Indigeneity and Immigration in Susan Glaspell’s Inheritors


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

In 1911, Susan Glaspell was “disentangling herself ” from her native Iowa and preparing to move to New York City, where her fellow Davenporter and future husband George Cram Cook would eventually join her.1 Her regionalist sensibilities remained strong, however, even as she embraced the progressive milieu of Greenwich Village and, from 1915, honed her skills as a playwright with the Provincetown Players. Like Cook, Glaspell was interested in the Midwest’s Indigenous history. Both felt a particular affinity with Black Hawk (1767–1838), the Sauk (Sac) leader best remembered for the eponymous 1832 war that resulted in his defeat and state-mandated humiliation as well as the loss of six million acres, comprising among much else the site of Davenport, where James Glaspell would settle his family in 1869.2 Black Hawk expressed the pathos of loss in the dedication to General Henry Atkinson of his popular autobiography, first published in 1833 at Rock Island, Illinois and translated by Antoine LeClaire, the founder of nearby Davenport: “The changes of fortune, and vicissitudes of war, made you my conqueror. When my last resources were exhausted, my warriors worn down with long and toilsome marches, we yielded, and I became your prisoner.”3 According to Linda Ben-Zvi, Black Hawk’s autobiography taught Glaspell “different narratives and notions about America.” Black Hawk himself, “while associated with nature,” was for Glaspell “also the repository of moral values and intellect, noble but in no way a savage.”4


  1. 1. Linda Ben-Zvi, Susan Glaspell: Her Life and Times (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 113.

  2. 2. For the date, see Ben-Zvi, Susan Glaspell, 14.

  3. 3. Black Hawk, Life of Black Hawk, trans. Antoine LeClaire, ed. Milo Milton Quaife (Chicago: Lakeside, 1916), 7.

  4. 4. Ben-Zvi, Susan Glaspell, 7.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.