Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Louisa May

I recently saw this documentary on pbs.  I really enjoyed "Little Women" when I was younger.  I read lots of classics (even at that time) and I knew many teachers/relatives who appreciated the novel (and Anne of Green Gables, and Little House on the Prarie). 

I thought the documentary was well done. (I loved the images of the actress running in nineteenth century dress - Alcott was a runner).  I confess that I associated Ms. Alcott simply with Little Women and that series, not realizing how far ahead of her time she was.  I knew her father was friends with many of the transcendalists (Emerson and Thoreau).

I also wasn't aware that she had added the ending about Jo's marriage after many letters from fans imploring her that Jo needed to be married.  Jo's marriage always seemed a bit rushed and out of character for the novel (in my opinion).

Louisa herself never married.

I also hadn't known that for years, she had supported her family (her parents) through writing "pulp" fiction novels using a pseudonym.  And that she supported her family through many, many other types of jobs and positions - everything/anything that would be considered "proper" for a woman at that time.

I've lamented before that I didn't know many happy, successful, stable single people (particularly women) growing up. 

But what I didn't realize was how many of my favorite female figures or authors never married.  In the nineteenth century, unfortunately, it seemed as if the only way a woman could have any sort of career was to not marry.  (I think of Florence Nightengale as a great example of that, by the way).

So now I will go back and read Alcott's descriptions of working in a hospital during the civil war. Those essays were critically acclaimed at the time. 

It's nice to be reminded of just how far women have come, and the additional opportunities we now have.  Women no longer have to "choose" between marriage and other pursuits.  And they are (now) much better able to support themselves. 

1 comment:

C. L. Hanson said...

Even as a kid, I'd heard that Luisa May Alcott never married.

The funny/sad part is that back then I'd so internalized the idea that "woman's success = marriage & family" that I'd thought she'd "improved" her alter-ego's life (giving her marriage and sons, no less!) because she'd wished for such a happy ending for herself.