From Opposition to Integration: Stages in the Development of the "New Woman" in Selected Provincetown Plays

Susanne Auflitsch


This essay argues that the nineteenth-century philosophy of bi-polarity, as manifest first and foremost in the concept of separate spheres, is still largely unaltered in the short plays of Susan Glaspell, Neith Boyce and Rita Wellman, the three most prolific female playwrights among the Provincetown Players. The plays analyzed in this paper include Glaspell's "Trifles" (1916), "The Outside" (1917), and her short comedy "A Woman's Honor" (1918), Wellman's "Funiculi Funicula" (1917)¹ and Boyce's "Constancy" (1915), "The Two Sons" (1916), and "Enemies" (1915), the latter of which Boyce co-authored with her husband. Although the artistic merit of these short plays has often been challenged, they deserve recognition as important literary, cultural and social documents that reflect sincere attempts to fuse theatrical originality with social concerns. The cultural and social aspect in focus here is the New Woman. In spite of depicting more or less successful representatives of the New Woman, the worlds presented on stage are marked by the established polar categories. Although displaying the ambitions of the New Woman, the female characters are trapped in polarized worlds. 

1. Wellman's short play "Funiculi Funicula" is one of the very few Provincetown plays to have won some critical appraisal; Barlow regards it as "one of the most disturbing if not best written plays of the group." (Barlow 1995:281).


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