Four teenaged sisters and their mother, Marmee, live in a new neighborhood (loosely based on Concord) in Massachusetts in genteel poverty. Having lost all his money, their father is acting as a pastor, miles from home, involved in the American Civil War. The women face their first Christmas without him. Meg and Jo March, the elder two, have to work in order to support the family: Meg teaches a nearby family of four children; Jo assists her aged great-aunt March, a wealthy widow living in a mansion, Plumfield. Beth, too timid for school is content to stay at home and help with housework; Amy is still at school. Meg is beautiful and traditional, Jo is a tomboy who writes; Beth is a peacemaker and a pianist; Amy is an artist who longs for elegance and fine society.