his family's genteel poverty. A scholar and a minister, he serves as a chaplain in the Union Army during the Civil War and is wounded in December 1862. After the war he becomes minister to a small congregation.
  • Professor Friedrich Bhaer – A middle-aged, "philosophically inclined", and penniless German immigrant in New York City who had been a noted professor in Berlin. Also known as Fritz, he initially lives in Mrs. Kirke's boarding house and works as a language master.[20]: 61  He and Jo become friends, and he critiques her writing. He encourages her to become a serious writer instead of writing sensational stories for weekly tabloids. "Bhaer has all the qualities Bronson Alcott lacked: warmth, intimacy, and a tender capacity for expressing his affection—the feminine attributes Alcott admired and hoped men could acquire in a rational, feminist world."[7]: 210  They eventually marry and raise his two orphaned nephews, Franz and Emil, and their own sons, Rob and Ted.[26]
  • Robert & Theodore Bhaer ("Rob" and "Ted") – Jo's and Fritz's sons, introduced in the final pages of the novel, named after the March girls' father and Laurie.
  • John Brooke – During his employment as a tutor to Laurie, he falls in love with Meg. He accompanies Mrs. March to Washington D.C. when her husband is ill with pneumonia. When Laurie leaves for college, Brooke continues his employment with Mr. Laurence as a bookkeeper. When Aunt March overhears Meg accepting John's declaration of love, she threatens Meg with disinheritance because she suspects that Brooke is only interested in Meg's future prospects. Eventually, Meg admits her feelings to Brooke, they defy Aunt March (who ends up accepting the marriage), and they are engaged. Brooke serves in the Union Army for a year and is sent home as an invalid when he is wounded. Brooke marries Meg a few years later when the war has ended and she has turned twenty. Brooke was modeled after John Bridge Pratt, her sister Anna's husband.[27]
  • Margaret & John Laurence Brooke ("Daisy" and "Demijohn/Demi") – Meg's twin son and daughter. Daisy is named after both Meg and Marmee, while Demi is named for John and the Laurence family.
  • Josephine Brooke ("Josy" or "Josie") – Meg's youngest child, named after Jo. She develops a passion for acting as she grows up.
  • Uncle and Aunt Carrol – Sister and brother-in-law of Mr. March. They take Amy to Europe with them, where Uncle Carrol frequently tries to be like an English gentleman.
  • Florence "Flo" Carrol – Amy's cousin, daughter of Aunt and Uncle Carrol, and companion in Europe.
  • May and Mrs. Chester – A well-to-do family with whom the Marches are acquainted. May Chester is a girl about Amy's age, who is rich and jealous of Amy's popularity and talent.
  • Miss Crocker – An old and poor spinster who likes to gossip and who has few friends.
  • Mr. Dashwood – Publisher and editor of the Weekly Volcano.
  • Mr. Davis – The schoolteacher at Amy's school. He punishes Amy for bringing pickled limes to school by striking her palm and making her stand on a platform in front of the class. She is withdrawn from the school by her mother.
  • Estelle "Esther" Valnor – A French woman employed as a servant for Aunt March who befriends Amy.
  • The Gardiners – Wealthy friends of Meg's. Daughter Sallie Gardiner later marries Ned Moffat.
  • The Hummels – A poor German family consisting of a widowed mother and six children. Marmee and the girls help them by bringing food, firewood, blankets, and other comforts. They help with minor repairs to their small dwelling. Three of the children die of scarlet fever and Beth contracts the disease while caring for them. The eldest daughter, Lottchen "Lotty" Hummel, later works as a matron at Jo's school at Plumfield
  • The Kings – A wealthy family with four children for whom Meg works as a governess.
  • The Kirkes – Mrs. Kirke is a friend of Mrs. March's who runs a boarding house in New York. She employs Jo as governess to her two daughters, Kitty and Minnie.
