In "A Jury of Her Peers," what significance do you see in the womens' names?  

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The names of the women in "A Jury of Her Peers" give insight into how Susan Glaspell wants readers to view them. Martha Hale, the neighbor to the suspected murderer, seems to be a "hale and hearty" type of woman, straightforward and capable. "Martha" is a strong name, perhaps bringing to mind "Martha Washington," our country's first first lady. Mrs. Peters, on the other hand, tends toward weakness, as if she is about to "peter out." Unlike Martha, Mrs. Peters does not receive a first name, but is only called Mrs. Peters or "the sheriff's wife." Mr. Peters even says of her, "she's one of us," implying that she does not have her own identity as a woman. We can see it is harder for her to make a decision to protect Mrs. Wright than it is for Mrs. Hale.

Mrs. Wright's names are also revealing. First, she is "Wright," suggesting that the murder she probably committed was not as wrong as it might appear at first glance. Also, the issue of her "rights" is an important theme of the story. When she married Mr. Wright, she subjugated her own rights to his, and as a woman, she did not merit the same "rights" that men did at that time, namely, the right to a "jury of her peers." (Women did not serve on juries at that time, so a trial for Mrs. Wright would not have been completely just under that standard.) Her first name was "Minnie," again indicating that she was a lesser creature, a "mini" person, not entitled to full human rights. Her maiden name was Foster. When she was single, she sang in the choir and had a voice of her own, so evidently her parents had "fostered" her individuality to some degree. But when she married, that became a thing of the past. When she tried to regain her individuality by "fostering" the canary, Mr. Wright again usurped his authority over her--breaking the canary's neck and silencing it as he had squelched Minnie's individuality. 

We can see that the names of Martha Hale, Mrs. Peters, and Minnie Foster Wright all give us meaningful insights into these characters.