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152 Years of "Little Women" in Books, Films, and More

"I like good strong words that mean something..." -- Louisa May Alcott

Say the names Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy and most people will immediately think of Little Women! Louisa May Alcott's classic American novel has touched generations of readers, been translated into multiple languages, and been adapted for stage, screen, and more. While its setting is in the midst of the Civil War, there is something about its messages about love, sisterhood, and identity that feels truly timeless, and just as relevant today as when it was written.

In honor of the 152nd anniversary of the publication of this beloved novel, we're exploring the history and cultural impact of Alcott's most popular work! We've also featured a selection of adaptations of Little Women, including several that introduce younger readers to these iconic characters and others that reinterpret their stories in a modern age. Additionally, we've shared books for children and adults that explore Alcott's life and how her books have impacted people both past and present. Whether you're reading about the March sisters for the first time, or settling in to enjoy their story for the hundredth time, we're sure you'll find something here to capture your imagination!

The Path To Little Women

Born in 1832 in Germantown, Pennsylvania, Louisa May Alcott grew up in Massachusetts in a family that struggled financially but had rich intellectual connections. Her early education included lessons from gifted writers and thinkers who were members of the Transcendental Club along with her father, Amos Bronson Alcott, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Henry David Thoreau. Her father struggled to support the family, which included Alcott and her three sisters, and their poverty forced Alcott to work from an early age as a seamstress, governess, domestic helper, and teacher. Writing served as her creative outlet during these difficult years and she first began to have commercial success in the early 1860s.

In 1868, Alcott's publisher, Thomas Niles, encourage Alcott to right a book for girls; Alcott was at first reluctant, but agreed to try. She decided to base the story on her own life and that of her sisters, but set it in the midst of the Civil War. The main character, Jo March, was based on Louisa herself, who often challenged the constraining gender norms of her day with her defiant, opinionated nature and drive for independence. Alcott imbued the novel with feminist ideas, challenging the expectation that girls and women should be satisfied with domestic life and promoting the idea of equality within a marriage and a family, while beautifully capturing the emotional lives, hopes, and dreams of regular girls coming of age in the 1860s.

The first printing of the novel, 2,000 copies, sold out almost immediately, and the publisher struggled to keep pace with demand; since then, Little Women has never been out of print. Her novel was critically acclaimed but, equally importantly to Alcott, girls loved it; at one point she wrote, "they are the best critics, so I should definitely be satisfied." Alcott also went on to write two sequels, Little Men and Jo's Boys. Her depiction of strong, independent young women — including Jo's career as a professional writer — influenced generations of girls. Since its original publication, it has been adapted into stage plays and films, as well as being retold in different time periods and settings. Alcott, who died in 1888, would no doubt be pleased that her work has inspired so many women. After all, as her beloved character Jo once observed, "I want to do something splendid... something heroic or wonderful that won't be forgotten after I'm dead... I think I shall write books."

Adaptations and Tributes to Little Women

Little Women: A BabyLit Storybook

Little Women: A BabyLit Storybook

Written by: Mandy Archer
Illustrated by: Ela Smietanka
Recommended Age: 3 - 5

Meet the beloved characters from Little Women in this BabyLit adaptation of the classic novel! This series for toddlers and preschoolers brings classic works of literature to life for little readers. In this title, kids will meet Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, and Marmee, and learn about their struggles, challenges, and joys. Original quotes are combined with simplified text to capture the essence of the story, while the colorful illustrations make the pages engaging for young readers. It's a terrific way to bring a beloved title to your preschooler's bookshelf!

Little Women

Little Women

Written by: Louisa May Alcott
Recommended Age: 8 and up

For generations, readers have fallen in love with the March girls: hardworking Meg, impulsive Jo, shy Beth, precocious Amy, and of course, their dedicated and loving mother Marmee. Now, new readers and longtime fans have a beautiful Puffin in Bloom deluxe hardcover edition! Louisa May Alcott's classic tale is printed in its entirety, accented with beautiful cover illustrations by Anna Bond, the artist behind world-renowned stationery brand Rifle Paper Co. To follow the full story of the March sisters, check out the Little Women Collection.

Little Women

Little Women

Recommended Age: 8 and up

Meet the March family in this beloved adaptation of the American classic novel Little Women! With Mr. March fighting in the Civil War, Marmee (Susan Sarandon) is left behind to raise their four daughters, including the independent-minded Jo (Winona Ryder.) As the years pass, the girls begin to come of age, wrestling with finding their place in the world and with all the joys and sorrows that life can bring. This DVD of the acclaimed 1994 film is a delight for fans of both the book and the movie!

Amazon.com.au

The Little Women Collection

The Little Women Collection

Written by: Louisa May Alcott
Recommended Age: 8 and up

Meet the March sisters — and follow them through their lives — in this beautiful box set of Louisa May Alcott's classic novels! Set in the midst of the Civil War, Little Women introduces Meg, Beth, Jo, and Amy, and their mother Marmee, as they keep the family together while their father is away fighting. Then, follow the sisters as they go out on their own in Good Wives, watch Jo open a school for boys in Little Men, and take their story to a close in Jo's Boys. This colorful four-book, unabridged box set is perfect for sharing this American classic with a new generation.