  • The Lambs – A well-off family with whom the Marches are acquainted.
  • James Laurence – Laurie's grandfather and a wealthy neighbor of the Marches. Lonely in his mansion, and often at odds with his high-spirited grandson, he finds comfort in becoming a benefactor to the Marches. He protects the March sisters while their parents are away. He was a friend to Mrs. March's father, and admires their charitable works. He develops a special, tender friendship with Beth, who reminds him of his late granddaughter. He gives Beth the girl's piano.
  • Theodore "Laurie" Laurence – A rich young man who lives opposite the Marches, older than Jo but younger than Meg. Laurie is the "boy next door" to the March family and has an overprotective paternal grandfather, Mr. Laurence. After eloping with an Italian pianist, Laurie's father was disowned by his parents. Both Laurie's mother and father died young, so as a boy Laurie was taken in by his grandfather. Preparing to enter Harvard, Laurie is being tutored by John Brooke. He is described as attractive and charming, with black eyes, brown skin, and curly black hair. He later falls in love with Amy and they marry; they have one child, a little girl named after Beth: Elizabeth "Bess" Laurence. Sometimes Jo calls Laurie "Teddy". Though Alcott did not make Laurie as multidimensional as the female characters, she partly based him on Ladislas Wisniewski, a young Polish émigré she had befriended, and Alf Whitman, a friend from Lawrence, Kansas.[4]: 202 [6]: 241 [23]: 287  According to author and professor Jan Susina, the portrayal of Laurie is as "the fortunate outsider", observing Mrs. March and the March sisters. He agrees with Alcott that Laurie is not strongly developed as a character.[28]
  • Elizabeth Laurence ("Bess") – The only daughter of Laurie and Amy, named for Beth. Like her mother, she develops a love for art as she grows up.
  • Aunt Josephine March – Mr. March's aunt, a rich widow. Somewhat temperamental and prone to being judgmental, she disapproves of the family's poverty, their charitable work, and their general disregard for the more superficial aspects of society's ways. Her vociferous disapproval of Meg's impending engagement to the impoverished Mr. Brooke becomes the proverbial "last straw" that actually causes Meg to accept his proposal. She appears to be strict and cold, but deep down, she's really quite soft-hearted. She dies near the end of the first book, and Jo and Friedrich turn her estate into a school for boys.
  • Annie Moffat – A fashionable and wealthy friend of Meg and Sallie Gardiner.
  • Ned Moffat – Annie Moffat's brother, who marries Sallie Gardiner.
  • Hannah Mullet – The March family maid and cook, their only servant. She is of Irish descent and very dear to the family. She is treated more like a member of the family than a servant.
  • Miss Norton – A friendly, well-to-do tenant living in Mrs. Kirke's boarding house. She occasionally invites Jo to accompany her to lectures and concerts.
  • Susie Perkins – A girl at Amy's school.
  • The Scotts – Friends of Meg and John Brooke. John knows Mr. Scott from work.
  • Tina – The young daughter of an employee of Mrs. Kirke. Tina loves Mr. Bhaer and treats him like a father.
  • The Vaughans – English friends of Laurie's who come to visit him. Kate is the oldest of the Vaughan siblings, and prim and proper Grace is the youngest. The middle siblings, Fred and Frank, are twins; Frank is the younger twin.
  • Fred Vaughan – A Harvard friend of Laurie's who, in Europe, courts Amy. Rivalry with the much richer Fred for Amy's love inspires the dissipated Laurie to pull himself together and become more worthy of her. Amy will eventually reject Fred, knowing she does not love him and deciding not to marry out of ambition.[29]
  • Frank Vaughan – Fred's twin brother, mentioned a few times in the novel. When Fred and Amy are both traveling in Europe, Fred leaves because he hears his twin is ill.


