On its 150th anniversary, discover the story of the beloved classic that has captured the imaginations of generations.
Soon after publication on September 30, 1868, Little Women became an enormous bestseller and one of America’s favorite novels. Its popularity quickly spread throughout the world, and the book has become an international classic. When Anne Boyd Rioux read the novel in her twenties, she had a powerful reaction to the story. Through teaching the book, she has seen the same effect on many others.
In Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, Rioux recounts how Louisa May Alcott came to write Little Women, drawing inspiration for it from her own life. Rioux also examines why this tale of family and community ties, set while the Civil War tore America apart, has resonated through later wars, the Depression, and times of changing opportunities for women.
Alcott’s novel has moved generations of women, many of them writers: Simone de Beauvoir, J. K. Rowling, bell hooks, Cynthia Ozick, Jane Smiley, Margo Jefferson, and Ursula K. Le Guin were inspired by Little Women, particularly its portrait of the iconoclastic young writer, Jo. Many have felt, as Anna Quindlen has declared, “Little Women changed my life.”
Today, Rioux sees the novel’s beating heart in Alcott’s portrayal of family resilience and her honest look at the struggles of girls growing into women. In gauging its current status, Rioux shows why Little Women remains a book with such power that people carry its characters and spirit throughout their lives.
Anne Boyd Rioux, a professor at the University of New Orleans, is the author of Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist and Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, and the editor of Woolson’s Miss Grief and Other Stories. Rioux has received two National Endowment for the Humanities Awards, one for public scholarship, and lives in New Orleans.
Table of Contents
Prologue: "Our Book" xi
Part I The Making of a Classic
1 "Pegging away": The Road to Little Women 3
2 "We really lived most of it": Making Up Little Women 19
3 "Fresh, sparkling, … full of soul": The Phenomenon of Little Women 46
Part II The Life of a Classic
4 "See her … living … the immortal Jo!": Little Women on Stage and Screen 81
5 "The mother of us all": Little Women's Cultural and Literary Influence 115
6 "A divided house of a book": Reading Little Women 135
Part III A Classic for Today
7 "A private book for girls": Can Boys Read Little Women? 161
8 "Being someone": Growing Up Female with Little Women 180
9 "Wanting to be Rory, but better": Little Women and Girls' Stories Today 204
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