Little Women Live On

The Greater New York Chapter of The Betsy-Tacy Society discussed Little Women last night. As a group devoted to “girls’ books,” we felt that an evening dedicated to the ultimate girls’ book was in order. It turned out to be one of our best discussions ever.

Reading It One Hundred Times: Many of us did. Many of us also realized that it was one of the few books our families owned, which may be part of the reason we read it over and over again.

Liking It or Not: While everyone loves the stories in Part One, some people found the moralizing and preachiness annoying. Several of us read it for the first time as adults, and those people particularly found it too saccharine.

Beth’s Death: Many of us had stories about learning of Beth’s death from a friend before actually reading it in the book. Everyone agreed that the “Beth’s Secret” chapter made them cry.

Jo’s Marriage: Should she have married Laurie? Should she have stayed single, as did Louisa May Alcott? Some of us liked Professor Bhaer, and others didn’t, but we all agreed that Alcott had to marry Jo off to somebody — after all, Part Two was published in 1869; no respectable woman could remain single and go on to run a school, as Jo does in Little Men.

Published in 1869. And still being discussed in 2008. Discussed with passion and enthusiasm and laughter and tears.

The stories of the little women are timeless: Meg going to a party with small shoes and one glove, Jo cutting off her hair to raise money, Beth getting a new piano from a rich old man, and Amy being punished in school for bringing limes. The character traits of the little women are archetypal: the sensible oldest girl, the tomboy, the gentle soul, the spoiled baby sister.

Published in 1869. And, as one of the women said last night at the end of our ninety minutes together, we could have gone on discussing it for the next three days.

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4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Jena said,

    I LOVE the picture you found to head this article. Beautiful.

    Little Women is my all time favorite book. I even named one of my daughters Meg. And it’s the first book that ever made me cry (I read it for the first time in 4th grade, I think).

    And even though I don’t usually like books made into movies, I think the one with Susan Sarandon is wonderful.

    Thanks for posting this!

  2. 2

    sgaissert said,

    Thank you, Jena. The picture is an illustration by Jessie Wilcox Smith, I believe. Like you, I adore the Susan Sarandon/Winona Ryder version of “Little Women.” It sticks to the book, and the period detail is gorgeous.

  3. 3

    Dakotagirl said,

    I have seen the Sarandon/Ryder version once, but will have to try to find it and watch it again on your recommendations.

    The one I have seen the most is Mary Astor/Margaret O’Brien/Elizabeth Taylor version, due mainly to it being shown fairly often on Turner Classic Movies.

    There was another version in the 1970s and the only actor I remember is Susan Dey. It did not make a very good impression on me.

  4. 4

    Sheila said,

    Reading this post makes me want to reread Little Women, because I forgot about Beth. I remembering reading this book at the same time as another one, one I forget the title of, but it was about a woman who married a Mountie and went out to an isolated Indian village with him, and had some kids who died of diptheria. I think I spent that entire summer in a funk of tragedy.


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