The attic at Fruitlandswhere Alcott lived and acted out plays at 11 years old. Note that the ceiling area is around 4 feet high

For her books, Alcott was often inspired by familiar elements. The characters in Little Women are recognizably drawn from family members and friends.[3][4]: 202  Her married sister Anna was Meg, the family beauty. Lizzie, Alcott's beloved sister, was the model for Beth. Like Beth, Lizzie was quiet and retiring. Like Beth as well, she died tragically at age twenty-three from the lingering effects of scarlet fever.[30] May, Alcott's strong-willed sister, was portrayed as Amy, whose pretentious affectations cause her occasional downfalls.[4]: 202  Alcott portrayed herself as Jo. Alcott readily corresponded with readers who addressed her as "Miss March" or "Jo", and she did not correct them.[31][32]: 31 

However, Alcott's portrayal, even if inspired by her family, is an idealized one. For instance, Mr. March is portrayed as a hero of the American Civil War, a gainfully employed chaplain, and, presumably, a source of inspiration to the women of the family. He is absent for most of the novel.[32]: 51  In contrast, Bronson Alcott was very present in his family's household, due in part to his inability to find steady work. While he espoused many of the educational principles touted by the March family, he was loud and dictatorial. His lack of financial independence was a source of humiliation to his wife and daughters.[32]: 51  The March family is portrayed living in genteel penury, but the Alcott family, dependent on an improvident, impractical father, suffered real poverty and occasional hunger.[33] In addition to her own childhood and that of her sisters, scholars who have examined the diaries of Louisa Alcott's mother, Abigail Alcott, have surmised that Little Women was also heavily inspired by Abigail Alcott's own early life.[25]: 6  Originally however, Alcott did not want to publish Little Women, claiming she found it boring, and wasn't sure how to write girls as she knew few beyond her sisters. However, encouraged by her editor Thomas Niles, she wrote it within 10 weeks.[34]

Also, Little Women has several textual and structural references to John Bunyan’s novel The Pilgrim’s Progress.[35] Jo and her sisters read it at the outset of the book and try to follow the good example of Bunyan’s Christian. Throughout the novel, the main characters refer many times to The Pilgrim’s Progress and liken the events in their own lives to the experiences of the pilgrims. A number of chapter titles directly reference characters and places from The Pilgrim’s Progress.

Publication history[edit]

The first volume of Little Women was published in 1868 by Roberts Brothers.[36] The first edition included illustrations by May Alcott, the sister who inspired the fictional Amy March. She "struggled" with her illustrative additions to her sister's book, but later improved her skills and found some success as an artist.[37]

The first printing of 2,000 copies sold out quickly, and the company had trouble keeping up with demand for additional printings. They announced: "The great literary hit of the season is undoubtedly Miss Alcott's Little Women, the orders for which continue to flow in upon us to such an extent as to make it impossible to answer them with promptness."[8]: 37  The last line of Chapter 23 in the first volume is "So the curtain falls upon Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Whether it ever rises again, depends upon the reception given the first act of the domestic drama called Little Women."[38] Alcott delivered the manuscript for the second volume on New Year's Day 1869, just three months after publication of part one.[9]: 345 

Versions in the late 20th and 21st centuries combine both portions into one book, under the title Little Women, with the later-written portion marked as Part 2, as this Bantam Classic paperback edition, initially published in 1983 typifies.[citation needed] There are 23 chapters in Part 1 and 47 chapters in the complete book. Each chapter is numbered and has a title as well. Part 2, Chapter 24 opens with "In order that we may start afresh and go to Meg's wedding with free minds, it will be well to begin with a little gossip about the Marches."[38] Editions published in the 21st century may be the original text unaltered, the original text with illustrations, the original text annotated for the reader (explaining terms of 1868–69 that are less common now), the original text modernized and abridged, or the original text abridged.[citation needed]

The British influence, giving Part 2 its own title, Good Wives, has the book still published in two volumes, with Good Wives beginning three years after Little Women ends, especially in the UK and Canada, but also with some US editions. Some editions listed under Little Women appear to include both parts, especially in the audio book versions.[citation needed] Editions are shown in continuous print from many publishers, as hardback, paperback, audio, and e-book versions, from the 1980s to 2015.[citation needed] This split of the two volumes also shows at Goodreads, which refers to the books as the Little Women series, including Little Women, Good Wives, Little Men and Jo's Boys.[citation needed]


G. K. Chesterton believed Alcott in Little Women, "anticipated realism by twenty or thirty years", and that Fritz's proposal to Jo, and her acceptance, "is one of the really human things in human literature."[39] Gregory S. Jackson said that Alcott's use of realism belongs to the American Protestant pedagogical tradition, which includes a range of religious literary traditions with which Alcott was familiar. He has copies in his book of nineteenth-century images of devotional children's guides which provide background for the game of "pilgrims progress" that Alcott uses in her plot of Book One.[40]

Little Women was well received upon first publication. According to 21st-century critic Barbara Sicherman there was, during the 19th century, a "scarcity of models for nontraditional womanhood", which led more women to look toward "literature for self-authorization. This is especially true during adolescence."[19]: 2 Little Women became "the paradigmatic text for young women of the era and one in which family literary culture is prominently featured."[19]: 3  Adult elements of women's fiction in Little Women included "a change of heart necessary" for the female protagonist to evolve in the story.[7]: 199 

