Date of Award

Spring 4-28-2022

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


English and Linguistics

Department Chair or Program Director

Richards, Gary

First Advisor

Scanlon, Mara

Major or Concentration



Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House novels, share a place in the canon of American children’s literature as novels centered on female protagonists coming of age within an emblematic period in American history, respectively the duration and aftermath of the Civil War and the post-Homestead Act settlement of the Western frontier. Each text portrays the intertwined processes of girlhood and nationhood through the eyes of rebellious, gender-nonconforming protagonists, Jo and Laura, who each undergo an arc towards starting a traditional family and immersing themselves in normative national projects (respectively a philanthropic school for the poor, and the continued settlement of the West). Using the two texts’ collisions between nonconformity and conformity as guiding points, I undertake a comparative study between the two, examining the shared themes of gender norms, familial bonds, schooling, authorial voice, and audience effect as they operate in each text.