This powerful 1934 stage play by Lillian Hellmann was inspired by the true story of two Scottish school teachers whose lives were destroyed when one of their students accused them of engaging in a lesbian relationship.  The drama is set in an all-girls boarding school run by two women, Karen Wright and Martha Dobie.  When an angry student runs away from the school, to avoid being sent back she tells her grandmother that the two headmistresses are having a lesbian affair. The accusation destroys the women’s careers, relationships and lives.

The play was first staged on Broadway at Maxine Elliott’s Theatre in 1934, where it ran for over two years.  At the time, the mention of homosexuality on stage was illegal in New York State, but authorities chose to overlook its subject matter when the Broadway production was acclaimed by the critics. In 1936 it was put on at London’s Gate Theatre Studio and Dublin’s Gate Theatre.  Joshua Waletzky’s 1999 film ‘Dashiell Hammett. Detective. Writer’ suggests that ‘Hammett had the idea for the play, and edited it, and helped make Hellman into a writer’.

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