Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women

The choice to be a writer in ‘men’s times’

Author: Sylvia Borissova

Translator: Donika Boneva

Louisa May Alcott’s very name is hardly as unmistakably recognizable as her novel Little Women; or, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy (1868), which has become a symbol of women’s endurance and empathy on the threshold of azure childhood and difficult reality.

Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy are four sisters who were left to live alone with their mother during the Civil War. Their lives are no different from those of thousands of other children and families in the deprived years of war, but at the same time Alcott manages to portray the halo of all this simplicity in joy and sorrow, family quarrels and misery so radiantly and with so much love. In the tangle of life during war, girls gradually become adorable ‘little women’, facing the horrible and beautiful world.

Although over the decades the story of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy resonated far beyond the name of their creator, all the richness of the novel is revealed only when we get acquainted with the real life of Louisa May Alcott. She was born in 1832 in the family of Amos and Abigail Alcott, the second of four daughters, just like the family of her character, Jo March. The kinship in their characters is just as close: they are both proud and independent, they both share a common dream of becoming writers, they both long to have a family and children, while society is about to condemn them as ‘old maids’.

However, Louisa May Alcott gives her heroine Jo the realization of her personal dreams and the realization of her ideas of living in prosperity, until she herself never finds her soulmate and dies alone at the age of 55. Her loneliness flows from the lines of her novels over the years, from Little Women, written in 1868, in her youth, to Jo’s Boys (1880) in her adulthood.

Fully committed to her dream of publishing her own novels at a time when writing was seen as a male activity, Louisa May Alcott was forced to hide and mystify her private life and did so diligently that to this day very few reliable facts are known about her.

All that is known is that the real Alcott family was not so happy, above all because of the many forced journeys they all took because of their father’s spiritual inclinations and the daily life dictated by the insecurity of the roof and subsistence instead of the comfort and routine of a permanent home. In all likelihood, because of her childhood insecurities, the role of men in Louisa May Alcott’s novels is controversial and often ambiguous: the writer’s feminist attitudes are found in her earliest literary experiments.

As Valentina Marinova notes in her review, “to this day, novels about the March family are one of the most popular youth works – at the same time entertaining, cheerful and unobtrusively instructive. One thing is for sure – a person who has not experienced true happiness cannot write about it. A woman who has not experienced true love cannot create characters like Jo March and Teddy Lawrence (Larry). Moreover, through her work and life, Louisa May Alcott has become for generations one of those ‘little women’ who expand the horizons of the feminine beyond marriage and motherhood. A monument to her work is the documentary Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind ‘Little Women’:



Маринова, В. 2011. Луиза Мей Олкът – за малките жени, феминизма и избора да бъдеш себе си. // Аз чета. 29.11. URL: http://azcheta.com/luiza-mei-olkat-golemite/ 

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