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A Jury of Her Peers

by Susan Glaspell
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Is "A Jury of Her Peers" based on a true story?

"A Jury of Her Peers" is presumably based on the true story of John and Margaret Hossack. John, who was characterized as an abusive husband during Margaret's trial, was found severely injured in his bed one morning and died soon thereafter. Evidence pointed to ax blows to the head as the cause of death. The author of the short story, Susan Glaspell, was a reporter who covered Margaret's trial.

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"A Jury of Her Peers" is presumably loosely based on the murder of John Hossack. Susan Glaspell, who was a reporter working for the Des Moines Daily News at the time, covered the subsequent trial of John's wife, Margaret, in 1901.

There are some striking similarities between...

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"A Jury of Her Peers" is presumably loosely based on the murder of John Hossack. Susan Glaspell, who was a reporter working for the Des Moines Daily News at the time, covered the subsequent trial of John's wife, Margaret, in 1901.

There are some striking similarities between Margaret Hossack's trial and the fictional conflict of Minnie Wright. Both women stand accused of murdering their husbands. Both husbands were found dead in their beds. Margaret Hossack told neighbors that her husband was physically abusive and had threatened to one day kill her or their children. Martha Hale admits that she never visited Minnie because of John Wright's oppressive influence:

I stayed away because it weren't cheerful—and that's why I ought to have come. I—I've never liked this place. Maybe because it's down in a hollow and you don't see the road. I don't know what it is, but it's a lonesome place, and always was. I wish I had come over to see Minnie Foster sometimes.

Minnie presumably gets away with her crime, as the men are unable to find evidence which would point to a motive for murder. Margaret Hossack was initially convicted of murder by an all-male jury. The title of Glaspell's short story indicates a form of retribution for women, who have no voice in the legal system. Unlike Margaret, Minnie was judged by her fellow women, who then delivered a justice of their own.

Since Glaspell had an intimate knowledge of this case, there is fairly compelling evidence that this court case shaped the characters she created in "A Jury of Her Peers."

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