The battle of the sexes reached a near fever pitch in the early years of the twentieth century, in the debate over the "proper" role of women in a rapidly changing and increasingly industrialized society. The six plays that Keith Newlin has selected for this book nicely illustrate the conflicts of that time over such issues as the double standard, the advent of the "New Woman" and turn-of-the-century feminism, and the clash between a woman's career and conventional marriage. The plays are: William Vaughn Moody's The Great Divide (1906), Rachel Crothers's A Man's World (1910), Augustus Thomas's As a Man Thinks (1911), Alice Gerstenberg's Overtones (1913), Susan Glaspell's The Outside (1917), and the first winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama, Jesse Lynch Williams's Why Marry? (1917). Both commercial and experimental plays are represented here, including two one-acts, and ranging from symbolic drama to zesty comedy. The point, as Mr. Newlin notes in his introduction, is not to recover significant plays but to illustrate a vibrant social debate from both male and female perspectives, and to do so in a range of dramatic form.
Keith Newlin teaches American literature at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. He has also edited The Collected Plays of Theodore Dreiser (with Frederic E. Rusch) and Selected Letters of Hamlin Garland (with Joseph B. McCullough), and has written Hardboiled Burlesque, a study of Raymond Chandler's fiction.