Did you know that when I sat down to write a book written specifically for “women and girls,” an experimental genre in 1868 – I nearly declined the offer. I did not believe my background of living in poverty, working my ass off and still living in poverty, could provide the kinds of story lines that the majority of women and girls could relate to.
Add to that, I physically was not up for the challenge, given my chronic pain from mercury poisoning which left me with joint and muscle ache, gastrointestinal issues, migraines and dizziness,
But I sat at my wooden slab of a desk one day in May 1868 and tried to recollect all the good times I had with my parents and sisters despite myself and the melancholy (you call that “depression”) that streamed through the household. Some memories trickled in and I wrote and wrote – both left and right handed – for up to 14 hours some days. Yes, I fictionalized some. There is no record of any of us falling through the ice, for instance, but that’s the joy of fiction. If an event is not too exciting, you can spice it up just like you would a bland entree.
By July I had finished the manuscript. True, I was not happy with it, and neither were my male publishers. It was a financial risk to publish a book for women and girls – today referred to as “chick lit,” as many females were not educated enough to read chapter books. No one wanted to lose money.
‘Little Women’ was almost a no-go, but one editor had his niece Ellen, then 20, read it. Ellen loved it, so a trial run was sent to the presses in Boston and rolled off in September 1868. The presses have been running ever since.
Apparently tens of thousands of women and girls back in 1868 COULD relate to my experiences, and millions still do. And not just around Concord and Boston. Did you know that ‘Little Women’ is published in more than 50 languages and has never been out of print? Quite impressive, isn’t it?
And to think I almost passed up the chance.
P.S. Book lovers who will be in the Boston area this weekend have a chance to score a rare first edition of my works. The Hynes Auditorium is hosting the 38th Boston International Antiquarian Book fair Nov. 14 through 16. I won’t be there, but some of my work will.