An Early Classic Feminist Short Story
"A Jury of Her Peers" by Susan Glaspell (1876 to 1948-Davenport, Iowa, USA) is a classic early 20th century feminist short story. Glaspell won the Pulitzer Prize for best dramatic work in 1930. She was very active in the theater, wrote nine novels (one of which was brought back into print in 1999 by Persephone Press, Fidelity-The Literary Stew has an excellent post on this novel), and numerous short stories. (You can read more about her active and interesting life HERE.) It appears "A Jury of Her Peers" is by far her most still read work.
"A Jury of Her Peers" starts of at the home of a married couple, living out in the country. The sheriff and some of his men (as well as his wife) are at the house as the husband has been founded dead. It kind of looks like suicide by hanging but the sheriff does not feel right about this so he wants to look around and ask some questions. The wife of the families nearest neighbor is there. The sheriff's wife also seems to have know about the woman a bit. The sheriff is telling the county attorney what he found during his investigation. He had gone to the house of the murdered man without knowing what happened. He was just there to suggest to the isolated couple that they get a phone. He finds the woman to be very distraught and her husband either hung himself somehow or was strangled. The sheriff is suspicious of the wife as no one else was around (and of course the spouse is always the first suspect) but he can find no motive for the killing. The county attorney says he cannot bring the wife to trial without at least a motive to tell a jury about. As the wife talks a picture of the husband develops. He was a harshly dominating man who kept his wife a near captive in her house.
Here is where the very real fun of this story develops. I will not spoil what happens next for you. I really liked the ending a lot.
There are several very good blog posts on this story.
Lakeside Musings has a very interesting and insightful post on what this story has to say about the relationships between men and women in America in the early part of the 19th century.
Free Listens talks about the condescending way in which even well meaning men sometimes treat their wives.
You can read "A Jury of Her Peers" HERE
I really enjoyed this story. It is simply and very well written and easy to follow. It would probably make a good class room story for those 12 and above. I am glad I read it and I think most others will be also.
As always I am grateful for any suggestions of short stories I might enjoy. I also prefer stories I can read online. This better for me (no libraries!) and better for blog readers.