The fourth Thursday in November has arrived and it is time to wish our friends across the pond a very happy Thanksgiving!
A North American holiday, Thanksgiving has come to symbolise the importance of home and the importance of family, marked by the preparation and consumption of a rather delicious meal. Thanksgiving has always been associated with a general thanks for the fruits of the autumn harvest, and then by the arrival of the pilgrims in America in 1621. However it was only in 1863 that, thanks to the rigorous campaigning of a lady named Sarah Josepha Hale, President Lincoln decided that the date for Thanksgiving was to be the 26th of November and would mark a day of national unity. Now Thanksgiving is fixed on the fourth Thursday of November and in Canada it has been celebrated on the second Monday in October since 1957.
As my own Thanksgiving gesture, I thought I would pay tribute to a favourite American author of mine, Louisa May Alcott, and her most beloved tale of the March girls, Little Women. Following the lives of Meg, Beth, Amy and Jo, Alcott’s story has been a favourite book for many readers for many, many years.
Little Women is often much maligned, and labelled as a tale of hopes and dreams that are never truly fulfilled. Be my guest to take this view, but if you look closer (and I beg that you do) what you will find is a tale unfolding of self discovery through all the very realistic trials and tribulations that life offers. Poverty, civil war, the death of a sibling: issues that remain pertinent in our own society and will remain so in societies of the future.
This is a story about sisterhood, humility, friendship and the forging of equal relationships. Now often criticised for writing too much in her own time, Alcott actually very much ahead of her time, particularly in her portrayal of female agency and the process of growing up. It takes much skill as a writer to create four girls who have stayed in the minds of their readers from childhood to adulthood for 150 years.
Little Women is of particular relevance to the festival of Thanksgiving with its true depiction of familial affection and a love of home. With that sentiment in mind, I wish all the Megs, Jos, Amys and Beths of this world, and every other reader of course, a very Happy Thanksgiving!
‘I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship’
Louisa May Alcott