coming eventsComing Events

September 6

PBA

September 13

Heritage

September 18-19

Sotheby’s 

September 20

Swann Galleries 

September 21

Skinner 

September 25

Bonhams 

September 27

Forum 

Find More Events in the FB&C Calendar

In the News

Exhibition Charts the Rise and Relevance of the Arts and Crafts Design Movement

Austin, TX — A detailed look at the history of the Arts and Crafts... read more

The Morgan Appoints Maria L. Fredericks as Head of the Thaw Conservation Center

New York —The Morgan Library & Museum announced today the appointment of Maria L.... read more

LOC Puts Papers of President Theodore Roosevelt Online

The largest collection of the papers of President Theodore Roosevelt, documenting his extraordinary career... read more

The 42nd Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, Nov. 16-18

Boston - The annual fall gathering for booklovers, the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair... read more

1785 Engraving of Washington & Bob Dylan's Handwritten Lyrics at University Archives Auction

Westport, CT - A rare, 1785 hand-colored portrait engraving of George Washington, printed for... read more

HistoryMiami Museum Features Former National Geographic Photographer Nathan Benn

Miami - HistoryMiami Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate and a premier Miami cultural institution, presents... read more

Library of Congress Appoints New Chief of the Hispanic Division

The Library of Congress appointed Suzanne Schadl, academic expert in Latin American studies, as... read more

"Masters of Photography: 19th Century and Now" at Paris Photo in November

Paris - Iconic images by the earliest masters of photography—as well as contemporary artists... read more

Follow us on TwitterLike us on Facebook
Auction Guide
Advertise with Us
2015 Bookseller Resource Guide
Digest

Little Women at 150

Louisa May Alcott’s famous novel never gets old By Barbara Basbanes Richter Barbara Basbanes Richter is a regular contributor to this magazine in print and online, and is a professional ghostwriter with two Amazon.com bestsellers.

On May 13, PBS’s Masterpiece debuted a three-part adaptation of Little Women. Pictured, left to right: Kathryn Newton as Amy, Willa Fitzgerald as Meg, Maya Hawke as Jo, and Annes Elwy as Beth. Courtesy of MASTERPIECE on PBS, BBC and Playground.

It’s been 150 years since Louisa May Alcott introduced readers to sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March in Little Women. Originally published in 1868 and 1869 in two volumes, the classic has remained consistently in print, been translated into fifty languages, and inspired dozens of miniseries and documentaries. The sesquicentennial brings a slate of celebrations in honor of Little Women and its creator, who has encouraged generations of women “to take Fate by the throat and shake a living out of her.”

One of the more unexpected tributes is a footrace, held in Alcott’s hometown of Concord, Massachusetts, every September. “Running was one of the delights of my early days,” Alcott wrote. “I must have been a deer or a horse in some former state, because it was such a joy to run.” Alcott turned to sprinting through the streets to combat writer’s block, and the race follows a similar route around town. This year, three-time Boston Marathon winner and Olympian Uta Pippig will serve as the race’s honorary chairperson.

Volume one of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (1868). Courtesy of the Library of Congress

“Alcott was so ahead of her time,” explained Jan Turnquist, executive director of Orchard House, Alcott’s home-turned-museum. “As recently as the 1970s, people believed that women had no business running, but she ran to nourish her body and mind. In her own time, running was considered unladylike and even dangerous.” While serving as a nurse in the Civil War, Alcott fit in her workouts in the pre-dawn hours before the demands of the day wore her out—a surprisingly relatable sentiment shared by many twenty-first-century runners.

Over the summer, Orchard House will host a lecture and workshop series exploring the sustained appeal and significance of Little Women. “On the surface, Little Women is a ‘girls’ book—a coming of age story,” said Turnquist. “It remains a touchstone because it’s so complex: struggles of conscience, tests of loyalty, and finding personal empowerment.”

Also marking the book’s anniversary is a graphic novel adaptation of Little Women, to be published by Little, Brown and Company in November. Set in modern times, these multicultural Marches live in a Brooklyn brownstone, but love and devotion to family remain paramount in the rewrite. “I loved Little Women growing up,” commented author Rey Terciero in a statement to Multiversity Comics. “I wanted to be sensitive with the heavy topics while staying true to Alcott’s vision of empowering young women.”

Every generation since 1917—when the first (silent) Little Women film debuted—seems to require its own on-screen version, too, and on Mother’s Day, PBS’s Masterpiece launched a three-part miniseries with a star-studded cast including Emily Watson, Michael Gambon, and Angela Lansbury. A documentary chronicling the importance of Orchard House and the real-life inspiration for the March family aired in conjunction with the miniseries.

Little Women has universal appeal. Indeed, it is the second most popular title among Japanese women behind Anne of Green Gables. Why? “Sexism persists in Japan,” said Turnquist. “Women there would like a little more agency, and Alcott walked that fine line of advancing women’s rights while still loving and caring for her family.” On a recent visit to Japan, Turnquist met with the Empress Michiko, who confided that her favorite book was Little Women.

“Despite the challenges of war and poverty, the family always valued and cherished the simpler things in life,” said children’s librarian Nicole Basbanes Claire, who read Alcott’s novel as a precocious eleven-year-old (and who is, in full disclosure, this writer’s sister).

Barbara Basbanes Richter is a regular contributor to this magazine in print and online, and is a professional ghostwriter with two Amazon.com bestsellers.