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The women in Louisa May Alcott's book Little Women lived during a time when women had very little power. They could not vote, very few worked outside of the home, and social status often dictated who one would marry.
Jo is he oldest sister. She is strong willed and tomboyish. She is unlike most women of her day. Several conflicts arise for Jo having to do with her womanhood. She is asked by Laurie to marry him. Marriage is expected for her and Laurie would have a good income, but Jo chooses not to marry. The second thing that Jo does is she goes off to a big city on her own. Social expectations would have been for her to remain in her home until marriage. Jo also chooses a career that would frown upon a woman. She takes a male pen name in order to sell her stories.
Meg is more typical of the females of her day. She is demure and helpful. Her conflicts arise because she has no nice dress to wear to a dance and only one pair of gloves. She and Jo decide to each carry one of the gloves. Meg makes a good marriage and follows the social laws for females.
Amy is a girl who likes stuff and money. She hates being poor and wants more for herself. Even though she does not want to she is sent to live with an elderly aunt when her sister falls ill. She is provided the opportunity to study abroad and paint. She meets a rejected Laurie and marries. She has been able to rise above the social status of her family.
Beth is a very shy and introverted girl. She socially isolates herself from people. She loves music and plays a piano, but the family does not have one. Laurie's grandfather provides her with a piano. Beth is in poor health and dies young.
Marmee, the girls mother, is limited in her ability to be able to provide for her girls once her husband is sent to war. She has to rely on the kindness of an aunt. They have very little and she struggles to provide for her girls with a meager income. Her husband probably sends some money home from his pay, but it is very little. Getting a job is not an option. Laurie's grandfather often tries to extend his kindness to help the family.
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