Mystery surrounds the birth date of Susan Glaspell. Both 1876 and 1882 have been given. Glaspell always asserted that the latter date was correct, and it was often used in past studies. Recent evidence suggests, however, that the earlier date is accurate. Why she would deny a linkage to the nation’s centennial and make herself appear younger has never been explained. Susan was born to Elmer S. and Alice Keating Glaspell in Davenport, Iowa. Her father’s family was among the first of the Davenport settlers. Her father was solidly middle class with some affluence, but he was not a wealthy man. Her parents instilled in their daughter a love of the region that she would retain to the end of her life.
Glaspell was educated in the public schools of Davenport. She then went to Des Moines, Iowa, to attend Drake University. She graduated in 1899 with a Ph.B. degree, having studied literature, classics, and the Bible. By all accounts, she was popular; she was also noted for her storytelling abilities and gained experience as a writer. Her first job after graduation was as a reporter for the Des Moines Daily News. While there, she met and befriended Lucy Huffaker, who became an influential and lifelong friend.
Glaspell worked at the paper for two years, became expert at political writing, and had her own column, “The News Girl,” which began with political commentary and then strayed to fictional forays and personal observations. The column’s success prompted Glaspell to quit her job at the newspaper in 1901, return to Davenport, and begin earning a living as a freelance writer. The “Freeport” stories, twenty-six in all, based on the city of Davenport, were escapist and romantic works filled with local color and unexpected plot twists.
The turning point in her private...
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Glaspell was a truly prolific writer. During her lifetime, this remarkable feminist wrote fourteen plays, nine novels, forty-three short stories, numerous essays, a biography, and a children’s tale. Although successful in a variety of literary genres, Glaspell is best known for her dramatic works. The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright created a new theatrical voice and dealt with contemporary issues. Glaspell is also remembered as the inspirational force behind the founding of the Provincetown Players and for her continuous encouragement of new playwrights, particularly Eugene O’Neill.
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