Set in a fictional New England town in the 1930s, The Children’s Hour tells the story of two women who are unjustly accused of homosexual activity by one of their students: one Mary Tilford. The outraged community (prompted by the influential Amelia Tilford, an upstanding member of Lancet--who also happens to be the indulgent grandmother of Mary) quickly withdraws all of their students, causing a witch hunt that ultimately forces the school to close. Not to be beaten, Martha and Karen take the accusations to court in a libel suit and lose-- despite the defense having no real foundation for a case (with the exception of the Mary’s testimony). Their lives quickly unravel as they become social pariahs. After months of trying to clear their names, Martha realizes that she did in fact have sexual feelings for Karen, and eventually the guilt and despair cause her to commit suicide. At its premiere, Hellman’s The Children’s Hour was a controversial piece that caused the author to be blacklisted from Hollywood. Today, it remains a haunting reminder of the horrors of intolerance.
The Children's Hour guide sections