Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Why Marry? has a secure place in history as the first drama to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize. The play began as prose, but Williams decided on a dramatic format and published it in 1914 as And So They Were Married through Charles Scribner’s Sons. It took three years before Broadway would produce it because, Williams once noted, it was written ahead of its time. It ran for 120 performances at New York’s Astor Theater and was made into a silent film in 1924.

Why Marry? addresses a host of issues brought on by the early twentieth century’s feminist movement. The movement was fueled not only by suffrage but also by the gradual need of the United States’ nascent industrial economy, which was in need of a type of worker who did not require tremendous upper-body strength. Between 1900 and 1920, the percentage of American women employed in clerical and sales positions rose dramatically, as did the number of women enrolled in public colleges and universities. The debates that stemmed from this empowered generation of women saturated the newspapers, journals, novels, movies, and dramas of the day: Would the New Women stay at home to become wives and mothers? With financial independence, could emotional independence be far behind? Once women had been freed from their dependencies, what was to become of society? Images of the New Woman were legion: Caricatures of women as cigarette-smoking, bicycle-riding, bob-haired flappers whose...

(The entire section is 545 words.)