In the late 20th century, some scholars criticized the novel. Sarah Elbert, for instance, wrote that Little Women was the beginning of "a decline in the radical power of women's fiction", partly because women's fiction was being idealized with a "hearth and home" children's story.[7]: 197  Women's literature historians and juvenile fiction historians have agreed that Little Women was the beginning of this "downward spiral". But Elbert says that Little Women did not "belittle women's fiction" and that Alcott stayed true to her "Romantic birthright".[7]: 198–199 

Little Women's popular audience was responsive to ideas of social change as they were shown "within the familiar construct of domesticity".[7]: 220  While Alcott had been commissioned to "write a story for girls", her primary heroine, Jo March, became a favorite of many different women, including educated women writers through the 20th century. The girl story became a "new publishing category with a domestic focus that paralleled boys' adventure stories".[19]: 3–4 

One reason the novel was so popular was that it appealed to different classes of women along with those of different national backgrounds, at a time of high immigration to the United States. Through the March sisters, women could relate and dream where they may not have before.[19]: 3–4  "Both the passion Little Women has engendered in diverse readers and its ability to survive its era and transcend its genre point to a text of unusual permeability."[19]: 35 

At the time, young girls perceived that marriage was their end goal. After the publication of the first volume, many girls wrote to Alcott asking her "who the little women marry".[19]: 21  The unresolved ending added to the popularity of Little Women. Sicherman said that the unsatisfying ending worked to "keep the story alive" as if the reader might find it ended differently upon different readings.[19]: 21  "Alcott particularly battled the conventional marriage plot in writing Little Women."[41] Alcott did not have Jo accept Laurie's hand in marriage; rather, when she arranged for Jo to marry, she portrayed an unconventional man as her husband. Alcott used Friedrich to "subvert adolescent romantic ideals" because he was much older and seemingly unsuited for Jo.[19]: 21 

In 2003 Little Women was ranked number 18 in The Big Read, a survey of the British public by the BBC to determine the "Nation's Best-loved Novel" (not children's novel); it is fourth-highest among novels published in the U.S. on that list.[42] Based on a 2007 online poll, the U.S. National Education Association listed it as one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children".[43] In 2012 it was ranked number 48 among all-time children's novels in a survey published by School Library Journal, a monthly with primarily US audience.[44]


Little Women has been one of the most widely read novels, noted by Stern from a 1927 report in The New York Times and cited in Little Women and the Feminist Imagination: Criticism, Controversy, Personal Essays.[45] Ruth MacDonald argued that "Louisa May Alcott stands as one of the great American practitioners of the girls' novel and the family story."[46]

In the 1860s, gendered separation of children's fiction was a newer division in literature. This division signaled a beginning of polarization of gender roles as social constructs "as class stratification increased".[19]: 18  Joy Kasson wrote, "Alcott chronicled the coming of age of young girls, their struggles with issues such as selfishness and generosity, the nature of individual integrity, and, above all, the question of their place in the world around them."[47] Girls related to the March sisters in Little Women, along with following the lead of their heroines, by assimilating aspects of the story into their own lives.[19]: 22 

After reading Little Women, some women felt the need to "acquire new and more public identities", however dependent on other factors such as financial resources.[19]: 55  While Little Women showed regular lives of American middle-class girls, it also "legitimized" their dreams to do something different and allowed them to consider the possibilities.[19]: 36  More young women started writing stories that had adventurous plots and "stories of individual achievement—traditionally coded male—challenged women's socialization into domesticity."[19]: 55 Little Women also influenced contemporary European immigrants to the United States who wanted to assimilate into middle-class culture.

In the pages of Little Women, young and adolescent girls read the normalization of ambitious women. This provided an alternative to the previously normalized gender roles.[19]: 35 Little Women repeatedly reinforced the importance of "individuality" and "female vocation".[19]: 26 Little Women had "continued relevance of its subject" and "its longevity points as well to surprising continuities in gender norms from the 1860s at least through the 1960s."[19]: 35  Those interested in domestic reform could look to the pages of Little Women to see how a "democratic household" would operate.[7]: 276 

