Little Women on the Socials

 

The other day, up to my eyes in a pile of freelance work and rapidly running out of adjectives, I gazed out of the window at the shouting yellow of the forsythia bush, rampant against the intense blue spring sky. My mind wandered, often a good thing. How, I wondered, would Mrs March, matriarch of her family in “Little Women”, handle social media? How would she cope with her rich neighbours, Mrs Gardiner and Mrs Moffat and their constant posts?

However tired she is from a day working at the rooms and helping out the poor Hummels, Mrs March always finds time to write in her journal before she says her prayers and retires for the night. Let us peer over her shoulder and read a few entries, before she takes her nightly rest.

24th December 1861

Another hard day getting all the boxes ready to go. I did not come home for dinner and was tired and hungry when I returned at six. The girls were a little out of sorts, I thought, but we read dear Father’s letter and I remained cheerful as he would wish. Mrs King posted a particularly galling story on Instagram this afternoon, piles of presents everywhere and her children wearing new clothes. I pray that I will be able to find it in my heart to forgive her for her constant boasting. Pride goeth before a fall.

25th December 1861

Christmas morning began early with a timid knock at the door. I walked through the snow with Hannah to find a poor family huddled together in one cold room, the mother holding her baby and all the other little children in one bed. How could I leave them without food or warmth on Christmas morning? My girls gave up their Christmas breakfast and we left the Hummels far happier than we found them. Mrs Gardiner was up early too, tweeting.

“Merry Christmas! Thoroughly spoiled here! A new carriage for me from @mrg and a delightful silver filigree brooch from @sallielovessaques #soblessed #merrychristmas.”

I had to go into the pantry and press my lips together for five full minutes before I felt able to face Hannah and the girls.


31st December 1861

The house is alive with girlish laughter and excitement! Mrs Gardiner has invited Meg and Jo to a dance. I have looked out my little pearl pin for Meg and poor dear Jo is fretting about her gloves. How I wish I had the money to buy them the trifles that mean so little to Mrs Gardiner and Mrs Moffat! My maternal heart swelled with pride as I watched them go down the walk. Meg’s high-heeled slippers are too tight, I am quite sure, but she insisted on wearing them. Hannah will walk to the Gardiners to collect them at eleven and I am sure no harm can come of such a simple little dance.

1st January 1862

A terrible start to this New Year of Our Lord Eighteen Sixty-Two. Meg turned her ankle at the Gardiners’ dance and is in a disagreeable mood, Beth is on the sofa with a headache, Amy has not learned her lessons and I am distracted trying to finish an urgent letter. Mrs Moffat is on Instagram, bragging about her second daughter’s engagement.

“My beautiful Belle and her handsome fiancé George #mygirlsengaged #hortensesohappy #frenchphrases #newsilkdress”

Picture after picture of Belle simpering and old Mr Moffat looking relieved in the background. Each of their daughters destined for a life of frivolity and light-hearted foolishness. My lips are painful from all the pressing together I must do. Read a little of Pilgrim’s Progress and my heart was soothed.

1st February 1862

More trouble with Amy at school. I have told her again and again to come off Snapchat and TikTok, as they cause her spirits to be grievously disturbed. Jenny Snow has been bragging about her pickled limes again. I foresee trouble.

5th April 1862

Against my better judgement, dear Meg is going to spend a fortnight with her friend Annie Moffat. I gave my girl a pair of silk stockings, a carved fan and a lovely blue sash from the treasure-box, sighing as I remembered past splendours. Mrs Moffat has been on Facebook all morning, sharing Timehops of Belle as a toddler and bragging about her trousseau and George’s fortune. My cheeks are hot with rage. I must go and spend some quiet time in the china closet.




19th April 1862

Meg has returned! My mother’s instinct was correct. Her spirits have been sadly troubled by the worldly gossip she overheard at the Moffats’. Reading what Mrs Moffat, Belle, Miss Clara, Annie and Sallie Gardiner had to say on their socials filled my heart with dread, but I had promised Meg a little pleasure after a winter of hard work.

Mrs Moffat was posting on Facebook constantly as soon as Meg arrived.

“Houseful of girls, such fun! Dearest Clara being so good about Belle’s engagement (I am sure it will not be long before a suitable young man wins her heart!) Hortense up to her eyes in boxes of flowers and French silks, Annie having such fun with her sweet little friend Daisy March and @sallielovessacques adding to the merriment!”

Annie Moffat was tweeting like mad.

