Susan Glaspell began her writing career as a journalist in the Midwest--an endeavor which helped her examine the integration of performing arts and American identity and social values. After studying writing and philosophy at Drake University (a proposition unheard of for a woman in 1890s Iowa). She impressed her professors and colleagues with her literary prowess, and immediately after her graduation accepted a job as a reporter for the Des Moines Daily News.
This time as a journalist provided Glaspell with the most significant material of her writing career. As a reporter, she covered the trial of a woman accused of killing her husband--despite the revelations that the husband was abusive, the woman was convicted. Glaspell quit writing for the paper, but kept the story in her mind. It was later turned into her one-act play Trifles, in which women hide incriminating evidence against a wife charged with killing her abusive husband. Later, the play was turned into the short story "A Jury of Her Peers," which was adapted into a film.
With her husband George Cook, Glaspell started the Provincetown Players (based in Provincetown, Massachusetts), a significant milestone in the Little Theatre Movement. Along with other literary heavyweights--such as Edna St. Vincent Millary, Theodore Dreiser, and Wallace Stevens--Glaspell was a driving force in creating a national theatre that encouraged artistic innovation and embraced modernism in the United States. (At the Provincetown Players, Glaspell was also one of Eugene O'Neill's first producers.)
Throughout her vibrant career, Glaspell continued to write plays as she gave other budding writers their first opportunities. In 1931, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play Alison's House, a drama about the haunting memories of a long-deceased poet and the secrets she kept.
After the death of her husband, Glaspell struggled with depression and alcoholism, but never stopped working. She was appointed as the Midwest Director of the Federal Theatre Project in 1936. After the project ended, Glaspell reconnected with family and focused on writing novels.
She died of viral pneumonia in 1948. Susan Glaspell's legacy as a foundational American playwright is being rediscovered, and she is often considered the Mother of American Drama.
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