For many of us, just the mention of “Orchard House” or “limes” or even the phrase “Jo! Your one beauty!” is enough to trigger a tidal wave of nostalgia. Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women has been a girlhood staple for generations of bookish young women since its publication in 1869. Whether we're talking sweet and domestic Meg, spirited writer Jo, selfless Beth, or beautiful and artistic Amy, everyone has a favorite Little Woman. (But let’s be honest: For the bookish, it’s almost always Jo).
I recently revisited Little Women, and started wondering what the March sisters would be like if, instead of the stars of a centuries-old childhood classic, they were actually our contemporaries, hangin' out in 2014? A vast array of political, medical, and technological advancements have transformed society in the almost 150 years since Alcott wrote her novel. So, how would these modern developments affect these heroines? How would Meg handle Pinterest? Would Jo still write what we now know as "genre fiction"? Would Amy marry Laurie? And Beth! What. Would. Happen. To. Beth.
Instead of just musing, I went for it. Here's my vision of the Marches, 2k14:
Meg and her husband John live in a trendy suburb with a good school system. Meg’s twins are still named Demijohn and Daisy, and as Meg often points out — with a note of pride in her voice — they are the only kids in their year with those names. Meg used to be a stay-at-home mom with a borderline-unhealthy Pinterest addiction, but the DSLR camera she received last Christmas transformed her into a bonafide mommy-blogger. Every meal, craft, and family project is lovingly described, photographed, and shared with her 149 devoted followers. What her feed never shows, however, are those frazzled first few attempts: the jelly that couldn’t gel, that soufflé that never rose, and the “easy 2-minute updo” that just wouldn’t hold. Meg has never quite gotten the hang of doing it right the first time; she’s deeply embarrassed by this, but Jo insists it makes her more "relatable."
While still in teacher’s college, Jo achieved Internet fame as a wildly popular fanfic writer. Eventually she was able to parlay that fame into the successful sale of her manuscript, a YA urban fantasy novel. All of this is much to the chagrin of her colleague and long-term romantic partner, Freddie Bhaer, a creative writing MFA graduate who would prefer to see Jo channel her talents into more “worthwhile” pursuits. On this particular subject, Jo just ignores him. She knows that entertaining, moving, and inspiring young women (and making a decent buck in the process) is plenty worthy, thankyouverymuch.
Like any smart writer early in her career, Jo has decided to keep her day job; she teaches English at a private boys’ school. Every year she has to fight to keep Austen on the syllabus along with Hemingway and Salinger, but every year she wins. #personalvictory. In 2009, Jo got caught up in one of Beth’s charity drives (this one benefiting Locks of Love) and shaved off all her hair. She has rocked the pixie ever since.
Beth… lives! Thanks to modern medicine, Beth was given the meds regimen she needed to fully recover from scarlet fever. Ever the giver, Beth has devoted herself to others in both her professional and personal lives. She's overworked and underpaid, but blissfully happy at a non-profit that supports recently immigrated families. Beth also fosters stray cats for a local rescue; in fact, she met her girlfriend, Izzie, when she came to adopt one of Beth’s foster kitties. Izzie always jokes that the only reason Beth agreed to go out with her was to see Peanut again.
The one thing Beth does just for herself is play the piano — beautifully. Some evenings and weekends, Izzie sings jazz standards at a local coffee shop, and she’s always trying to convince Beth to be her accompanist. Beth hasn’t agreed yet, but maybe someday she will.
A graduate of the Sorbonne’s arts program, Amy now works part-time at Anthropologie. She recently had her first art opening, a collection of multi-media selfies called Self: A Deconstruction of Vanity at a local gallery. Her work received positive reviews from a handful of alternative art blogs, but she only managed to sell a couple of the pieces.
Amy has a mountain of student debt, but she isn’t too worried about it right now; she suspects she’ll inherit some money when her Aunt and Uncle Carroll pass. Still, she was relieved when Jo pulled some strings and got her work creating the cover art for Jo’s new series (the two have long since buried the hatchet about that time that Amy threw Jo’s external hard drive in the toilet; Jo backs her work up on the cloud now, anyway). Amy has had a series of artsy boyfriends and girlfriends, but she always comes back to her first love, Laurie. She knows he’s planning on proposing soon, and when he does, she’ll say yes.
Images: Columbia Pictures (1); tumblr (2); Giphy (2)