American Women Playwrights, 1900-1930: A Checklist

American Women Playwrights, 1900-1930: A Checklist

American Women Playwrights, 1900-1930: A Checklist

American Women Playwrights, 1900-1930: A Checklist


Gleaned from hundreds of library collections and out-of-print anthologies, this checklist reveals over 12,000 plays by perhaps 2,000 American women, some well known, like Zora Neale Hurston and Susan Glaspell, others unremembered. Included are dramas and comedies, musicals, farces, monologues and dialogues, pageants and masques. In addition to adult drama, there are numerous plays written for children and for holiday celebrations and church and community events. The type of dramatic presentation and number of acts is indicated, as is production and publication information as available, and, in almost all cases, at least one library or anthology source.


About ten years ago I took an undergraduate course called "Women in Drama." Half of the course was spent studying female characters in plays written by men; the other half, in reading plays written by women. in that second half, along with works by such well-known playwrights as Lillian Hellman and Lorraine Hansberry, we read "Trifles," a one-act play by Susan Glaspell. At the time I had never heard of Glaspell, but her play captivated me. It was such a perfectly constructed play, revelatory of the ways in which women view events differently from men. I began to wonder how many other plays had been written by women, how many other treasures lay buried in the obscurity of library special collections or out of print anthologies. I casually began to do a "little research" on the subject, never realizing that my initial brief list would grow like some Alice in Wonderland, eventually becoming so immense that I could barely contain it within the confines of one book.

Along the way, I enrolled at Brown University as a graduate student with a concentration in women's studies and began to research a particular period of history--the time of the New Woman in the early twentieth century. I started a search for plays that specifically dealt with issues that were important to the New Woman--suffrage, world peace, marriage and career conflicts, social issues.

The beginning of the twentieth century was a unique time for women interested in writing, performing and directing plays. As New Women, they found their voice in an era that accepted a woman's right to express herself. and this new personal freedom occurred at the same time that the little theatre movement provided countless opportunities for women to write plays and to see them performed. Hardly any sizable community was without some kind of amateur theatre at this time. Also, it was an age of pageantry, when cities and communities, as well as the women's movement itself, utilized spectacle and drama. Community, college and church dramatics were acceptable forums for women, providing them with the chance not only to write plays, but also to direct and produce them.

At this point in my research my focus broadened. As I looked for socially significant plays of the New Woman, I found that I could not fairly separate the chaff from the grain. a woman writing a health play for a neighborhood settlement house, or a children's play for the classroom, or a musical performance to express her religious views, or a farce for a little theatre group, or a commemorative celebration for her college, or a pageant for her city, was also a part of this great movement allowing women so much more freedom in life and in theatre. So I began to record . . .

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