While "Alcott never questioned the value of domesticity", she challenged the social constructs that made spinsters obscure and fringe members of society solely because they were not married.[7]: 193  "Little Women indisputably enlarges the myth of American womanhood by insisting that the home and the women's sphere cherish individuality and thus produce young adults who can make their way in the world while preserving a critical distance from its social arrangements." As with all youth, the March girls had to grow up. These sisters, and in particular Jo, were apprehensive about adulthood because they were afraid that, by conforming to what society wanted, they would lose their special individuality.[7]: 199 

Alcott's Jo also made professional writing imaginable for generations of women. Writers as diverse as Maxine Hong Kingston, Margaret Atwood, and J.K. Rowling have noted the influence of Jo March on their artistic development. Even other fictional portraits of young women aspiring to authorship often reference Jo March.[48]

Alcott "made women's rights integral to her stories, and above all to Little Women."[7]: 193  Alcott's fiction became her "most important feminist contribution"—even considering all the effort Alcott made to help facilitate women's rights."[7]: 193  She thought that "a democratic household could evolve into a feminist society". In Little Women, she imagined that just such an evolution might begin with Plumfield, a nineteenth century feminist utopia.[7]: 194 

Little Women has a timeless resonance which reflects Alcott's grasp of her historical framework in the 1860s. The novel's ideas do not intrude themselves upon the reader because the author is wholly in control of the implications of her imaginative structure. Sexual equality is the salvation of marriage and the family; democratic relationships make happy endings. This is the unifying imaginative frame of Little Women.[7]: 276 



Scene from the 1912 Broadway production of Little Women, adapted by Marian de Forest

Katharine Cornell became a star in the 1919 London production of de Forest's adaptation of Little Women

Marian de Forest adapted Little Women for the Broadway stage in 1912.[49] The 1919 London production made a star of Katharine Cornell, who played the role of Jo.[50]

A one-act stage version, written by Gerald P. Murphy in 2009,[51] has been produced in the US, UK, Italy, Australia, Ireland, and Singapore.[citation needed] Myriad Theatre & Film adapted the novel as a full-length play which was staged in London and Essex in 2011.[52]

Marisha Chamberlain[53][54] and June Lowery[55] have both adapted the novel as a full-length play; the latter play was staged in Luxembourg in 2014.

Isabella Russell-Ides created two stage adaptations. Her Little Women featured an appearance by author, Louisa May Alcott. Jo & Louisa features a rousing confrontation between the unhappy character, Jo March, who wants rewrites from her author.[56][57]

A new adaptation by award-winning playwright Kate Hamill had its world premiere in 2018 at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis, followed by a New York premiere in 2019 at Primary Stages directed by Sarna Lapine.[58]


Little Women has been adapted to film seven times. The first adaptation was a silent film directed by Alexander Butler and released in 1917, which starred Daisy Burrell as Amy, Mary Lincoln as Meg, Ruby Miller as Jo, and Muriel Myers as Beth. It is considered a lost film.

Another silent film adaptation was released in 1918 and directed by Harley Knoles. It starred Isabel Lamon as Meg, Dorothy Bernard as Jo, Lillian Hall as Beth, and Florence Flinn as Amy.

George Cukor directed the first sound adaptation of Little Women, starring Katharine Hepburn as Jo, Joan Bennett as Amy, Frances Dee as Meg, and Jean Parker as Beth. The film was released in 1933 and followed by an adaptation of Little Men the following year.

The first color adaptation starred June Allyson as Jo, Margaret O'Brien as Beth, Elizabeth Taylor as Amy, and Janet Leigh as Meg. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, it was released in 1949. The film received two Academy Award nominations for color film, for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction/Set Direction, the latter for which it received the Oscar.

Gillian Armstrong directed a 1994 adaptation, starring Winona Ryder as Jo, Trini Alvarado as Meg, Samantha Mathis and Kirsten Dunst as Amy, and Claire Danes as Beth.[citation needed] The film received three Academy Award nominations, including Best Actress for Ryder.[citation needed]

A contemporary film adaptation[59] was released in 2018 to mark the 150th anniversary of the novel.[60] It was directed by Clare Niederpruem in her directorial debut and starred Sarah Davenport as Jo, Allie Jennings as Beth, Melanie Stone as Meg, and Elise Jones and Taylor Murphy as Amy.[60]

Writer, and director Greta Gerwig took on the story in her 2019 adaptation of the novel. The film stars Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Emma Watson as Meg, Florence Pugh as Amy, Meryl Streep as Marmee, Angela Lansbury as aunt March, Eliza Scanlen as Beth and Timothee Chalamet as Laurie. The film received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.[61]


Little Women was adapted into a television musical, in 1958, by composer Richard Adler for CBS.[62]

Little Women has been made into a serial four times by the BBC: in 1950 (when it was shown live), in 1958, in 1970,[citation needed] and in 2017.Little Women (2017 TV series) IMDb </ref> The 3-episode 2017 series development was supported by PBS, and was aired as part of the PBS Masterpiece anthology in 2018.

