Author: Susan Glaspell

Susan Glaspell, early 20th century

Susan Glaspell (1876–1948) was a Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright and novelist; a writer of short stories; and, for a short while, a journalist. She was born in Davenport, Iowa, attended Drake University in Des Moines, and worked for several years as a reporter at the Des Moines Daily News and other local newspapers, but she discovered early on that her interest was in writing fiction. Although she was widely regarded during her lifetime, Glaspell is little read or performed today, with one major exception: “A Jury of Her Peers” (1917). It was adapted from her one-act play, “Trifles,” written and produced in Provincetown a year earlier. Set in the rural Midwest, it was inspired by an actual murder that took place in Iowa in 1900, which Glaspell had covered for the Des Moines Daily News. The short story was an immediate hit. It was anthologized in that year and in many, many years throughout her lifetime. It was rediscovered in the 1970s by the feminist movement and has become a staple of women’s studies courses in colleges and universities in recent decades.

A Jury of Her Peers

Susan Glaspell

This story by Susan Glaspell (1876–1948), playwright, actress, and writer, raises questions not about the justice of the law but about its proper enforcement, not about the obligation to obey it but about how to judge those who allegedly have violated it. The story (1917), inspired by an actual case in Iowa a few years earlier, is set in the rural Midwest.