Yesterday I images once upon a timewrote about Willa  Cather, a  great American writer. Links to her most popular novel can be found here: Full Text My Antonia Willa Cather.

And more information about this novel’s 100 year anniversary can be found here: My Antonia 100 year anniversary.

I believe I should re-read My Antonia next in tribute! It’s a precious novel to me, with characters I understand, from the plucky Antonia to the depressed and ultimately suicidal father who laments the harshness of the prairie life, missing his urban life back in Europe.

But we also have to have a look at Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women.  Full text of the novel can be found here: Full text of Little Women.

Like Cather, Alcott felt her life was limited by being born female. Alcott saw her mother working day and night while her father was speaking to Emerson, Thoreau, and at times even Nathaniel Hawthorne; imagine those three greats as your neighbors.

I underestimated Alcott until I read more about her and saw PBS’s biopic, which may be found here: Alcott on American Masters PBS.

I regret I underestimated Alcott as a writer, being influenced by the rather young adult/ juvenile novels she wrote. She wrote so much more!  She supported her family of four sisters AND her parents (mom and all the sisters worked at whatever “respectable” women could do, while it seems the father was educated but not particularly inclined to work after his school failed)  with her writing of dark gothic stories and then these wildly popular “little women” type novels.  Of the latter, she disliked writing them but to quote Fantine from Les Miserables?  “It pays a bill.”

I would encourage watching this program and getting to know more about Alcott.

Of the three female writers I have written about so far, Anne Frank, Louisa May Alcott, and Willa Cather, both Alcott and Cather did feel constrained by being female.  Anne Frank did not live long enough to learn what the world would do with her, a female writer, after World War II.  I don’t want to limit them by saying they are “just” women writers–they were good writers, period. Their gender, for Alcott and Cather, did limit their careers they felt.

Worth looking into further, this idea of how gender can partially become destiny.  All three were good writers, however, and I cannot help but wonder what they could have written if they were born male.

I believe the Bronte sisters in England, (Bronte sisters) published using male names, and I believe they also supported an intellectual father who, if I remember correctly, didn’t bring in much money to support the family. I will look into this further.

I am not a literary scholar not an academic; I am a caring writer myself who is in awe of anyone talented in writing.  I like to spotlight and give tribute to the greats as I can in my own small way.  In a way, it’s good I’m not a scholar but just an interested reader and writer myself, since that way I can be wrong and admit it if I am.

***Another issue to consider later on is social class; Cather, Alcott, and even Anne Frank came from families that might be considered middle class today.  I wonder if that is whey they could even dream of being WRITERS.

Anyone else have a favorite female writer? I’d love to hear about her!

7 thoughts on “Two Great American writers: Alcott and Cather

  1. Laura, I will have to check out the PBS American Masters on Alcott. Little Women was a favorite of mine as a girl. I also loved the Little House on the Prairie series as a child.


  2. C.S. Lewis I was surprised to find in my Honors English I class in college at Loyola University New Orleans, as a 1st year student in 2004. I think it was in the literary criticisms. I was recently thinking about Little Women, too, which is overrated like the Little House books which I read most of.


      1. Well… the big obvious thing to me was embarrassing to me that I enjoyed the first book most because it was simpler, a simpler memory. Each book gets more complex, like a reading program. I guess it just seemed cozier, for other reasons as well. It really tickles my mind. It’s so mysterious, adventurous, and of a nature of love available in the air. It is so entrancing to speak of the outside and see the dresses they wear in the illustrations. I guess we grow up to be fascinated by nature and the human experience. It seems to say that we only live once, just to enjoy it. I also read some of the American Girls, lucky when my parents would buy it for me. I mainly liked Felicity from the Revolutionary War. My mom originally got me the Swedish girl from the 1800s, Kirsten, which I found interesting later to think about it more. My dad read some of the Oz books to us and the Chronicles of Narnia, some books more than once. I read Harry Potter when it came out, from going with an aunt shopping. It was a big thing. I sat in the theater with some older friends my 1st year of high school at the 1st movie. Titanic was more popular, though.


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