Little Women

Nineteenth-Century Gender Expectations in "Little Women " College

Around the time period of the Civil War, women in the U.S. had few rights but many expectations placed upon them. Women could not own land, vote, or sell property. Instead, society expected them to care for their families by cooking and cleaning, with little to no say in the finances of the family and the political battles happening around them. During this time, many women also began to work long hours in factories to support their families and in various war efforts in addition to their domestic roles. In Little Women, Louisa May Alcott used four sisters based on herself and her own female siblings to demonstrate the gender roles and expectations of many nineteenth-century girls on the verge of womanhood during and after the Civil War. She showed how, although the women knew their expected role in society, they often took a feminist approach and disagreed with society’s limitations.

All of the female characters in Little Women have distinct personalities and interests similar to those of many women in the time period. Since their family has recently lost a majority of their money, the sisters attempt to make due with the little that they have. With their father away at war, their highly religious mother, Marmee, looks after...

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