Cover

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Frontmatter

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Contents

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pp. vii-vii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

I am grateful to the colleagues who, over the years, have shared Alcott materials and enthusiasm for Alcott, including Jan Alberghene, Hilary Crew, Chris Doyle, Greg Eiselein, Linnea Hendrickson, Joel Myerson, Anne Phillips, Lauren Rizzuto, Daniel Shealy, Mary Shelden, Betsey Shirley, Laureen Tedesco, and Roberta Trites. ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-7

I hold my childhood copy of Little Women. A solid, tangible object. Unchanging, it would seem, except for the yellowing of its pages and the peeling of its laminated cover. Unchanged, I assumed when I first read it, from what Louisa May Alcott had originally written—or at least I had assumed a kind of authenticity. Yet what appears to be solid and unchanged is not. ...

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1 Becoming Everyone’s Aunt, 1868–1900

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pp. 8-41

Louisa May Alcott had been notoriously reluctant to write the novel that became Little Women. She’d had some success with Hospital Sketches (1863), a fictionalized account of her experiences as a Civil War nurse, and the editor Thomas Niles invited her “to write a girls book.” ...

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2 Waxing Nostalgic, 1900–1930

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pp. 42-101

In the first decade of the twentieth century Little Women enjoyed an extraordinary popularity, but one that was in many ways under the radar. Some commentators claimed that the novel was read less than it had been by a previous generation, yet book sales and library holdings suggest that it was at the peak of its popularity. ...

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3 Outwitting Poverty and War, 1930–1960

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pp. 102-137

The mid-twentieth century was the heyday of scholarly dismissal of Alcott. Most literary scholars and members of the intellectual elite, not to mention the young George Cukor, did not consider Alcott worthy of notice. As a reviewer of Cukor’s 1933 film noted, Little Women was “often mentioned by the intelligentsia as a horrible example of sweetness and light in literature.”1 A journalist ...

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4 Celebrating Sisterhood and Passion since 1960

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pp. 138-199

Humorists have continued to have fun with Little Women, still associating it with innocent simplicity. In 1970 Gerald Nachman imagined it reworked as “an outspoken film about militant feminism,” since the “Women’s Liberation Front” was “an inevitable outgrowth of the activities of the girls in the novel”; Beth would die tragically in “a tastefully done abortion scene. ...

Notes

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pp. 201-258

Index

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pp. 259-271