Venturesome feminist," historian Nancy Cott's term,
perfectly describes Susan Glaspell (1876-1948), America's first
modern woman playwright, winner of the 1931 Pulitzer Prize for
drama, one of the most respected novelists and short story writers
of her time, and a central figure in the avant-garde movement in
Greenwich Village between 1913 and 1922. In her own life she
explored uncharted regions, breaking new ground for women; and in
her writing she created undaunted, idealistic women characters who
became models for future feminist writing. Her depictions of women's
struggles for self definition and her visions of a more egalitarian
America are still pertinent today.
Born in Davenport, Iowa, just as America entered its second century,
Glaspell took her cue from her pioneering grandparents as she sought
to rekindle their spirit of adventure and purpose. A social and
cultural critic by age eighteen, she worked her way through
university as a news reporter, and then turned to fiction. In the
bohemian Greenwich Village community, she was a charter member of
the Liberal Club, its social and cultural center, and Heterodoxy,
the radical organization for women. Her most important contribution
was her work with the Provincetown Players, the first indigenous
American theatre company, which she helped found. Her plays
established a different type of drama on the American stage,
offering new dramatic forms and focusing on pressing social and
political issues, particularly the roles of women in society.
Although frail and ethereal, Glaspell was a determined rebel
throughout her life, willing to speak out for those causes in which
she believed and willing to risk societal approbation when she found
love. "Out thereólies all that's not been touchedólies life that
waits," Claire Archer says in The Verge, her most experimental play.
The biography of Susan Glaspell is the exciting story of her
personal exploration of the same terrainótoward the verge.