Little Women Author ‘May Have Been Transgender or Nonbinary,’ New York Times Article Claims
The author of the feminist novel Little Women may have been transgender or identified as non-binary, claims an article by a New York Times trans writer.
Louisa May Alcott, who wrote the semi-autobiographical book in 1868, probably did not identify herself as a woman, according to the president of the Louisa May Alcott Society.
Quoted in the New York TimesDr. Gregory Eiselein says he is “sure” the author of the popular novel identified as non-binary and never conformed to “a binary sex-gender model.”
The author of the NYT article, Peyton Thomas, who is a trans man and a novelist, goes on to claim that Alcott might even have been transgender.
Louisa May Alcott (pictured) probably did not identify herself as a woman, according to Louisa May Alcott Society president Dr. Gregory Eiselein.
Both Winona Ryder (left) and Saoirse Ronan (right) have portrayed the Little Women character Jo March in film adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel. Alcott based the fictional character of Jo on herself and her own experiences: being the tomboy and the second oldest of her four sisters.
Who was the novelist Louisa May Alcott?
Louisa May Alcott was an American novelist best known for the classic novel Little Women and its sequels Little Men (1871) and Jo’s Boys (1886).
Her first book, Hospital Sketches, was based on her own experiences in the Civil War in which she served as a nurse at Union Hospital, Georgetown, Washington DC. She had intended to serve three months, but she served only six weeks after contracting typhoid fever. She became deathly ill, but she survived and published her first novel.
Between 1863 and 1872, he wrote at least 33 gothic thrillers for magazines and novels under the name AM Bernard.
His greatest success came with the publication of the first part of Little Women, a semi-autobiographical account of his childhood with his sisters. It was only when she met Thomas Niles, who encouraged her to write the first part of her novel, that she created the second part, which followed the March sisters into adulthood. Little Men details Jo’s life at the Plumfield School she founded with her husband, Professor Bhaer, which became the conclusion to the second part of Little Women, thus creating today’s well-known novel.
He died in 1888 at the age of 55. Her and hers many biographers of hers attributed her decline and subsequent death to mercury poisoning after being treated for typhoid fever with a mercury-containing compound. However, modern analysis suggests that she had an autoimmune disease.
She is now buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts, and her home is now a historical museum.
In the opinion piece, Thomas relies on a quote given by Alcott in the early 1880s, where she says: “I am more than half convinced that I am the soul of a man, placed by some freak of nature in the body of a woman”.
He writes: “She may not have known the word ‘transgender,’ but she certainly knew the feeling it describes.”
It is also based on her diary entries, in which she wrote: “I long to be a man”, while in a letter she wrote: “I was born with the nature of a child, ‘the spirit of a child’ and ‘anger of a child’.
For decades, scholars have refused to argue that Alcott was transgender, saying that would be a misuse of the term.
Many have rightly agreed that a woman in that era who wants to be a “man” is more likely to want to be taken more seriously in terms of rank, opportunity, and education, rather than wanting to change gender.
A key crux in the book is that Jo March’s character wants to earn her own money, just like a man would, so she does everything she can to break the gender norms of the time.
She also focuses on her career instead of her desire to marry for love. This, of course, would have attracted attention in the 19th century, yet scholars have not come to believe that this means that Jo, and by extension Alcott herself, wanted to be transgender.
“The way that people in the 19th century thought about gender, sex, sexual identity and sexuality is different from some of the terms we might use,” Dr. Eiselein added.
However, some scholars have argued that the feelings of people during that era and transgender people in the modern era are very similar.
Susan Stryker, a professor at the University of Arizona, argued: “The historical record shows that people have felt remarkably similar to contemporary transgender people.”
In the article, Mr. Thomas He cites the example of a tweet written by tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who came out as gay in 1981, which read: ‘Do you have any idea how hard you would try to convince me I’m trans if I was born 50 years later?
I would be 15 years old and you would be telling me that I was trapped in the wrong body. So who exactly is to blame for ‘Sex is a social construct’ here?’
The case for Alcott’s self-identity is based on a series of diary entries, letters, and interviews.
The author of the article, Peyton Thomas, a trans man and novelist, goes on to claim that Alcott was transgender.
The author wrote the semi-autobiographical book in 1868, which has become a classic piece of literature (pictured, a 2008 reprint of the novel)
Alcott is believed to have called herself Lou among friends and family, referring to herself as a ‘man’, a ‘gentleman’ and a ‘dad’.
Many point to an interview with her late in life in which she says, “I am more than half convinced that I am a man’s soul, placed by some whim of nature in a woman’s body.”
However, later in the same interview, she is quoted as saying, “I’ve fallen in love in my life with so many pretty girls and never in the slightest with any man”, leading academics to believe that she was a lesbian
One of the most popular Little Women characters, Jo March, is based on Alcott herself. In the novel, Jo is depicted as a tomboy who does not live up to societal expectations.
Jo March has been serialized on screen by both Winona Ryder and Saoirse Ronan in 1994 and 2019.
Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen playing the four March sisters in the 2019 adaptation of Little Women
The book, based on Alcott’s own experience growing up with three sisters, follows their journeys as they grow from children to adults.
Early in the novel, Jo says, “I can’t get over my disappointment that I’m not a boy.”
However, scholars have avoided labeling Jo as trans, focusing instead on her sexuality, as is done in the novel.
Several readers of the article have taken to Twitter to share their views on the content.
One wrote: “Women are and were real people with a variety of personalities, interests, desires and ‘roles’ in society, and it is truly gender essentialist and misogynistic to claim that any woman who chafes at gender roles extremely strict was not a woman!’
Another disagreed with the content, writing: “No, it’s a common 19th century motif in a context where women had limited lives and to want to be a man was to want more freedom and choice.”
While another added: ‘I can’t stress enough how ridiculous and offensive this article that attempts to reconceptualize Louisa May Alcott as ‘transgender’ is, and to what extent it shows why so many feminists have completely valid issues with ‘gender ideology’. ‘.
Dr. Gregory Eiselein (pictured) says he is “sure” the author of the popular novel identified as non-binary and never conformed to “a binary model of sex and gender.”
However, others have been swayed by the argument, with one calling the article “powerfully convincing” and another adding that it reached “reasonable” conclusions.
The author of the article, Mr. Thomas, is a trans man and has written a coming-of-age book called Both Sides Now, which follows the story of a transgender teenager.
He is currently working on a contemporary interpretation of Alcott’s famous novel.