One of my favourite books growing up was the Louisa May Alcott classic, Little Women.
I was reminded of this when I caught a snippet of the movie on TV recently – what I think of as the “new” version, starring Susan Sarandon as Marmee and Winona Ryder as Jo. However Miss 26 informed me there is an even more modern version, which I must track down and watch!
I must have been about 11 or 12 when I first read it, and reading the bit where Beth passes away was probably the first time a story actually moved me to tears.
Beth was so saintly it was almost like she was destined for heaven at an early age; she was so shy, to be honest sometimes I felt like giving her a good shake! About the only aspect of her character which I found relatable was her love of cats 😉 .
The other sisters were a different story.
Which of the girls did you identify with the most? As we were both the eldest of four children, it was only natural that I found some commonalities with Meg; however as I was around young Amy’s age at the time, I definitely identified with her character and I especially understood how she suffered from having such a flat nose!
But Jo March was my hero. While I was never a tomboy, I loved to write from an early age, had a creative spirit and a vivid imagination.
Inspired by the book, I submitted my first ever article to a magazine (The Australian Women’s Weekly no less!), at the ripe old age of 12. It was written in green biro (shudder). Not surprisingly it wasn’t published – but I did get a lovely response from then-editor Ita Buttrose encouraging me to keep chasing my dreams!
Little Women was a rich source of inspiration, and I roped my younger siblings into all sorts of adventures …
Inspired by Little Women
I proudly produced our own family newspaper (based on Jo’s Pickwick Papers), though I don’t remember what I called it. It was lovingly created in longhand as I didn’t own a typewriter until I was 13 (and of course. this was long before computers were a common household item). Most likely it would have featured stories on our cats Miss Kitty and Pinky!
When it came to putting on plays, I wrote the script and made my own puppet theatre out of a box, with curtains created from an old dress of my grandma’s. The play was loosely based on the one put on by the girls in Little Women. The main characters were Zara and Rodrigo, and my version was a musical, as I made up suitable song lyrics set to popular tunes of the day.
I also loved paper dolls and spent many happy hours creating my own, including a large wardrobe of outfits that I thought would have been most suitable for Little Women in the 1860’s. My sisters and I loved the romance of their long gowns and hooped skirts, not realising just how uncomfortable and restrictive they would have been in real life.
A Modern Take on Little Women
The scene I watched on telly the other week was the one where Meg’s wealthy friends talk her into a bit of a makeover before attending a ball. They curled her hair, added some colour to her lips and cheeks (very “fast” in those days), and lent her a dress which was more low cut than she was used to (how daring!).
At the ball she affected the flirtatious manner of her friends, preening, simpering, and even drinking champagne, only to end up realising that it didn’t make her any “better” or more beautiful. Rather, she was inspired to remain true to herself – a lovely young woman who, while she didn’t come from a rich family, was just as worthy as any of her wealthier friends.
Imagine that scene today. There not being much in the way of balls these days, Meg and her friends would likely have been preparing for a big night out on the town.
And what would Meg’s makeover have involved? She might have borrowed a skimpy designer label outfit, which would have necessitated a spray tan (with all that flesh on show). Makeup would have been just the start. If a young woman wants to look “hot” today, chances are she would have fake nails and lashes, teeth whitening, and a couple of small cosmetic procedures. Lip fillers and Botox anyone? She might even have gone all out with a tattoo!
At that same ball, Jo made do with a gown which had a patch on the back due to her habit of warming herself too close to the fire. (If she tried that these days, her outfit would likely have gone up in flames leaving her with third degree burns!). We have plenty of cheap and cheery fashion for her to choose from today, so I’m sure she could have picked up something for a few bucks, though it would likely have come apart after just a couple of washes.
While the setting and the fashions might have changed, the moral of the story hasn’t 😉 .
Were you inspired by Little Women, whether the book or one of the movie/TV versions?!