Susan Glaspell

(1 July 1876 - 27 July 1948)
was a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, actress, director, and bestselling novelist. She was a founding member of the Provincetown Players, one of the most important collaboratives in the development of modern drama in the United States. Her novels and plays are committed to developing deep, sympathetic characters, and to understanding life in its complexity.


Susan Glaspell was born in Davenport, Iowa, where she attended public schools before graduating from Drake University in Des Moines with a Bachelor's degree in 1899. She worked as a reporter for a Des Moines paper where she was assigned to report on the murder trial of John Hossack in 1900. Hossack had been murdered in his sleep with an axe and his wife, with whom he was supposedly unhappy, ended up as the most logical suspect. Though she claimed to have slept through the event, she was eventually convicted. A later trial ended in a hung jury and she was released but the story lived on. This crime would be the basis for two of Glaspell's best remembered works: the one-act-play Trifles (1916) and the short-story A Jury of Her Peers (1917).

In Davenport, she met George Cram Cook, a sometime classics professor, novelist, poet and an itinerant farmer. By 1915, they had moved East where they married and lived to Provincetown, spending summers in Greenwich Village. It was Cook who first suggested to Glaspell that she write plays. With friends, they founded the influential Provincetown Players theater group in 1915 on an abandoned wharf by their house on Commercial Street. Glaspell's plays for the group won critical acclaim, including Trifles, Inheritors and The Verge. In 1922, Glaspell and Cook left their theater behind so Cook could write and study in Delphi, Greece, where he died in 1924.

Glaspell returned to Cape Cod and wrote a biography of her late husband called The Road to the Temple. During the late twenties, she wrote three novels including the bestselling Brook Evans. She also wrote the play Alison's House for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. The early 1930s were years of low productivity for Glaspell, as she struggled with alcoholism and poor health. Later in the decade, she lived briefly in Chicago where she served as Midwest Bureau Director for the Federal Theater Project. During her time in the Midwest, she reconnected with siblings and regained control of her drinking and creativity. When her work for the Federal Theater Project was finished, Glaspell returned to Cape Cod. She died in Provincetown in 1948.

Although Glaspell's early work had attracted considerable critical attention, her final three novels were especially neglected. More recently, Glaspell has become more widely known for her oft-anthologized works: her one-act play Trifles and the short story "A Jury of Her Peers." These two works have, in the last twenty years, become staples of Womens Studies curricula across the United States and the world.

Writer/Director Sally Heckel released a film adaptation of A Jury of Her Peers which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1981. In 2008, Actor/Director/Writer Pamela Gaye Walker released a film adaptation of Trifles. Several other film versions have been made over the years including one by Alfred Hitchcock for his television series.

In 2005, members of the Women in the Audience Supporting Women Artists Now (WITASWAN) initiative held a Silver Anniversary Celebration in Chicago with Heckel as the special guest. Also featured were Patricia L. Bryan and Thomas Wolf, the authors of Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America's Heartland (an account of the trial on which A Jury of Her Peers is based.). The literary and cultural critic, Elaine Showalter adopted the title of Glaspell's short story "A Jury of Her Peers" for her 2009 book, applying it to the whole canon of American Womens Writing.

The information on this page has been extracted from the Wikipedia article "Susan Glaspell".