Illustrations from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Illustration by Frank T. Merrill of Jo in her writing cap from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott’s best known novel, Little Women, was an “overnight success” for its author, who had put in years of effort before success seemed to “suddenly” arrive. She cranked out thrillers, gothic novels, plays, sketches, and more than eighty articles before penning the autobiographical (if highly idealized) novel that cemented her name and reputation for time immemorial.

To think how reluctant she was to write this “girl’s story.” But once it was in print and making its readers happy, even she was sold on it.

Here’s a selection of illustrations by Frank T. Merrill from the 1896 edition Little Women (first published in 1868). These are but a fraction of the 200 illustrations in total. You can see this edition in its entirety on Project Gutenberg.


Illustration by Frank T. Merrill from the 1896 edition of Little Women

      “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
      “It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.
       “I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured sniff.
“We’ve got father and mother and each other,” said Beth contentedly, from her corner.

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Frank T. Merrill Illustration of Laurie and Jo from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

“Our cat ran away once, and he brought her back, and we talked over the fence, and were getting on capitally,—all about cricket, and so on,—when he saw Meg coming, and walked off. I mean to know him some day; for he needs fun, I’m sure he does,” said Jo decidedly.

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Illustration by Frank T Merrill of Mr. Laurence and Beth from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

“Are you the musical girl?” he asked, without any startling “Hey!” as he looked down at her very kindly.

“I’m Beth. I love it dearly, and I’ll come, if you are quite sure nobody will hear me—and be disturbed,” she added, fearing to be rude, and trembling at her own boldness as she spoke.

“Not a soul, my dear. The house is empty half the day; so come, and drum away as much as you like, and I shall be obliged to you.”

“How kind you are, sir!”

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Illustration of Amy burning Jo's book from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

“What! my little book I was so fond of, and worked over, and meant to finish before father got home? Have you really burnt it?” said Jo, turning very pale, while her eyes kindled and her hands clutched Amy nervously.

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Illustration by Frank T. Merrill of Jo in the garret from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Quite absorbed in her work, Jo scribbled away till the last page was filled, when she signed her name with a flourish, and threw down her pen, exclaiming —

“There, I’ve done my best! If this won’t suit I shall have to wait till I can do better.”

. . . . . . . . . .

Illustration by Frank T. Merrill of Jo getting her hair from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

“I will confess, though, I felt queer when I saw the dear old hair laid out on the table, and felt only the short, rough ends on my head. It almost seemed as if I’d an arm or a leg off.

The woman saw me look at it, and picked out a long lock for me to keep. I’ll give it to you, Marmee, just to remember past glories by; for a crop is so comfortable I don’t think I shall ever have a mane again.”

. . . . . . . . . .

Illustration of Meg's wedding by Frank T Merrill from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Meg looked very like a rose herself; for all that was best and sweetest in heart and soul seemed to bloom into her face that day, making it fair and tender, with a charm more beautiful than beauty.

Neither silk, lace, nor orange-flowers would she have. “I don’t want to look strange or fixed up to-day,” she said. “I don’t want a fashionable wedding, but only those about me whom I love, and to them I wish to look and be my familiar self.”

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Illustration by Frank T. Merrill of Professor Bhaer from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott


“When I got back to the nursery there was such an uproar in the parlor that I looked in; and there was Mr. Bhaer down on his hands and knees, with Tina on his back, Kitty leading him with a jump-rope, and Minnie feeding two small boys with seed-cakes, as they roared and ramped in cages built of chairs.

“‘We are playing nargerie,” explained Kitty.

“Dis is mine effalunt!” added Tina, holding on by the Professor’s hair.

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      Illustration by Frank T. Merrill from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
“O Teddy, I’m so sorry, so desperately sorry, I could kill myself if it would do any good! I wish you wouldn’t take it so hard.

I can’t help it; you know it’s impossible for people to make themselves love other people if they don’t,” cried Jo inelegantly but remorsefully, as she softly patted his shoulder, remembering the time when he had comforted her so long ago.

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