A beautiful new Deluxe Edition of Alcott''s beloved novel, with a foreword by National Book Award-winning author and musician Patti Smith. Nominated as one of America’s most-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read.
Little Women is recognized as one of the best-loved classic children''s stories, transcending the boundaries of time and age, making it as popular with adults as it is with young readers. The beloved story of the March girls is a classic American feminist novel, reflecting the tension between cultural obligation and artistic and personal freedom. But which of the four March sisters to love best? For every reader must have their favorite. Independent, tomboyish Jo; delicate, loving Beth; pretty, kind Meg; or precocious and artistic Amy, the baby of the family? The charming story of these four "little women" and their wise and patient mother Marmee enduring hardships and enjoying adventures in Civil War New England was an instant success when first published in 1868 and has been adored for generations.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
"Perhaps no other book provided a greater guide, as I set out on my youthful path, than Louisa May Alcott’s most beloved novel,
—From the Foreword by Patti Smith
"I have always gravitated towards the cozy book, and nothing is cozier than
Little Women. It was one of the books that fostered my love of America, very early on, and showed me what makes a great character, particularly in headstrong Jo."
Louisa May Alcott was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1832, the second of four daughters of Abigail May Alcott and Bronson Alcott, the prominent Transcendentalist thinker and social reformer. Raised in Concord, Massachusetts, and educated by her father, Alcott early on came under the influence of the great men of his circle: Emerson, Hawthorne, the preacher Theodore Parker, and Thoreau. From her youth, Louisa worked at various tasks to help support her family: sewing, teaching, domestic service, and writing. In 1862, she volunteered to serve as an army nurse in a Union hospital during the Civil War— an experience that provided her material for her first successful book,
Hospital Sketches (1863). Between 1863 and 1869, she published several anonymous and pseudonymous Gothic romances and lurid thrillers. But fame came with the publication of her
Little Women (1868– 69), a novel based on the childhood adventures of the four Alcott sisters, which received immense popular acclaim and brought her financial security as well as the conviction to continue her career as a writer. In the wake of
Little Women’s popularity, she brought out
An Old- Fashioned Girl (1870),
Eight Cousins (1875),
Rose in Bloom (1876),
Jo’s Boys (1886), and other books for children, as well as two adult novels,
Moods (1864) and
Work (1873). An active participant in the women’s suffrage and temperance movements during the last decade of her life, Alcott died in Boston in 1888, on the day her father was buried.
Patti Smith is a writer, performer, and visual artist. She gained recognition in the 1970s for her revolutionary merging of poetry and rock. She has released twelve albums, including
Horses, which has been hailed as one of the top one hundred albums of all time by
Rolling Stone. Smith had her first exhibit of drawings at the Gotham Book Mart in 1973 and has been represented by the Robert Miller Gallery since 1978. Her books include
Just Kids, winner of the National Book Award in 2010,
The Coral Sea, and
Auguries of Innocence. In 2005, the French Ministry of Culture awarded Smith the title of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres, the highest honor given to an artist by the French Republic. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Smith married the musician Fred Sonic Smith in Detroit in 1980. They had a son, Jackson, and a daughter, Jesse. Smith resides in New York City.
Anne Boyd Rioux is Professor of English at the University of New Orleans and the author/editor of several books, including
Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters (Norton, 2018). The recipient of two National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, one for public scholarship, she writes reviews and essays for general and academic audiences, specializing in women writers.
"Christmas won''t be Christmas without any presents,"grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
"It''s so dreadful to be poor!"sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.
"I don''t think it''s fair for some girls to have lots of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, with an injured sniff.
"We''ve got father and mother, and each other, anyhow,"said Beth, contentedly, from her corner.
The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened at the cheerful words, but darkened again as Jo said sadly?
"We haven''t got father, and shall not have him for a long time." She didn''t say "perhaps never,"but each silently added it, thinking of father far away, where the fighting was.
Nobody spoke for a minute; then Meg said in an altered tone, "You know the reason mother proposed not having any presents this Christmas, was because it''s going to be a hard winter for every one; and she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men are suffering so in the army. We can''t do much, but we can make our little sacrifices, and ought to do it gladly. But I am afraid I don''t;"and Megshook her head, as she thought regretfully of all the pretty things she wanted.
"But I don''t think the little we should spend would do any good. We''ve each got a dollar, and the army wouldn''t be much helped by our giving that. I agree not to expect anything from mother or you, but I do want to buy
Undine and Sintram for myself; I''ve wanted it so long,''said Jo, who was a bookworm.
"I planned to spend mine in new music,"said Beth, with a little sigh, which no one heard but the hearth-brush and kettle-holder.
"I shall get a nice box of Faber''s drawing pencils; I really need them," said Amy, decidedly.
"Mother didn''t say anything about our money, and she won''t wish us to give up everything. Let''s each buy what we want, and have a little fun; I''m sure we grub hard enough to earn it,"cried Jo, examining the heels of her
boots in a gentlemanly manner.
"I know I do, teaching those dreadful children nearly all day, when I''m longing to enjoy myself at home," began Meg, in the complaining tone again.
"You don''t have half such a hard time as I do," said Jo. "How would you like to be shut up for hours with a nervous, fussy old lady, who keeps you trotting, is never satisfied, and worries you till you''''e ready to fly out of the window or box her ears?"
"It''s naughty to fret, but I do think washing dishes and keeping things tidy is the worst work in the world. It makes me cross; and my hands get so stiff, I can''t practise good a bit." And Beth looked at her rough hands with a sigh that any one could hear that time.
"I don''t believe any of you suffer as I do," cried Amy; "for you don''t have to go to school with impertinent girls, who plague you if you don''t know your lessons, and laugh at your dresses, and label your father if he isn''t rich, and insult you when your nose isn''t nice."
"If you mean libel I''d say so, and not talk about labels, as if pa was a pickle-bottle," advised Jo, laughing.