Potts, Norman B.
M.A. (Master of Arts)
Department of Theatre Arts
Crothers; Rachel; 1878-1958; Feminism and literature
Rachel Crothers (1878-1958) was a playwright with a feminist point of view. She developed into a writer of social comedy and drawing room comedy, plays which sometimes mirrored the changing feminist issues. The problem of the paper is to trace those feminist issues during the years Crothers was writing and to see how they are developed in representative plays. During the time span covered, 1909-1929, the feminists went from advocating radical social change to merely campaigning for suffrage. Many feminists rejected the radicals as obstacles to winning popular support for suffrage and because winning the vote, not social change, became the goal, the Woman's Movement died out after the 1920's, with very little gained. Crothers used some of these issues as the basis for some of her social comedies. In A Man's World, the double standard is attacked by an unusually strong and likable young woman, Frank Ware. The double standard had worked negatively for Frank in the area of sexual and social behavior and in the area of her professional life. In He and She, the woman of talent is allowed to work in a man's sphere, but she still encounters the double standard. She is also faced with the added burden of being a good wife and mother before she can compete in the work world. Motherhood, by the 1920's, had been elevated to an almost holy position by the feminists themselves who discovered that women's sex differences actually made them superior to men. Thus biological destiny could be fulfilling as no career could be. Teddy Gloucester, in Nice People, represents the Younger Generation. Although after World War I, morals were loosened and the double standard relaxed to allow women more freedom in society, young women didn't follow through to achieve real emancipation. They, like Teddy, settled back to old values and marriage as the way toward fulfillment. Mary the Third proposes that women re-examine the Marriage Myth, considers divorce as a possibility, suggests trial marriage, which came out of the controversial birth control movement, but ends by saying that marriage, after all, is woman's only option. It also touches upon the problem of economic dependency for women in marriage. Kitty Brown, in Let Us Be Gay, is a gay divorcee, pursuing a career which allows financial independence. She sees men on her terms, appears to be happy, but misses being married. Crothers seems to say that marriage for women is preferable to loneliness. Crothers keeps up with the changing feminist issues, but as did the mainstream feminists, she learned to water down the more radical rhetoric. The feminists managed to win some moderate gains, such as suffrage, but failed to change society significantly. Crothers managed to stir heated discussions with her plays, but also managed to find and audience for them by keeping away from controversial conclusions.
Turner, Mary D., "Feminism in selected plays by Rachel Crothers 1909-1929" (1980). Graduate Research Theses & Dissertations. 3124.
Northern Illinois University
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