Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters
Anne Boyd Rioux
On its 150th anniversary, discover the story of the beloved classic that has captured the imaginations of generations. Soon after publication on September 30, 1868, Little Women became an enormous bestseller and one of America’s favorite novels. Its popularity quickly spread throughout the world, and the book has become an international classic. Alcott’s novel has moved generations of women, many of them writers; Simone de Beauvoir, J. K. Rowling, bell hooks, Cynthia Ozick, Jane Smiley, Margo Jefferson, and Ursula K. Le Guin were inspired by Little Women, particularly its portrait of the iconoclastic young writer, Jo.
In Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, Rioux recounts how Louisa May Alcott came to write Little Women, drawing inspiration for it from her own life. Rioux also examines why this tale of family and community ties, set while the Civil War tore America apart, has resonated through later wars, the Depression, and times of changing opportunities for women. In gauging its current status, Rioux shows why Little Women remains a book with such power that people carry its characters and spirit throughout their lives.
Anne Boyd Rioux, a professor at the University of New Orleans, the author of Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist, and the editor of Miss Grief and Other Stories, has received two National Endowment for the Humanities Awards, one for public scholarship. She lives in New Orleans.
This lecture is presented in partnership with the Boston Literary District.
From 1827 to 1872, the books people checked out of the Athenæum were recorded in ledgers. Amongst those whose borrowed books were recorded was Louisa May Alcott. And amongst the books she took out were Why Did He Not Die? by Volckhausen and Gemma by Trollope. Check out a complete list of the book titles she borrowed here.
To register, follow the registration button on the right. If you would prefer your information to pre-populate, log in to your My Athenæum Profile. To log in to your My Athenæum Profile click on the profile icon found in the upper right corner of each page on our website.
If you do not yet have a profile, select “New User? Create an account” on the Profile Login page. Members create their own accounts; a username and password are not assigned when you join the Athenæum.