Motherly Wisdom from “Little Women”

Looking forward to the new Masterpiece version of Little Women airing tonight, my plan over the last couple of weeks has been to read the book. Considering that the ’90s version with Winona Ryder is one of my favorites, it’s hard to believe I’ve waited ’til now to read the book. Sadly, that’s the case with many of the books on my TBR list.

So, did I finish the book? No. However, I am six chapters into the second part. Since the movie is split between two weeks, this gives me more time. Surely I can finish in another week!

While reading the first half of Little Women, I have been able to capture some jewels of wisdom, nearly all of them coming from the character of Mrs. March, the mother.

…which has led to this post–just in time for Mother’s Day!

“Marmie,” as the daughters call her, is one of my favorite characters in the 90s movie, and–after reading the book–it turns out she is accurately portrayed. Following are quotes by Mrs. March on a few different subjects. The advice she offers up is just…lovely. Read on to find out why.

Running to the Heavenly Father

This quote occurs after the dreaded scene where Amy burns Jo’s manuscript out of revenge, and Jo majorly loses her temper, as she is so prone to do.

This scene in the movie makes me angry every time I see it–Jo’s manuscript purposely destroyed by her own sister! Honestly, I would react exactly like Jo, and it would take me a long time to recover.

However, Jo regrets her anger after Amy nearly drowns. In the following conversation with her mother, Jo wonders how her quick temper can be controlled. Mrs. March replies:

“My child, the troubles and temptations of your life are beginning and may be many, but you can overcome and outlive them all if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavenly Father as you do that of your earthly one. The more you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the less you will depend on human power and wisdom. His love and care never tire or change, can never be taken from you, and may become the source of lifelong peace, happiness, and strength. Believe this heartily, and go to God with all your little cares, and hopes, and sins, and sorrows, as freely and confidingly as you come to your mother” (77-78).

Throughout the book, each of the four girls battle with what they call their individual “burdens.” Meg’s, for example, is a longing for riches and nice things, while Jo’s is her temper. This fact, combined with the quality advice so eloquently given by Mrs. March, reminds me of the following verses from Hebrews. This verse has been on my mind lately!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” –Hebrews 12:1-2

I love the image these verses depict–that of physically laying down “every weight and sin” and running to Jesus. The advice from Mrs. March gives the same idea (which is why I love it)–for Jo to lay down her “burden” and run to God.

Marriage and Money

As I mentioned earlier, Meg’s struggle is with envying the pleasures that her wealthy acquaintances enjoy. However, after Meg acts foolishly at a party, letting her rich friends get her all dolled up, Meg feels nothing but remorse. Following is Mrs. March’s wise advice about the true value of riches.

“I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and good; to be admired, loved, and respected; to have a happy youth, to be well and wisely married, and to lead useful, pleasant lives, with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send…My dear girls, I am ambitious for you, but not to have you make a dash in the world–marry rich men merely because they are rich, or have splendid houses, which are not homes because love is wanting. Money is a needful and precious thing–and, when well used, a noble thing–but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for. I’d rather see you poor men’s wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace” (92).

The Daily Grind

One chapter in Little Women focuses on one of the girls’ “experiments.” They want to spend an entire week in complete relaxation–no chores, no work. Knowing what the result will be, Mrs. March allows this experiment to proceed. As she suspects, the girls’ grow bored, they lose their tempers, and they face many more obstacles. At the end of the week, after they have learned their lesson, Mrs. March tells them this:

“Work is wholesome, and there is plenty for everyone; it keeps us from ennui and mischief, is good for health and spirits, and gives us a sense of power and independence better than money or fashion” (111).

This lesson is so needed for me because–honestly–I would love to have a week off to do whatever I wanted. While I was reading this chapter, I kept thinking how I could get through this experiment with no trouble. I guess I’m still learning that even work that I’m not always enthusiastic about has its good effects!


Before I finish up, I’d like to say “Happy Mother’s Day!” to my own “Marmie,” who I know will be reading this. I don’t know how she’s put up with all of these wild kids!

Happy Mother’s Day!


Alcott, Louisa May. 1983. Little Women. New York: Bantam Books.


    1. Hi! That sounds like a great challenge! I can’t do it now because I’m piled under books. But do you do it every year? Because I might participate next June!

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