Little Women

Little Women

Recommended Age: 9 and up

When Jo March's father goes off to serve in the Civil War, his wife and four daughters must keep life going without him. As Jo remembers key moments of her life with her mother Marmee and her beloved sisters Meg, Beth, and Amy, she explores how each of them defined their identities in a time when they straddled the transition between childhood and adulthood. Based on Louisa May Alcott's classic novel, with stunning impressive performances by actors Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, and Laura Dern, this adaptation will take your breath away.

Amazon.com.au

Puffin In Bloom Illustrated Classics Collection

Puffin In Bloom Illustrated Classics Collection

Recommended Age: 9 and up

Four classic Mighty Girl books get a colorful new edition in this boxed set! These new volumes of Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, A Little Princess, and Little Women feature cover design and interior illustrations by artist Anna Bond. The set includes a matching slipcover case, making this set a beautiful addition to any bookshelf.

Little Women Pouch

Little Women Pouch

Manufacturer: Out of Print
Recommended Age: 9 and up

If you ever fell in love with Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, then you will love this Little Women pouch from Out of Print! This high-quality canvas pouch is 9 by 6 inches, and features vintage cover artwork from this beloved book. Best of all, every time you purchase an Out of Print product, you help support literacy programs for a community in need through their charitable outreach program.

Amazon.com.au

Little Women

150th Anniversary Edition

Little Women

150th Anniversary Edition

Written by: Louisa May Alcott
Recommended Age: 10 and up

For generations, readers have fallen in love with the March girls: hardworking Meg, impulsive Jo, shy Beth, precocious Amy, and of course, their dedicated and loving mother Marmee. Now, new readers and longtime fans have a beautiful 150th anniversary edition they can enjoy for years to come! Louisa May Alcott's classic tale is printed in its entirety, accented by new illustrations and an introduction by New York Times bestselling author J. Courtney Sullivan, as well as an elegant new cover. For more resources about Alcott and her beloved characters, visit our Little Women Collection.

A Hopeful Heart: Louisa May Alcott Before Little Women
New!

A Hopeful Heart: Louisa May Alcott Before Little Women
New!

Written by: Deborah Noyes
Recommended Age: 12 and up

Louisa May Alcott defied expectations for her day: she was a tomboy and an avid reader. Her father, a philosopher, encouraged her intellectual life, while she and her mother had a deep bond, and her three sisters provided company and comfort during the family's many moves. In this stunning biography, author Deborah Noyes explores Alcott's life and how it influenced her: her childhood adventures, her family's struggles with debt, and her time serving as a nurse for Civil War soldiers — and experience that culminated in her writing the beloved classic, Little Women. Accompanied by unique indigo illustrations, this exploration of Alcott's influences will fascinate fans of her work.

Jo & Laurie
New!

Jo & Laurie
New!

Recommended Age: 13 and up

It's 1869, and Jo March's first novel has become an unexpected best-seller... which means she's feeling the pressure for a sequel from both her publisher and her readers. Her first stories were inspired by real life, but she can't base a novel on things that haven't happened yet! A New York trip provides inspiration and an unexpected marriage proposal from Laurie; while Jo has feelings for him too, she wants to be independent. But when Laurie returns from college with a new girlfriend, Jo faces a lifetime without the person she loves... unless she can find a way to tell him how she really feels. Set in the year-long period between the publication of Little Women and Good Wives (which are now published as one volume), and based in part on Louisa May Alcott's life and letters, this is a charming and romantic retelling of an American classic.

Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father

Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father

Written by: John Matteson
Recommended Age: Adults

Louisa May Alcott had a mixed relationship with her father. She craved his approval, but struggled under his expectations of perfection. She appreciated his willingness to let her learn from great authors like Emerson and Thoreau, but resented how his decisions forced the family to struggle financially. In this Pulitzer Prize-winning book, John Matteson explores Bronson Alcott's beliefs and how they affected Alcott, as well as how their relationship translated into her most famous book, Little Women.

Marmee & Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother

Marmee & Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother

Written by: Eve LaPlante
Recommended Age: Adults

Louisa May Alcott's Marmee from Little Women is one of the most famous mothers in literature, and she was inspired by Alcott's own mother, Abigail May Alcott. Previously treated as mere background to her author daughter, this biography draws out the woman hinted at in Alcott's writing: politically active, feminist, intelligent, and a gifted writer in her own right. The real-life Marmee fought for causes like the end of slavery, universal civil rights, and women's suffrage, and made a deep impression on her more famous daughter. This well-written story of the mother-daughter bond that inspired this classic character — and this beloved author — is meticulously researched and fascinating.

Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters

Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters

Written by: Anne Boyd Rioux
Recommended Age: Adults

Since it was published in 1868, Little Women and its beloved sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy have spoken to people around the world. In this unique exploration of the American classic — released for the 150th anniversary of its publication — Anne Boyd Rioux tells both the story of Louisa May Alcott's writing and of how the story continues to resonate so many years later. She also pays tribute to the women writers who were inspired by Alcott's novel. Straddling the line between entertainment and nuanced complexity, this fascinating look at Alcott's novel is not to be missed.

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