The Classic That Keeps On Coming

Little Women lovers rejoice at upcoming film

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

It Started in 1868

More than a hundred and fifty years ago, Louisa May Alcott published Little Women, and it’s a classic novel that’s still going strong. So strong, in fact, that it’s being recreated for the eighth time as a movie for the big screen.

Little Women is a novel about four sisters during the Civil War. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are like all sisters. They love each other, but sometimes they drive each other nuts. Alcott’s story shows the near-poverty that families faced because of the war. Coming-of-age themes of love, envy, feminism, duty are woven through the lives and activities of each of the daughters.

Remember reading it for the first time? Maybe you saw yourself in one of the sisters. Maybe you were in love with Laurie. Maybe you cried when Beth died. (I’m a crier and remember weeping uncontrollably when Beth passed. I was eleven.)

That book has touched the hearts of millions of women. And not just in America, but around the world.

Global popularity

Since it was published, Little Women has NEVER been out of print. It’s been translated into fifty languages and is the 2nd best selling book to Japanese girls. Go figure. I guess sisters, childhood escapades, family life, and love interests are universal experiences no matter where in the world you are.

No exact sales figures for Little Women exist. Originally, it was first published in 1868 in two volumes: Little Women and Good Wives, but soon both volumes were published as one under the title of Little Women. Across the pond, however, you’re likely to find it published in its two original parts.

Sales figures are hard to come by. The variety of volumes published, the number of countries selling it, and early book pirating, no solid numbers exist. One expert estimates that 10 million copies have been sold over the past 150 years.

Little Women impacted great female authors of today

Louisa May Alcott didn’t really want to write a book for girls, but her publisher pushed her to do it. She had no idea of the power her story would exert on women who lived more than a hundred years after Little Women was published.

Many prominent female writers were influenced by the book. Margaret Atwood, Jane Smiley, A.S. Byatt, Doris Lessing, Anne Tyler, and Barbara Kingsolver have all paid tribute to Alcott’s novel.

And now, in addition to the dozens and dozens of adaptations for stage and television, including a BBC mini-series, Little Women is coming out as a mainstream movie just in time for a new generation of girls.

New film versions come out every 10–25 years.

  • 1917 & 1918: Silent film versions were produced.

  • 1933: George Cuckor, Director. With sound.

  • 1949: Mervin LeRoy, Director. Katherine Hepburn as Jo.

  • 1958: Television musical, “A Girl Called Jo.” Elizabeth Taylor as Amy.

  • 1978: David Lowell Rich television mini-series. William Shatner played Professor Bhaer.

  • 1994: Gillian Armstrong, Director. Winona Ryder as Jo, Christian Bale as Laurie, Susan Sarandon as Marmee

  • 2019: Greta Gerwig, Director. Emma Watson as Meg, Saorise Ronan as Jo, Timothy Chalamet as Laurie, Laura Dern as Marmee, Meryl Streep as Aunt March.

Greta Gerwig directs the upcoming version of Little Women. She’s best known for her film, Ladybird, which she both wrote and directed in 2017. A polished, powerful cast portrays Alcott’s characters.

Little Women debuts Christmas Day, 2020.

Be ready to remember your childhood. To be taken back to the days of the Civil War. To fight and laugh and love your sisters. To recognize that some things never change and that some stories are forever true.

If you want to read more about Louisa May Alcott and Little Women, check out this interesting article by Joan Acocello: How Little Women Got Big.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Melissa Gouty has two beloved sisters, Melanie and Michele, and plenty of family stories that she tells in her manuscript, “The Magic of Ordinary.” Little Women is just one of many great reads that she’s had throughout her lifetime. Follow her on Literature Lust, or


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