With the upcoming 2018 adaptation of Little Women on MASTERPIECE rapidly approaching, we wanted to look back 149 years to the original 1868 publication of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel of the same name. More specifically, we wanted to hear from our listeners and viewers why that novel is an important part of their lives. On International Podcast Day 2017, you told us.
MASTERPIECE Studio is brought to you by Viking Cruises, exploring the world in comfort. Learn more at vrc.com
Jace Lacob: I’m Jace Lacob, and you’re listening to a special bonus episode of MASTERPIECE Studio, on International Podcast Day 2017.
Coincidentally, today is also the 149th Anniversary of the original publication of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, Little Women. First appearing on our shelves back in 1868, Little Women has gone on to international success, charming readers young and old with its seemingly timeless story of the hardworking March Sisters and their wise mother, Marmee.
Next spring, MASTERPIECE will bring a new three-part production of Little Women to PBS.
But today, we thought we’d take a more literary approach and ask you, our viewers and listeners, what Little Women means to you.
Last month, we invited you — via a smartphone voice memo — to fill in the prompt, “Little Women was important to me because…” and we were thrilled that so many of you did.
Contributor: Little Women was important to me and to my sisters and my mother because we had a representation in that novel of our household where our mother was the breadwinner, where we were impoverished greatly and yet not in spirit nor in functionality of the family structure. So we truly loved it and sometimes called each other by the characters’ names for fun.
Contributor: I am named for two of the main characters in the book. My name is Amy Beth. When I was born, I was given the book. As soon I could read, I read the novel, and um I love the other works of Louisa May Alcott. I think it’s contributed to my love of literature, of learning, of reading and I think it will be with me for the rest of my life ’cause my time is integral to who I am, and to my being.
Jace: All of you had different reasons for loving Louisa May Alcott’s work. For some, it was the strength of the family bond at the heart of the story.
Contributor: I first read Little Women at the age of nine, in a large family that was still growing, but at that time consisted of two boys and four girls, of whom I was the eldest. I felt at home with the March family and took inspiration from their close knit love, their strong mother and their adventures and their challenges and their growth, all the way to marriage and adulthood.
Contributor: I have loved Little Women since I was a young child. I had three sisters, we identified with Little Women our whole lives, and in the course of things, I was Beth, I was the third one down from the top.
Contributor: Like the March family, I had four daughters and no sons. And tragically, like the March family, I lost my oldest daughter at a young age. Distraught, it was actually Jo’s poem to Beth that she found in her deathbed that brought me the most comfort. So much so that my last daughter was named after Beth. Years later, I still proudly display dolls of the four March sisters and Marmee, and thank Louisa May Alcott for changing my life.
Jace: Some of you love the way the book depicts different kinds of female characters.
Contributor: Little Women was important to me because it was one of the first books that I ever read that had a diverse cast of leading female characters….You could be Jo, you could be Beth, you could be Meg, you could be Amy, or you could be any mixture of them, and you were gonna be okay.
Contributor: I really identified and looked up to the protagonist Jo March. She was such a rad lady, she just did not care about gender norms, she marched to the beat of her own drum and did what she wanted.
Contributor: Little Women was important to me because the girls were presented, both the outgoing and the shy. They showed that a girl could be smart, beautiful and kind while still showing spunk.
Jace: And perhaps more than anything, you consider the book a true source of literary inspiration.
Contributor: Little Women was important to me because it’s the first book that my grandmother started to read to me when I was a little girl. She’d come and visit from the East Coast and sit me on her knee, take out Little Women and read me the book over the summer as she stayed with us at our house. It was the first book that taught me that I really really wanted to read.
Contributor: When I was in early middle school, maybe sixth grade, I became curious about what was in novel-type books, not just the books we had in school. And so, I hadn’t actually read a book like that before and so I went to our library and thought I would just start with the letter A for authors and just go all the way through, and so the first book I picked off the shelf was by Louisa May Alcott, and it was Little Women. And so that the first full book I ever read. And it just got me hooked on reading.
MASTERPIECE Studio is brought to you by Viking Cruises, see the world differently by exploring differently. Learn more at vrc.com.
MASTERPIECE Studio is also brought to you by by Farmers Insurance and their eighty-eight years of experience helping people so that they can prepare for the unexpected. They know a thing or two because they’ve seen a thing or two. Find an experienced agent at farmers.com.
Jace: For at least one of you, Little Women was a source of romance.
Contributor: Little Women was important to me because when I was a senior in college, one of my professors decided to do a brand new adaptation of it. I auditioned and by some stroke of magic, I was cast as Jo. Even more amazing was when the guy I had a crush on was cast as Professor Bhaer. Over the course of rehearsals and performances, the two of us got closer, until I finally realized that he liked me just as much as I liked him. We had our first kiss on stage during rehearsals, and by the end of the show, we were dating. Fast forward a few years, and the professor who directed the play performed part of our wedding ceremony. His wife, who played Marmee, was there in the audience, too. Now, almost 13 years after that show, Andrew and I have been married for eight and a half years, and have beautiful four year old twins, all thanks to Louisa May Alcott and Little Women.
Jace: For another, Little Women is a source of father-daughter bonding.
Contributor: Little Women was not important to me. Not as a young man, anyways, I never thought to read it. After all, it was a girls’ book. But it’s important to me now because it is a book that I get to share with my daughter. I just started reading it to her and she already loves it. By the end of the first chapter, she was already convinced that her favorite character is Jo. She says, “Daddy, I think that I most like Jo.”
Jace: The story of the fictional March sisters — and, consequently, of the very real Alcott family — will air on MASTERPIECE on PBS in spring 2018. We hope you’ll join us then for a fresh journey to Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts, with brand new perspectives on the classic story of family, friendship, and womanhood.
And don’t worry — we’ll feature interviews with some of the cast and creative talent behind Little Women closer to the air date next spring.
On this International Podcast Day, we thank all of our listeners for tuning in, and all of our many contributors who sent in their Little Women memories.
Next on the podcast, we speak with Gabriella Wilde — Poldark’s Caroline Penvenen — following the upcoming two-hour premiere of season three, airing Sunday, October 1 at 9 PM.
Make sure you don’t miss that conversation, and our upcoming interviews with the stars of Poldark and The Durrells In Corfu, by subscribing to MASTERPIECE Studio on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you find your podcasts.
The MASTERPIECE Mediterranean Cruise Sweepstakes is happening NOW through November 20, 2017! Enter daily for a chance to win the Grand Prize, a Viking Cruise for two adults. You may also win 1 of 3 monthly prizes of shopPBS merchandise. Visit pbs.org/sweepstakes for Official Rules, including eligibility restrictions and prize limitations. Void where prohibited. Again, that’s pbs.org/sweepstakes.
MASTERPIECE Studio is hosted by me, Jace Lacob and produced by Nick Andersen. Elisheba Ittoop is our editor. Special thanks to Barrett Brountas and Susanne Simpson. The executive producer of MASTERPIECE is Rebecca Eaton.
Sponsors for MASTERPIECE on PBS are Viking Cruises, Farmers Insurance, and The MASTERPIECE Trust.
Sign up to get the latest news on your favorite shows like Victoria, Sherlock and Poldark, exclusive content, video, sweepstakes and more.