Susan Glaspell was just 24, working her first job out of college as a reporter for the Des Moines Daily News when she was called to the scene of a grisly crime that would shape her artistic destiny. Late on the night of December 1, 1900, John Hossack had been bludgeoned to death with an axe as he lay in bed. Margaret, his wife of 33 years, slept on beside him during the murder, or so she claimed.
Despite her children’s protests, she was arrested and charged with murder. The trial became a sensation, and Glaspell’s reporting on the case and its surprising outcome was eagerly devoured well beyond Iowa. To say that the case became a referendum on domestic abuse would be to rewrite history, but the sympathies aroused by the stoic Margaret Hossack were indicative of a gradual change in the popular understanding of women’s rights and legal status. Continue reading “The Feminist and the Axe Murderer”