On this day in 1868, Louisa May Alcott published Little Women, one of America’s best-loved children’s books. It has been performed as a play and made into movies several times over. The novel about a mother and her four daughters focuses on the themes of family, love and duty in Concord, Massachusetts. Marmee (Mother) is struggling to care for her daughters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy while her husband is fighting in the Civil War.
The novel opens with the four sisters lamenting their poverty and inability to celebrate Christmas properly. During their talk about gifts they’d like to have and what each could purchase with her small allowance, they hit upon a plan to pool their resources to buy gifts for their mother. In Chapter Two, their mother gives the girls small books (to help guide them morally) under their pillows. The story of sacrifice is lovely and memorable, making our material world look poor by comparison.
Later in the novel, family and friends contrive to make a Christmas celebration for Beth who has been suffering from scarlet fever. I have included a YouTube clip of the scene from the movie in 1994 starring Winona Ryder; although, I much prefer Katherine Hepburn’s 1933 portrayal of the tomboy, Jo. That screen adaptation was directed by George Cukor, who later directed Gone with the Wind. Surprisingly, Cukor’s version was the third film of the novel, the first screening in the silent era in 1917 and 1918.
The novel is available online, but this is a link to the blog, All Things Christmas, which excerpts the first two chapters.