Susan Glaspell's 1916 play "Trifles" and its short story version "A Jury of Her Peers" presents the deliberations of a jury of women discussing the conduct of an abused women who killed her husband, the work demonstrates the problems of women's access to justice under laws written by men. At the time Glaspell wrote these works, laws were being developed to address wife abuse, but domestic violence went unnoticed and unabated for 50 years. Political and legal action by women is needed to integrate the perspective of women and other outsiders into the legal system.
In 1916, Edith Wharton and Susan Glaspell coincided in each telling the story of a different fictional murderess. Although both works are written within different genres, there are striking similarities between the situations of these women who murdered their husbands. Even more arresting is the choice of the plot device of judicial examination of the facts to give textual representation to the reality of these women's experience. Both writers explore the relation between official, legal narratives and suppressed, illegitimate stories, in which male and female versions conflict to such an extent, that the ascendancy of one over the other determines the fate of the women on trial.
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