So, if you’ve been following us on Facebook, you’ll know that during March aka Women’s History Month we posted accomplished female writers who were contemporaries of G. Bernard Shaw. And no, they are not in binders! So, hopefully you’ll see their works soon on our Chicago stage!
Original photo source: Clive James
Lillian Hellman (1905 – 1984), a Shaw contemporary was known, perhaps ridiculed, for defying any limitations on her gender. Swearing, smoking, drinking, and practicing what we would call, shall we say, promiscuity, Hellman’s words and ideas defied society, challenged the government, and questioned morality.
Plays include Watch on the Rhine, The Autumn Garden, Toys in the Attic, Another Part of the Forest, The Children’s Hour and The Little Foxes, which were all successful on #Broadway. The Children’s Hour (1934) was her premier piece, featuring two female teachers at a private school accused of having romantic relations. Written in a time when same-sex relations were taboo and openly condemned, the play was met with huge success, running for more than 700 performances. Her plays Watch the Rhine (1941) and The Searching Wind (1944) openly criticized the U.S. government’s indifference to the horrific actions of Hitler and Mussolini. By the 1950’s, she was blacklisted. Even the FBI kept her under surveillance due to her previous yet brief ties with the Communist Party.
Hellman received several honors for her work, including two awards from the New York Drama Critics Circle, an Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal, and a National Book Award for An Unfinished Woman (1969), the first of three memoirs.
Hellman passed away in Martha’s Vineyard at age 79.
Original photo source: PBS
Did you know that Maya Angelou was also a great playwright as well as a poet? A Shaw contemporary (1928 – 2014), Angelou was responsible for Cabaret for Freedom musical revue with Godfrey Cambridge, The Least of These, The Best of These, Gettin’ up Stayed on My Mind, her own adaptation of Sophocles’ Ajax, and wrote and directed And Still I Rise.
Original photo source: The Bloomsbury Review
Born in Stockton, California, Maxine Hong Kingston (1940 – ) earned her BA in English at University of California, Berkeley. She is noted for her memoir, The Woman Warrior, which decries the oppression of women, and China Men, which in 1981 won the National Book Award for Nonfiction.
Not only a pioneer of feminist literature, Hong Kingston is also known as a social justice warrior. On International Women’s Day in 2003, she was arrested at an anti-war protest in Washington D.C. She shared a cell with other great writers Alice Walker and Terry Tempest Williams.
Original photo source: Confabulario
Elena Garro (1916-1998) is best noted for her work Los recuerdos del porvenir (Recollections of Things to Come). She was also best respected as an iconic writer in Mexican literature, an honor usually restricted to men. Famous author and essayist Carlos Fuentes called her debut novel “one of the most important Mexican novels of the 20th century.” 40 of her works were translated into English.
Garro was also an influential writer on the Spanish Civil War. After moving to several countries around the world, including Japan and France, she returned Mexico in the 60s, but was exiled for her critical remarks of the tempestuous political climate, calling the student movement “crazy adventure.” She moved to New York, later to Paris, and eventually returned to Mexico in 1991.
Written by Rohan Zhou-Lee.