Mary P. Burrill
|Mary P. Burrill|
|Born||Mary Powell Burrill
August , 1881
Washington, D.C., USA
|Died||March 13, 1946
New York, USA
|Alma mater||Emerson College|
|Notable work(s)||They That Sit in Darkness (1919)
Mary Powell Burrill was born in August 1881 in Washington, D.C., the daughter of John H. and Clara E. Burrill. In 1901, she graduated from M Street High School (later Dunbar High School) in Washington, D.C.. When her family moved to Boston, she attended Emerson College of Oratory (later Emerson College), where she received a diploma in 1904.
In 1919, two of her best known plays were published. They That Sit in Darkness was published in Margaret Sanger's progressive Birth Control Review, a monthly publication advocating reproductive rights for women. The other play, Aftermath, was published in Liberator, edited by socialist Max Eastman.
The story of They That Sit in Darkness focuses on the effects of having multiple children to a young mother. Despite repeated warnings from midwives for the mother to "be careful" she continues to have children with dire consequences. Sandra L. West of Virginia Commonwealth University in a brief essay on Burrill described the work as controversial for its time because the play advocated birth control as a means to escape poverty long before women were given reproductive rights.
Aftermath is set in rural South Carolina and involves a soldier who discovers that his father has been lynched after he returns from fighting overseas. It was produced by New York City's Krigwa Players in 1928.
For many years, Burrill taught English, speech and drama at Dunbar High School. While there, she encouraged several of her students to write plays. One of her prized students was Willis Richardson, who would later become the first African-American dramatist to have a play produced on Broadway. Another was May Miller, who published her first play, Pandora's Box, while still a student at Dunbar.
- "Twelfth Census of the United States (1900) [database on-line], Washington, District of Columbia, Enumeration District: 45, Page: 15B, Lines: 73-76, household of John H. Burrill". United States: The Generations Network. 1900-06-16. Retrieved 2009-11-27.
- West, Sandra L. "Mary Powell Burrill 1884?-1946 on North American Women's Drama website". United States: Alexander Street Press. Retrieved 2009-11-27.
- Perkins (Ed.), Kathy A. (1990). Black Female Playwrights: An Anthology of Plays Before 1950 (First Midland Book ed.). Bloomington & Indianapolis, Indiana: Indiana University Press. pp. 53–56. ISBN 0-253-34358-5.
- Perkins (Ed.), Kathy A. (1990). Black Female Playwrights: An Anthology of Plays Before 1950 (First Midland Book ed.). Bloomington & Indianapolis, Indiana: Indiana University Press. pp. 67–74. ISBN 0-253-34358-5.
- Perkins (Ed.), Kathy A. (1990). Black Female Playwrights: An Anthology of Plays Before 1950 (First Midland Book ed.). Bloomington & Indianapolis, Indiana: Indiana University Press. pp. 75–?. ISBN 0-253-34358-5.
- "Miss Mary Burrill Dies". The Evening Star. March 15, 1946. p. 9.