Universal Television produced a two-part miniseries based on the novel, which aired on NBC in 1978. It was followed by a 1979 series.

In the 1980s, multiple anime adaptations were made. In 1980, an anime special was made as a predecessor to the 26-part 1981 anime series Little Women. Then, in 1987, another adaptation titled Tales of Little Women was released. All anime specials and series were dubbed in English and shown on American television.

In 2012, Lifetime aired The March Sisters at Christmas (directed by John Simpson), a contemporary television film focusing on the title characters' efforts to save their family home from being sold.[63] It is usually rebroadcast on the channel each holiday season.[citation needed]

In 2017, BBC television aired a miniseries adaptation developed by Heidi Thomas, directed by Vanessa Caswill. The three one-hour episodes were first broadcast on BBC One on Boxing Day 2017 and the following two days. The cast includes Emily Watson, Michael Gambon and Angela Lansbury.[1][2][3] Production was supported by PBS and the miniseries was shown as part of its Masterpiece anthology.

A 2018 adaption is that of Manor Rama Pictures LLP of Karan Raj Kohli & Viraj Kapur which streams on the ALTBalaji app in India. The web series is called Haq Se. Set in Kashmir, the series is a modern-day Indian adaptation of the book.

Musicals and opera[edit]

The novel was adapted to a musical of the same name and debuted on Broadway at the Virginia Theatre on January 23, 2005 and closed on May 22, 2005 after 137 performances. A production was also staged in Sydney, Australia in 2008.[64]

The Houston Grand Opera commissioned and performed Little Women in 1998. The opera was aired on television by PBS in 2001 and has been staged by other opera companies since the premiere.[65]

There is a Canadian musical version, with book by Nancy Early and music and lyrics by Jim Betts, which has been produced at several regional theatres in Canada.

There was another musical version, entitled "Jo", with music by William Dyer and book and lyrics by Don Parks & William Dyer, which was produced off-Broadway at the Orpheum Theatre. It ran for 63 performances from February 12, 1964, to April 5, 1964. It featured Karin Wolfe (Jo), Susan Browning (Meg), Judith McCauley (Beth), April Shawhan (Amy), Don Stewart (Laurie), Joy Hodges (Marmee), Lowell Harris (John Brooke) and Mimi Randolph (Aunt March).

Audio drama[edit]

A radio play starring Katharine Hepburn as Jo was made to accompany the 1933 film. Grand Audiobooks hold the current copyright.[citation needed]

A dramatized version, produced by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre,[66] was released on September 4, 2012.

A radio play, produced by Far From the Tree Productions, is being released in episodes from November 14 to December 19, 2020.[67]


The novel has inspired a number of other literary retellings by various authors. Books inspired by Little Women include the following:

See also[edit]

  • Hillside (later renamed The Wayside), the Alcott family home (1845–1848) and real-life setting for some of the book's scenes
  • Orchard House, the Alcott family home (1858–1877) and site where the book was written; adjacent to The Wayside


  1. ^Longest, David (1998). Little Women of Orchard House: A Full-length Play. Dramatic Publishing. p. 115. ISBN .
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  3. ^ abAlberghene, Janice (1999). "Autobiography and the Boundaries of Interpretation on Reading Little Women and the Living is Easy". In Alberghene, Janice M.; Clark, Beverly Lyon (eds.). Little Women and the Feminist Imagination: Criticism, Controversy, Personal Essays. Psychology Press. p. 355. ISBN .
  4. ^ abcdefgCheever, Susan (2011). Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography. Simon and Schuster. ISBN .
  5. ^Cullen Sizer, Lyde (2000). The Political Work of Northern Women Writers and the Civil War, 1850–1872. Univ of North Carolina Press. p. 45. ISBN .
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