Every time I open my well-worn copy of Little Women, I am captured by the character of Marmee.
I love this wise and gentle mother. I admire her diligent efforts to keep her little daughters from being idle and teaching them through her own example how to attain a servant's heart and a life of true worth.
The author of Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, describes Mrs March very briefly as "a tall, motherly lady, with a 'can-I-help-you' look about her," and I noticed that she left a lot about Marmee's character merely to dialogue.
"She was not elegantly dressed, but a noble-looking woman and the girls thought the grey coat and unfashionable bonnet covered the most splendid mother in the world" (p. 11).
Marmee truly inspires me. From what I understand, she was not a beautiful woman in the eyes of the world, but she had an inward beauty which truly shone through and drew people to her. She was humble, faithful, wise, understanding, always seeking to uplift another, always ready to help someone in need, motherly, joyful and above all, ever dependent on her Saviour -- both in times of joy and sorrow.
Unlike the many mothers of her time, Mrs March could be explained as quite unworldly in many of her ideas and hopes for her daughters' futures:
- She didn't desire to marry them off to rich husbands, but rather young men who would love and cherish them all the days of their lives.
- She didn't want them to have grand houses, elegant clothes and numerous servants, but rather simple, thankful hearts that were always looking for ways to bless, help and encourage others.
- She didn't encourage vanity, but rather a life of fruitfulness, productivity, and happiness in simple pleasures.
"You have a good many little gifts and virtues, but there is no need of parading them, for conceit spoils the finest genius. There is not much danger that real talent or goodness will be overlooked long, and the great charm of all power is modesty" (p. 66).
Marmee could always be relied upon for a kind word and never too busy to encourage or correct a wandering soul. But like every mother who has ever walked this earth, she was not perfect and just like you and I, in need of the grace and love that can only come from above.
In chapter 9, we see Marmee regretting her decision to allow Meg to visit a very fashionable and wealthy family for a fortnight of pleasure. She says, "I was very unwise to let you go among people of whom I know so little -- kind, I daresay, but worldly, ill-bred, and full of these vulgar ideas about young people" (p. 89).
Alcott portrayed Marmee to be a brave, strong lady who was a wonderful support for her family during their long separation. But in chapter 15 the March ladies receive a telegram saying that their beloved husband and father is lying far away in Washington, desperately ill and perhaps dying.
Only for a moment does Mrs March's strong character weaken and we catch a glimpse of who she truly was: someone who was weak and frail, but who had firm faith in the Almighty God.
This brave lady had sent off her husband whom she loved so much and whose opinion she valued above any other, to fight for his country, knowing that anything could happen to him and leave her alone to raise their girls. She said, "Your father, Jo... He helped and comforted me, and showed me that I must try to practice all the virtues I would have my little girls possess" (p. 75).
Marmee was a very special, Godly woman, and we can see the result of her virtue by observing her four daughters and the wonderful young women that they grew to become. Her prayers, her wise lessons and her "gentle and quiet spirit" was such a great example for her daughters and I think we can learn a lot from her.
I conclude with one of my favourite quotes by Marmee, taken from chapter 11:
"Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success in spite of poverty."
(Note from Hamlette: Thank you for this delightful character sketch, Kelly-Anne! I think you have captured Marmee's likeness beautifully.)