(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Judd Rankin’s Daughter was the last of Glaspell’s nine novels. The final three—The Morning Is Near Us (1940), Norma Ashe (1942), and Judd Rankin’s Daughter—were written close together; each of the three features a memorable heroine seeking to rediscover her midwestern heritage in order to better understand the present. In the first two of these books, the protagonists must struggle through the corruption and dissipation of their early idealism to a gradual reawakening in themselves. Judd Rankin’s Daughter, which is not representative of most of Glaspell’s work, delineates a much more complex and interesting heroine involved with the major problems of modern life.

Judd Rankin’s Daughter is about three wonderful people: Judd Rankin, a lovable old Iowa farmer and philosopher who has finally written a book about people living in the Midwest; Frances Rankin Mitchell, his liberal daughter, who is living in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and who embodies both midwestern and eastern values; and Cousin Adah Elwood Logan, a nonconforming sophisticate whose love lives on long after her death.

The novel opens with the anticipated death of Cousin Adah. She lived a rich and happy life, had lovers before and during marriage, and kept a salon where writers and workers met. Frances is present as witness to the death of someone she loved, someone who symbolized freedom and a piece of the...

(The entire section is 477 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Susan Glaspell’s last novel, Judd Rankin’s Daughter, is concerned with social advancement and humankind’s potential for greater awareness. Glaspell, who was born and educated in Iowa, illustrates the regional conflict of midwestern conservatism and the more radical political philosophies of New England, particularly Provincetown, Massachusetts, where Glaspell lived and where the novel is set.

The work contains four character sketches that feature people in conflict with societal or ideological values. The central figure, Francis Rankin Mitchell, is not the focal character of each section, but often her perceptions are vital to the reader’s understanding. The story is set in 1944. Part 1 introduces Cousin Adah, a free spirit and nonconformist from Iowa, who dies before she relays her worldly wisdom to a young soldier headed to World War II. In part 2, Glaspell presents Judd Rankin, Francis’ father, a seventy-six-year-old gentleman farmer who publishes a local paper, Out Here.

Part 3 occupies the major portion of the novel. Francis lives in Provincetown with her family. Her husband Len, a writer for a leftist magazine, advocates socialist causes. The children, Madeleine and Judson, are abandoning adolescence for adulthood. Judson, disturbed by his war experience, returns home confused and withdrawn.

In part 4, Francis returns to Iowa. She seeks the same wisdom that the young soldier of part 1 desired from...

(The entire section is 416 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Suggested Readings

Carpentier, Martha C. “Susan Glaspell’s Fiction: Fidelity as American Romance.” Twentieth Century Literature 40 (Spring, 1994): 92-113.

Levin, Milton. “Susan Glaspell.” In American Writers, edited by Lea Beachler and A. Walton Litz. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1991.

McGovern, Edythe M. “Susan Glaspell.” In American Women Writers, edited by Lina Mainierto. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1980.