Little Women takes place over a number of years and shows the growth and maturation of the four daughters into "little women" or what we would today call "young women." As the story opens, Meg is 16, Jo is 15, Beth is 13, and Amy is 12. Part 1 spans one year, from Christmas to Christmas. During the first Christmas, the girls are missing their father, who is away serving as a chaplain the Civil War. When he returns the following Christmas, he admires how much his daughters have grown up and matured during his absence.
The second part, which is sometimes published as a stand-alone book called Good Wives, has a looser structure and covers a much longer span of time. In it, Meg, now age 21, marries John Brooke, Laurie's tutor with whom she has long been in love. Jo is depressed by the breakup of the childhood family unit with the marriage of Meg and the death of Beth, but later, at age 25, agrees to marry Professor Bhaer. A year later, they marry. By the end of the story, Meg has had her twins, Jo has given birth to two sons, and Amy, who married Laurie, has a daughter. All three are now mature women.