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Plays by Early American Women: 1775-1850 provides a comprehensive view of American women's engagement with drama. Standard histories and anthologies of American theater and drama have paid scant attention to women although they actively participated in the formation of a distinctively American drama and were vital in the production of that drama before the twentieth century. The plays in this collection- The Group (1775) by Mercy Otis Warren, Slaves in Algiers (1794) by Susanna Haswell Rowson, The Traveller Returned (1796) by Judith Sargent Murray, The Female Enthusiast (1807) by Sarah Pogson, The Fair Americans (1815) by Mary Carr Clarke, Altorf (1819) by Frances Wright, Ernest Maltravers (1838) by Louisa Medina, and The Forest Princess (1844) by Charlotte Barnes Conner- amply demonstrate the range, strength, popularity, and importance of women's dramatic writing during that period.
Running the gamut of subject and style these plays, several of them exceptionally stageworthy, indicate the ways in which early American women defined themselves and serve to highlight common patterns in their experience of day-to-day life. At the same time, they construct ideal images of the American woman that were often explicitly held up for emulation by playwrights who evinced a lively concern with defining what it meant to be American.
The book includes an introduction that discusses historical context and presents a short biography of each playwright and bibliography of American women playwrights to 1900, with over a thousand entries. This anthology is thus a valuable resource for historians, researchers, and students of American literature, American drama, and women's studies.