by Louisa May Alcott
‘I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship’
Little Women is 150 years old, yet it remains as relevant and inspiring as ever. Every generation takes something new from the novel, reading it in the context of its time, and every reader identifies with one of the wonderful female characters (admittedly usually Jo). There have been multiple screen versions starring some of the biggest stars of their day: Elizabeth Taylor, Janet Leigh, Katharine Hepburn, Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Susan Sarandon, Kirsten Dunst. A new film by Greta Gerwig, is due next year, starring Emma Watson, Meryl Streep and Saoirse Ronan.
‘I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen’
Little Women was an instant bestseller on first publication and its appeal shows no sign of abating. With our new Virago Modern Classics editions of the Little Women series now available, we take a look at some famous admirers, and what the book has meant to them.
‘My favourite literary heroine is Jo March. It is hard to overstate what she meant to a small, plain girl called Jo, who had a hot temper and a burning ambition to be a writer.’ https://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/14/books/review/j-k-rowling-by-the-book.html
‘Perhaps no other book provided a greater guide, as I set out on my youthful path, than Little Women. I was a wiry daydreamer, just ten years old. Life was already presenting challenges for an awkward tomboy growing up in the gender-defined 1950s . . . Even her name breathed freedom, a girl called Jo. Louisa May Alcott had wrapped herself in her glory cloak, laboured at her own desk, and penned a new kind of heroine . . . Like countless girls before me, I found a model in one who was not like everyone else, who possessed a revolutionary soul yet also a sense of responsibility.’ https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2018/09/24/a-responsible-freedom-patti-smith-on-little-women/
‘I’ve read Little Women so often I must know it by heart by now.’ https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jul/14/anne-tyler-the-clock-dance-interview
What book has changed your life?
‘As a child, Little Women, because it was the first time I realised women could be a whole human world.’ https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/mar/04/gloria-steinem-what-makes-me-unhappy-seeing-anybody-rendered-invisible
‘I owe everything I am to Jo March in Little Women and Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables.’https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/may/04/caitlin-moran-interview
Barbara Kingsolver, Nora and Delia Ephron, Elena Ferrante, Simone de Beauvoir, Stephanie Meyer
‘“I, personally, am Jo March,” Barbara Kingsolver once wrote. Nora Ephron and her sister Delia both said the same thing (“technically” Delia said, if it really came down to it, she was more Jo-ish than Nora.)’ Continue reading (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/13/books/little-women-alcott-anniversary.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share)
If Louisa May Alcott’s writing is an inspiration to many, then so was her life. She was an early suffragette: In the 1870s she wrote for a women’s rights periodical and went door-to-door in Massachusetts to encourage women to vote. In 1879, when Massachusetts state passed a law allowing women to vote in local elections on anything involving education and children Alcott registered immediately and became the first woman registered in Concord to vote. In addition to her fight for suffrage, Alcott and her family were fiercely opposed to slavery and served as station masters on the Underground Railroad. At great risk to themselves, they sheltered fugitive slaves on their way to freedom.
‘I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday’
The Virago Modern Classic editions of Little Women, Good Wives, Jo’s Boys and Little Men are all out this October.