Recently, the Hartsville Museum was the recipient of a special donation. Emily Bailey of Clinton, SC, a great friend of the museum, arrived at our door with boxes full of treasures – including Christmas ornaments, decorations, and an assortment of dolls. Among the dolls was the quartet from Louisa May Alcott’s book, Little Women, featuring Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy Marsh.
Originally published in two volumes, the book made its appearance in 1868 and tells the story of four “All-American” girls on their passage from childhood to womanhood. The book is based loosely on the life of the author and her three sisters. It was written explicitly for young girls yet varies greatly from the writing styles of the time.
Meg, the eldest March daughter, is a beauty who manages the household when Mother Marmee is away. She is the teacher and governess for four children of a neighboring family but mostly Meg’s life is bland in domesticity.
Jo, a strong and willful tomboy, is the principal character in Alcott’s book. Jo is hot-tempered but enjoys reading and writing – particularly plays and short stories. She tends to her grand aunt March , a frail but wealthy widow.
Beth, the third daughter, is kind and thoughtful, and yet a shy quiet musician. She is the peacemaker when arguments arise. Her primary duty is helping with the housework until she contracts scarlet fever. After resolving herself to a shortened lifetime, Beth spends her days knitting and sewing for the local children.
Amy, the spoiled baby of the family, has the stature of a proper young lady with curly golden curls and sparkly blue eyes. She is an artist who travels to Europe with her aunt and uncle. Although vain and self-centered, Amy is very capable of handling herself properly in polite society.
The doll characters based on this story are a design from the Madame Alexander collection. Perhaps there is no name better known in the world of doll collecting than that of Madame Beatrice Alexander Behrman. Her business began over 90 years ago by making dolls based on classic literature such as Heidi, Little Women, and Mary Queen of Scots.
Emily’s dolls were given to her, one at a time, in the early 1950’s when she was about 10 years old. They have retained their impeccable condition because the dolls were “to be admired” as opposed to being playthings. Emily says her favorite of the four was Amy because she was so feminine. Come by the museum to see the Little Women and decide which of the four is your favorite!