I Just Met Susan Glaspell

Haven’t heard of her? You’re not alone. Last week, I came across Susan Glaspell’s short story, “A Jury of Her Peers,” while looking for new works to add to my American literature curriculum. Glaspell, called “American drama’s best-kept secret” by the British press, was a turn-of-the-century powerhouse who packed her easy-to-read story with tons of symbolism and controversy for students to discuss. Think of a more accessible Kate Chopin.

Glaspell’s story, an adaptation of her one-act play, Trifles, centers on the murder of a farmer and the investigation of the prime suspect, his wife. Because it’s based on a play, the story is dialogue-driven and moves quickly. It’s perfect material for a Readers’ Theater.

Did I build a bunch of cool tools that’ll help us use this story in class? You know I did!

The story, published in 1917, is in the public domain. My download includes a suggested lesson plan and a full-text version of the story to use in class, but you can also read it here or here or here.


There’s a symbolism harvesting activity that asks students to focus on these elements: coldness/winter; the location of the Wright home; the roller towel in the kitchen; the jars of cherry preserves; Mrs. Hale’s repair of Mrs. Wright’s poor sewing; and the bird and/or the bird cage.

And an art analysis activity:

susanGlaspell’s life as a journalist-turned-playwright is also compelling stuff, so I added an author biography research grid organizer to my collection, too

Even if you don’t need my set of materials, I do hope you give Glaspell’s work a read. I can’t get her Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters out of my head.

Teach on, everyone!

Bird photo credit: Julia Craice, Unsplash, Public domain




4 thoughts on “I Just Met Susan Glaspell

  1. Wow, this story sounds really good, and I love look of the art analysis activity! Definitely going to try this with my boys!

    One question……can I safely say that there is no key for the separate biography activity? (I’ve been looking through these as well….)

    Thanks for this great story!

  2. It’s so good, Carolyn! You’re going to enjoy the ride. As for the author biography research grids, you are correct. I do not include answer keys for those because the grid is a student-driven research activity. You can grab the basic info. (nationality, education, etc.) off Wikipedia, but the bulk of the questions ask students to determine what they think is most interesting about the writer’s life. During the full class debrief at the end of the activity, you can address any odd-ball answers that seem out of place. Since the grid requires students to cite the source of their information, this hasn’t been a problem for my classes. Hope you like the materials! 🙂

  3. Jennifer Glasspell Kramer says:

    I’m so excited that you have found Susan Glaspell (although my branch of the family changed the spelling). I am a (distant) relative, and it is wonderful to see her works still in use.

  4. That’s so cool, Jennifer! I’ll bet your students are impressed (or they should be, anyway) when they realize their teacher’s connection to the American literary canon. 😀

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