All Little Women means to me

By Trix Wilkins

How a book comes to take such a shape of significance in anyone’s life does so slowly – almost like it does because one doesn’t expect it to. A book, in many ways, can be such a small thing; a means to learn, to feel, to pass away time, but nothing more (except perhaps to the person who wrote it).

Sometimes, a book can be more. Because we read it, we made different choices. We saw the world differently. And we lived a different life to one we otherwise might have. For me, Little Women was one of those books.

Quote Reading PIC

Not so awkward

There is something freeing about finding that a character you like is doing some of the same things you are. So thanks to Jo March, I came to look on aspects of my high school years with some sort of pride:

  • Not having beautiful or fashionable clothes (just like the March sisters – perhaps this was more an affinity thing rather than pride!)
  • Playing chess against boys (though I never “let” them win – then again, never heard a boy pay such a lovely compliment to my sister as Laurie did to Beth whilst playing chess)
  • Writing fantasies and forgetting to eat and sleep (if Jo did it, it must be good)
  • Collecting books (if Jo and Laurie collected books, how could it be a bad thing?)
  • Reading for hours on end (I ate chestnuts though, not apples, having read somewhere that nuts were good for the brain)
  • Reading the Bible every day (or trying to – a tip from the lovable Marmee must be heeded)


Picture courtesy of Louisa May Alcott is my passion

Not just a partner

So much of the Marches’ movements, thoughts, efforts, are influenced by the man who is largely absent from the story – Mr March. Thankfully, he has sterling character – he is patient, loving, learned and brave – and so his family benefits from their devotion to him. He doesn’t neglect or abuse them; he cherishes and protects them. He honors them with his love whether they disappoint or whether they delight.

What if Mr March had been anything but all those things…

And so at the age of fourteen, when I first read Little Women, the idea that when one chose one’s husband one also chose the father of one’s children, began to take root. Mr March’s bookishness and gentleness in the face of provocation especially struck me and I found myself looking out for them.

Home sweet home PIC

Not a house but a home

Little Women was the first “domestic” novel I read. I had been reading the Baby Sitter’s Club (more about friendship and being entrepreneurs than the home), Nancy Drew (about being smart, beautiful, and saving the world, not the home), and Sweet Valley High (featuring smart and beautiful Elizabeth Wakefield who was more occupied with developing her writing career than home affairs).

So to read a book in which wonderful, delightful things are said and done at home…where a mother would “preach” to her daughters by word and deed, where a father would utter words of encouragement, exhortation, and love, where even in the midst of difficult circumstances one could be kind and generous and helpful to others…What a home to live in!

What richness, what beauty might pervade home – a concept I had, as a teenager, come to view as the place where I slept between eating and studying. I came to think that if it were possible to imagine – then somewhere, somehow, it must be possible to attain.

Quote trying PIC

Not just any friend

It almost goes without saying (especially if you’ve been reading my blog or have read the Courtship of Jo March) that I think Jo and Laurie’s friendship in Little Women is a brilliant thing.

Until I read Little Women, it had never crossed my mind that a close friendship with a boy might be possible (or desirable).

Afterwards, I was open to the idea that one could possibly have such a friendship and it didn’t have to be romantic or complicated (note: I had only read Part 1 – I didn’t know about Part 2 until years later!).

I also came to expect that the sort of loyalty and encouragement Jo received from Laurie was the normal state of affairs.

Laurie Letter PIC

Of course he would: get along with my family, be helpful in practical ways, join in the games one invented, talk about things like travelling and books and what the world ought to be like, write letters (yes, some teenage boys write letters and no, not only the ones with a romantic agenda), read the same books, cheer one on when one reveals one’s hopes for the future.

I came to think these were things all friends did and the boys for the most part met these expectations.

One boy, of course, was head and shoulders above all the others.

Quote worth PIC

Not the romance I saw coming

My husband was my best friend before he became my husband (still my best friend, and still my husband ;)). Like Jo, I had no romantic feelings upon first meeting him. Unlike Jo, it took me a while to see his merits and become friends (unfortunately, I was not as discerning as she). And it would take five years from first meeting before we worked out what we were about (thankfully, we had a wise mutual friend who shook us up a bit).

I don’t know that we would have been friends quite the same way if I hadn’t read Little Women and thought that a Jo-Laurie sort of friendship was possible. Without that friendship, we wouldn’t have loved each other as friends and more. And were it not for marrying my best friend, I would never have felt such a strong compulsion to imagine a different ending to Little Women.


Not the book I imagined writing

Because I saw so much of my husband and I in Jo and Laurie, the idea of Jo being with anyone else (even the worthy Professor Bhaer) appalled me. Eventually, the feeling came to take the firmer shape of words on a page.

(I feel a little bit of giddy affinity with Louisa May Alcott in that she hadn’t planned for Little Women to be a success; I hadn’t planned for the Courtship of Jo March to even be a book.)

If it hadn’t been for Little Women, my husband and I might not have been; if not for my husband and I, the Courtship of Jo March would not exist.

Little Women to me is not simply a book – it is an idea. An idea that shaped my life.

(This was inspired by PBS Masterpieces’ recent post: What Little Women means to you.)


    • Thank you so much for the encouragement! 🙂 I really enjoyed writing it and felt quite sad when it was finished…So glad for blogging 😉 May I ask when you first read Little Women? I’m wondering if there’s anyone else out there who read Part 1 first and way before Part 2, as most editions nowadays are published with the two parts as one volume.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I loved this! You put into words exactly how I feel about Little Women as it means so much to me as well. I am also thoroughly enjoying your book 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s