Sophie Treadwell

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Sophie Treadwell (October 3, 1885 – February 20, 1970), was an American playwright and journalist of the first half of the 20th century. She is best known for her play Machinal which is often included in drama anthologies as an example of post modernism. Treadwell also wrote novels and serial stories which appeared in newspapers

Heritage and childhood[edit]

Sophie Anita Treadwell was born in 1885 in Stockton, California.[1] Between 1890 and 1891, Sophie's father, Alfred Treadwell, deserted her and her mother and moved to San Francisco.[1][2] In 1902, Sophie and her mother, Nettie Fairchild Treadwell moved to San Francisco.[1]

University and early career[edit]

Treadwell received her Bachelor of Letters in French from the University of California at Berkeley, where she studied from 1902-1906.[1][2] Due to financial pressure, Treadwell worked several jobs during her studies; receiving additional training in shorthand and typing, teaching English as a second language in the evenings, as well as working in the circulation department of the San Francisco Call.[2] It was also during this time that she first began to write; early drafts of shorter plays, songs, and short fictional stories.[2] During college, she also had her first brushes with mental illness, a variety of nervous conditions that would plague her and lead to several extended hospitilizations throughout her life.[1][2] After college, Treadwell studied acting and was mentored by renowned Polish actress Helena Modjeska, whose memoirs she was hired to write in 1908.[1] In 1910, Sophie married William O. McGeehan, a sports reporter.[1]

New York[edit]

In 1915, Sophie moved to New York.[1] Treadwell joined the Lucy Stone League of suffragettes.[1]

Plays and novels[edit]

  • A Man's Own (1905) a one-act written when Treadwell was only 20 years old; this play is set in an office in Chicago, IL and concerns economics and family[3]
  • Le Grand Prix (1907) Sophie's first full-length play[1]
  • The Right Man (1908)[1]
  • The Settlement (1911) unpublished[1][2]
  • The High Cost (1911),[1] which was begun in 1908 under the title Constance Darrow[2]
  • An Unwritten Chapter (1915) a one-act later renamed Sympathy, it is a stage adaptation of the serial How I Got My Husband and How I Lost Him.[2] Sympathy was the first of Treadwell's plays to be produced, in San Francisco.[1] This 3-character one-act is set in an apartment and the main characters are Jean Traig a performer and Mori, her servant; the play has romantic and economic themes[3]
  • Guess Again (1915–1918) one-act[1]
  • To Him who Waits (1915–1918) one-act[1][2]
  • His Luck (1915–1918) one-act[1]
  • The Eye of the Beholder (1915–1918) one-act, previously titles Mrs. Wayne.[1][2] Treadwell copyrighted this play in 1919, a historical accolade for a female playwright at this time[1]
  • Trance (1915–1918) one-act[1]
  • La Cachucha (1915–1918) one-act[1]
  • John Doane (1915–1918) one-act[1]
  • Claws (1916–1918)[2] Ms Treadwell wrote, produced, and acted in this plays first production[1]
  • Madame Bluff (1918) Comedy[2]
  • The Answer (1918)
  • Rights (1921) based on the life of Mary Wollstonecraft[1]
  • Gringo (1922) Ran on Broadway December 1922-January 1923[4]
  • O Nightingale (1925) a comedy, ran on Broadway April 1925-May 1925[4]
  • Machinal (1928) (also titled The Life Machine in the London premiere)[2] premiered on Broadway September 1928-November 1928 and was revived on Broadway January 2014-March 2014.[4]
  • Ladies Leave (1929) a comedy, ran on Broadway in October 1929[4]
  • Lusita (novel)(1931)
  • Lone Valley (1933) written, staged, and produced by Treadwell, ran on Broadway March 1933.[4]
  • Intimations For Saxophone (1934)
  • Plumes in the Dust (1936) ran on Broadway in November 1936
  • Hope for a Harvest (1941) was Treadwell's last play to premier on Broadway during her lifetime, it ran November–December 1941.[4]
  • Highway (1944)
  • The Last Border (1944) this play is set in the federal district of Mexico City, and the 13 characters are mixed, some White, some Hispanic. The play's subjects include violence, romance, and social issues.[3]
  • One Fierce Hour and Sweet (novel) (1959)
  • Woman with Lilies (1967)


Eight of Treadwell's plays appeared on Broadway between 1922-1941.[4] Gringo was Treadwell's first play to be produced on Broadway.[1] Most of these plays were merely written by Treadwell, but in addition she produced Lone Valley and O, Nightingale, the later of which she also staged.[4]


Treadwell's first job as a journalist was with the San Francisco Bulletin, where she was hired in 1908 as a feature writer and theatre critic.[1] She interviewed celebrities, such as Jack London, and covered several high profile murder trials.[1] Later, when living in New York, Treadwell covered the murder trials of Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray whose stories influenced subsequent plays.[1][2] She traveled to France to cover the First World War, she was only female foreign correspondent writing from overseas at that time.[2] When Sophie returned to New York, she was hired by the New York American.[1] For the New York Herald Tribune in 1920, Sophie covered the end of the Mexican revolution.[1] In 1921, she was the only foreign journalist permitted to interview Pancho Villa.[1] In 1941, Sophie spent ten month in Mexico City as a correspondent for the Tribune. Later, Treadwell wrote for the Tribune about her visit to post-war Germany.[1][2]

Published works and resources[edit]

The majority of Treadwell's works are stored at the University of Arizona Library Special Collections and the rest at The Billy Rose Theatre Collection at the New York Public Library. The rights to them are owned by the Roman Catholic Church of the Diocese of Tucson: A Corporation Sole. Further biographical information and critical analysis about Treadwell may be found in "Broadway's Bravest Woman: Selected Writings of Sophie Treadwell".


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af Dickey, Jerry; Lopez-Rodriguez, Miriam (2006). Broadway's Bravest Woman. Southern Illinois University. ISBN 0-8093-2675-2. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Ozieblo, Barbara; Dickey, Jerry (2008). Susan Glaspell and Sophie Treadwell. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-40485-1. 
  3. ^ a b c "North American Women's Drama". Alexander Street Press. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Sophie Treadwell". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Retrieved 25 March 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Dickey, Jerry (1999). "The expressionist movement: Sophie Treadwell". In Murphy, Brenda. The Cambridge Companion to American Women Playwrights. Cambridge University Press. pp. 66–81. ISBN 9780521576802. 

External links[edit]