Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





David Savran

Subject Categories

Women's Studies


Beth Henley; Lynn Nottage; Marsha Norman; Paula Vogel; Suzan-Lori Parks; Wendy Wasserstein


Dramas by women had won the Pulitzer Prize six times in the years spanning from 1921 to 1958, followed by an unexplained absence of female winners from 1959 to 1980. Then in the 1980s three women won and women continued to win up until the present day. Covering three decades - the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s - this dissertation investigates these Pulitzer Prize-winning plays by female dramatists: Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley; 'night, Mother by Marsha Norman; The Heidi Chronicles by Wendy Wasserstein; How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel; W;t (a.k.a. Wit) by Margaret Edson; Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks; and Ruined by Lynn Nottage. This study also examines in-depth the social zeitgeist of their times: the peak of Second-Wave Feminism, the "Age of Oprah," and a new century - the twenty-first - that continues old patterns of violence and oppression both nationally and internationally. These plays take place at the "tipping points" of social change and have become valuable historical records of those changes once assimilated into the American cultural and theatrical canons as winners of the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Despite its short-comings, the Pulitzer Prize remains a positive force in the theatrical field and a true honor for the winners. The Pulitzer Prize and Women: An Investigation into Three Decades of Winning Plays by Female Dramatists (1981-2009) makes a contribution to the fields of the Pulitzer Prize, dramatic literature by women, and American culture in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.