Miles Franklin and ‘The Survivors’

The manuscript of Stella Miles Franklin's play 'The Survivors' is marked 'Shawondasee, August, 1908'. Shawondasee is in the small, historic seaside town of Stonington, Connecticut, visited by Franklin with her friend Mary E. Dreier, President of the New York Women's Trade Union League and sister ofFranklin's employer, NWTUL President Margaret Dreier Robins. Working in Chicago during this period, Franklin was on holiday and had been staying with suffragist Jessie H. Childs in New York (Roe, Biography 129). The play addresses two issues important to Franklin during her Chicago years (1906-1915): the role of art in personal and social change, and the critique of inequities between rich and poor, especially the moral justification of the Spencerian notion of the survival of the fittest as justification for inequality.

Declared a 'highly actable play, which could benefit from tough dramaturgy' (Pfisterer and Pickett 57), 'The Survivors' is a four-act drama set in 'a great American city' (Franklin, 'Survivors' 1). Typed on the back of NWTUL stationary, it seems to have been reworked in 1909 into a three-act play omitting the original third act, although this manuscript no longer exists except for most of the synopsis. There are two versions of the four-act play and this essay refers to the shorter version with Franklin's handwritten corrections. She declares 'Tomphooll' her 'nom-de-plume' on the cover page with characteristic wordplay, marking the play a potentially light-hearted social drama that satirises ideological viewpoints personified in characters familiar to Franklin's contemporary audience. She declares the play's 'motif' as '[a] picture ofcontemporary existence pulled into theatrical shape and necessarily conventional conclusion by having right or wrong - possibly the wrong psychological insight, and more or less - probably less, sociological experience and experiment' (1).

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Published 1 May 2011 in Volume 26 No. 1. Subjects: Miles Franklin.

Cite as: Lee, Janet. ‘Miles Franklin and ‘The Survivors’.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 26, no. 1, 2011, doi: 10.20314/als.c57fddbcce.