Our family saw Little Women when it opened on Christmas Day. One of the things I enjoyed about the film was that director Greta Gerwig gives more prominence and depth to the character of Amy March, the sister who is the artist in the family, and one who has not always seemed that likeable in previous movies based on Louisa May Alcott’s book. Amy matures and shines in the new movie. My favourite scene is one in which she makes a really impassioned speech about the limitations placed on women in the 1800s.
I always knew that the novel Little Women was semi-autobiographical and after seeing the movie I wanted to learn more about what Amy March had in common with Louisa May Alcott’s younger sister Abigail who was known as May to her family. As it turns out, like Amy in the book, May was also an artist. With the income from her writing, Louisa was able to help her sister May study art in Boston and Europe.
May who was a writer, as well as an artist, wrote a guidebook for other woman called Studying Art Abroad and How To Do It Cheaply. Although it wasn’t easy to be a female artist and get your work exhibited in the late 1800s May had several of her paintings accepted into the famous Paris Salon, something very few women managed to achieve. She was friends with American artist Mary Cassatt who also exhibited at the Paris Salon.
While living abroad May met and fell in love with a Swiss businessman, Ernest Nieriker, and they were married in a quiet, private ceremony in Paris. Theirs was a happy marriage but sadly May died shortly after the birth of her little daughter Louisa, who they called Lulu. At the dying request of her mother, Lulu was sent home to America to live with her Aunt Louisa.
I think one of the reasons Greta Gerwig’s film Little Women is proving so popular is because she gives us new insight into some of the characters in the much-beloved novel, helping us see them through a modern lens in ways that are both engaging and intriguing.