LITTLE WOMEN in 2019: What Endures? - National Council of Teachers of English

Little Women in 2019: 

What Endures?


Thursday, September 26, 2019
8:30 PM ET



Little Women was published in 1868, but the popularity of this book persists today. The four sisters’ quest to pursue their own passions is both timeless and timely. Many contemporary writers including Barbara Kingsolver, Ursula Le Guin, J.K. Rowling, John Green, and Zadie Smith cite Little Women as a formative influence. The release of the upcoming Little Women film, starring Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Emma Watson as Meg, Timothee Chalamet as Laurie, and Meryl Streep as Aunt March, offers the opportunity to introduce the book to a new generation.

What makes a story like this endure?

What can we learn from Little Women 150 years after its original publication?

In this exclusive member event, NCTE member, Julia Torres led a thought-provoking discussion with the following educators and authors inclusive of these questions and much more.

MARGO JEFFERSON is a Pulitzer Prize–winning critic and the author of Negroland (2015) and On Michael Jackson (2005). Negroland won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, The Bridge Prize, The Heartland Prize, and was shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize. She has been a staff writer for The New York Times and her essays have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Guardian, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, Bookforum, VOGUE, Best American Essays of 2015, The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Death, Best African American Essays 2010, The Mrs. Dalloway Reader, and The Jazz Cadence of American Culture. She lives in New York and teaches in the Writing Program at Columbia University.

JOHN MATTESON is a Distinguished Professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the City University of New York. His first book, Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father, was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Biography. He is also the author of The Lives of Margaret Fuller: A Biography and the editor of The Annotated Little Women, published by W. W. Norton. He is currently completing a book on the Battle of Fredericksburg and its impact on American culture.

Facilitator JULIA E. TORRES has taught language arts for fifteen years. Currently, she is a teacher librarian for the Montbello Campus serving five schools within the Far Northeast region of Denver Public schools. Formerly a teacher of AP English Language/Literature, Julia has served Colorado language arts teachers as the Vice-President and President of the regional NCTE affiliate—The Colorado Language Arts Society. As a teacher/activist committed to education as a practice of freedom, her practice is grounded in the work of empowering students to use language arts to fuel resistance and positive social transformation. Currently, Julia is serving teachers as a 2018–20 Heinemann Fellow, focusing on libraries, digital literacy, and the formation of reading identities among secondary students in urban school districts. Julia is also the current NCTE Secondary-Representative-at-Large. In co-operation with The Educator Collaborative, Julia facilitates workshops and professional conversations about anti-bias/anti-racist education, social justice, and culturally sustaining pedagogies in language arts, as well as digital literacy and librarianship. Julia serves on several local and national boards and committees promoting educational equity and progressivism.

JAN TURNQUIST has been Executive Director of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in Concord, MA, since 1999, having previously served as its educational and living history coordinator. She recently hosted at Orchard House Amy Pascal, Greta Gerwig, and the cast of the upcoming Columbia Pictures Little Women movie. Jan was privileged to be an extra during some of the filming and served as historical consultant for the film. She won an Emmy this year for a new documentary, Orchard House: Home of Little Women, which she wrote and directed, about the family home where Alcott’s classic was written and set.

As an internationally acclaimed living history portrayer of Louisa May Alcott, Jan has vibrantly shared the enduring legacy of the Alcotts and life lessons of Little Women at schools, universities, libraries, museum conferences, and corporate functions, as well as for television and radio programs, and even for First Lady Laura Bush. She has performed in countless cities throughout the United States, in Mexico City, and across Japan, where she was invited to meet Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at the Imperial Palace in 2012.

Coming this December, watch the trailer for the new adaptation of Little Women: