Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Garland for Girls, Louisa May Alcott

For Christmas Ben got me some old Louisa May Alcott books (that I requested. I may have even put them in the ebay shopping cart). Among them was a little-known-gem A Garland for Girls. It's a collection of short stories all about different girls and how they become something even better than they were at the start of the story.

The stories are quaint by today's standards, but that's one thing I love about them. Good, clean fun. Each girl learns a lesson that in turn makes her a better person. I've collected my favorite quotes from a few of the stories.

In this particular story a group of girls are spending the summer at an older lady's home. While they are chatting in the library, she gives them sage advice for picking novels (or in our day and age, any form of entertainment):

"I'd rather read about people as they were
for that is history, or as they might and should be, 
for that helps us in our own efforts. 
Not as they are, for that we already know, 
[and instead] to be the better for a nobler and wider view 
of life than we are apt to get."
-A Garland for Girls, p. 94, Louis May Alcott

I love to read books. But more than I want something to transport me to another world, I want something to inspire me. To show me how life could be, with a little effort on my part. That's why I love Louisa May Alcott, and any other books I can find of her caliber. 

In another short she tells a beautiful love story of a fisherman and a hardworking maid. Her female protagonists are always ones who are, or learn to be, one make her own way. Modern-day feminism but with a beautiful twist.

"It was the loveliest hour of the day. The sun had not yet risen, but sky was rosy with the flush of dawn... A still, soft happy time before the work and worry of the world began, the peaceful moment which is so precious to those who have learned to love its balm and consecrate its beauty with their prayers."
 -A Garland for Girls, p. 140

I am not a morning person. But reading passages like this makes me realize I'm missing out. Wouldn't it be wonderful to start your day out with peace and calm, and THEN get into the chaos of the children? Even if I don't get up before the sun, I have learned that the correct way to start out the day is with at least a moment of quiet--through prayer.

Mountain-Laurel and Maidenhair
My very favorite short story is the final one, which takes place on a mountain farm. Since I identify so much with a country lifestyle this is no surprise, but in addition this one has beautiful life lessons. It showcases the friendship of a country girl, Becky, and city girl boarder at their home, Emily.

"Becky bustled off to the oven with her pies, and Emily roamed away to the big barn to lie on the hay, enjoying the view down the valley, as she thought over what she had seen and heard, and very naturally contrasted her own luxurious and tenderly guarded life with this other girl's, so hard and dull and narrow. Working all summer and teaching all winter in that dismal little school-house, with no change but home cares and carpet-weaving! It looked horrible to pleasure-loving Emily, who led the happy, care-free life of girls of her class, with pleasures of all sorts, and a future of still greater luxury, variety, and happiness, opening brightly before her. 
It worried her to think of any one being contented with such a meager share of the good things of life, when she was unsatisfied in spite of the rich store showered upon her. She could not understand it, and fell asleep wishing every one could be comfortable, -- it was so annoying to see them grubbing in kitchens, teaching in bleak school-houses among snow-drifts, and wearing ugly calico gowns."

-A Garland for Girls, p. 259

It wasn't until I married that I began to more fully understand the joy in work (see this post).

"[Her] soul began to see that life was not 
perfect without labor as well as love, duty as 
well as happiness, and that true contentment
 came from within, not from without."
-A Garland for Girls, p. 262, Louisa May Alcott

"[Working for others is] the real poetry in life,
 and brings to those who give themselves to it,
 no matter in what humble ways, something sweeter."
-A Garland for Girls, p. 282, Louisa May Alcott

"She [Becky] put her poetry into her life, and
 made of it "a grand sweet song" in which 
beauty and duty rhymed so well that the 
country girl became a more useful, beloved,
 and honored woman."
-A Garland for Girls, p. 285, Louisa May Alcott

That is what I am striving for. To become a useful, beloved, and honored woman. I want to be useful in my house, beloved as a byproduct of service to others, and honored by my children for my influence, as my own mother is. Thank you, Louisa May Alcott, for writing 100 years ago what I want to become today.


  1. Sounds like a great and inspiring book, Ash!

  2. OH PLEASE GET YOUR BABY GIRL, "Baby Dear" by Golden Books!!! It was my childhood fave. I still have it, as a matter of fact!

  3. Thank you I will definitely check it out!