Within a historical context, Susan Glaspell's Trifles does not only consider the time period of the play, but also the circumstances upon which the events develop.
Glaspell wrote Trifles in 1916, where there were a myriad of issues beginning to develop, namely, the advent of birth control (and its controversies), women's suffrage, labor unions, and Freud, to name just a few.
As it was, the beginning of the 20th century would proof challenging for women's rights. As a result, a lot of traditional constructs regarding gender were put to the test for the first time. Among them is the one which Glaspell treats directly Trifles: gender rights equality.
Trifles lists gender issues according to the way in which Glaspell viewed the society of her day. From the woman's suffrage movement, Glaspell gathered that
- men do not consider women as first class citizens
- women are not considered citizens by the government
- women are considered as a property of the husband
From Freud's theories, Glaspell may have drawn the conclusion that
- women are deemed as the "weaker sex"
- women do not have specific needs that need to be met in a marriage.
From the controversies surrounding birth control, Glaspell may have concluded that
- women are merely birthing and nurturing "machines"
Not every single one of these constructs are mentioned in Trifles directly, but it is clear that there was a considerable lack of balance in the manner in which men viewed women, and in the expectations placed upon women by society.
Being that Glaspell attained the unique goal of earning a Ph.D in a time when women hardly attended school, it is understandable that she would be more aware of these issues and would want to touch upon them from a philosophical, academic, and creative perspective.
Therefore, Trifles reflects that men had a superiority over women that extended from the household all the way to basic human rights.