“Girl power with @missclara @prettygirlbelle @megmarch, @nan1844 and @sallielovessacques. Good to see @NedM at home for a change #dowdytarleton #blueandpinkbowsonmynightcaps”

“Wild night with @megmarch and the girls. Danced with @misterfisher and @lauriethelaurence all night, amazing what fine feathers will do! #skybluedress #littlebeauty #toomuchchampers #tearoses #silkboots”


My suspicions were confirmed as soon as Meg came home. Laid my plans, indeed! The very notion. I was able to remain serious yet cheery. How I wish Mr March was here to help and support me.

10th October 1862

Thank heavens Belle Moffat is safely married and off to spend the winter in Paris. I do not think I could bear any more Instagram stories about trimmings and lace and carriages. How can the Moffats live such a frivolous life when poor German immigrants are starving in our city?


15th November 1862

A day I shall never forget. A telegram from Washington with such terrible news. The girls and Hannah helped me to bear it. Dear Laurie a tower of strength. I must leave at once, but it may already be too late.

21st November 1862

I thank our dear Saviour that He has spared my husband. He is very weak but heartened by the presence of myself and Mr Brooke who is the kindest and most gentlemanly of men. Attempting to stay calm in the face of a Crowdfunder page set up by Mrs King (a very kind impulse, but we do not ask for charity) and constant DMs from Mrs Moffat and Mrs Gardiner. It is galling to read that they are sending thoughts and prayers when in the next breath they are boasting of their daughters’ new dresses.

26th December 1862

How blessed we are to have our dear John as part of our family. Meg’s acceptance of his proposal has made us all so happy. Dear Jo struggles, but I will have a quiet chat with her later. The only thorn in this bed of roses is Aunt March, who has been tweeting constantly.

“Angry and disappointed beyond measure! Not a penny of my money will go to @megmarch and @brookethetutor. I thought she had more sense #wilfulchild #richrelations #blessme.”

And so, the year draws to a close on this happy scene. May God bless us all.

Images by Pixabay

Ruth is a novelist and freelance writer. She is married with three children, one husband, three budgies, six quail, eight chickens and a kitten. Her first novel, “The Diary of Isabella M Smugge”, came out in February this year and she is writing the sequel, “The Trials of Isabella M Smugge.” She writes for a number of small businesses and charities and blogs at ruthleighwrites.co.uk. She has abnormally narrow sinuses and a morbid fear of raw tomatoes, but has decided not to let this get in the way of a meaningful life. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter at ruthleighwrites.

Comments

  1. What a thought: Aunt March tweeting constantly! Well done, Ruth.

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    1. I can just see her, with the parrot on her shoulder, scowling

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  2. Haha. Love this! The various levels of lip pressing caused great mirth. I think you've captured it perfectly. A great read.

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    1. Had to be done. I love the book, read it from childhood, and the idea just popped into my head

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  3. What a tour de force! Fabulous.

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  4. Excellent! Written in true Leigh style.

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  5. You're so good at this stuff! Thinking about it from a linguistics point of view, it's not easy to integrate the two linguistic registers as you do so well in this sentence, for example. 'I have told her again and again to come off Snapchat and TikTok, as they cause her spirits to be grievously disturbed.' Fabulous!

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  6. Haha! This is definitely the voice of Louisa's Marmee, rather than Laura Dern's. (I adore the 2019 film, by the way). You've captured her voice perfectly. Is the top picture of Amy? I reread the books before seeing the film, and was struck by how good Louisa's characterisations are. They feel like real sisters ... which they were. May Alcott, the real Amy, was a talented artist.

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    1. I am rereading the book at the moment, so it was fresh in my mind. I have to confess that the only dramatisation of Little Women I've ever really liked is the TV miniseries with Maya Hawke playing Jo. Loved that. Yes May ended up in Paris but sadly died shortly after having her daughter. She said that one of the hardest things about writing the follow ups was that she had to do it knowing that some of the characters had died. Having read lots about her background, I realise that Mr March is highly idealised. The real Bronson Alcott makes me want to shout rude words. Louisa herself was an amazing woman, truly inspirational.

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  7. All I can say is human nature never changes, despite new technologies. My own spirits are often grievously disturbed by what I read in the socials.... from some quarters it seems like a never ending round robin Christmas newsletter!

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    1. Ah yes, tell me about it! And don't believe a word. All made up or at least adjusted for public consumption

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  8. This isn’t a post. It’s a book. And I love it! From the photo to finish, your writing is delicious.

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    1. Kathleen, you are such an encourager! Well, maybe .... a short one

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