Zona Gale was the American writer who won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1921 for her play “Miss Lulu Bett”. Apart from being the first woman to win this prize, she also lived a generally impressive life full of liberty, creativity and social consciousness.
She was born on August 26, 1874 in Portage, Wisconsin. At the age of seven (~1881) she is purported to have written her first book (unpublished and apparently lost to time) with her first attempt at getting published at the ripe old age of 13 (~1887).
Undaunted by this early rejection, she went on to graduate from the University of Wisconsin in 1895 with a Bachelors in Literature. Upon graduation she began working for the Evening Wisconsin and Milwaukee Journal where she worked as she continued her studies, eventually graduating with a Masters in Literature in 1899, again from the University of Wisconsin.
In 1901 she moved to New York City to work at Evening World until she became a freelance writer in 1903, selling her first short story to Success magazine [titles pending].
After a productive period in New York, she returned to Portage to live.
From here, she seems to find a a groove that suits her and she begins her creative work in earnest. She also begins to be more substantially involved in various liberal civic causes, among which include :
- participation in the Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) and the American Civic Association
- helping to write the Wisconsin Equal Rights law (1921), which prohibited discrimination against women,
- sitting on the board of regents of the University of Wisconsin (1923-1929.
She did marry, though later in life at the age of 54 (1928) to William L Breese. She died of pneumonia in a Chicago hospital on December 27, 1938. One additional novel was published posthumously, Magna (1939).
Zona Gale’s Timeline in context
- 1874, Zona Gale is born (as is Harry Houdini, Herbert Hoover, Winston Churchill, amongst others)
- 1877, US troops are withdrawn from Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana, marking the end of Reconstruction. Zona is three.
- 1895, Zona Gale graduates with a Bachelors in Literature from the University of Wisconsin. Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is first shown at St-James’ Theatre in London. The first gas bus route is started in Germany.
- 1899, Zona Gale graduates from the University of Wisconsin with a Masters in Literature. The Paris Treaty (ending the Spanish-American war) is ratified by the U.S. Senate and gives the U.S. the Philippines, Samoa, Guam, and Puerto Rico.
- 1901, Zona moves to New York. The Commonwealth of Australia is formed. President Theodore Roosevelt becomes 26th president of the U.S. after President William McKinley is shot at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.
- 1903, Zona publishes 2 short stories in Success magazine and becomes a freelance writer. The U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor is formed. Ford Motors is officially incorporated.
- 1904, Zona returns to Portage, Wisconsin. Elizabeth “Lizzie” J. Phillips nee Magie is granted a patent for “Landlords Game”, later to become the game Monopoly.
- 1906, Romance Island, Zona’s first novel, is published. San Francisco is hit by its famously devastating earthquake.
- 1907, Zona publishes “The Loves of Pellets and Etarre”. Adolf Hilter’s mother dies. Frida Kahlo is born. Oklahoma becomes the 46th State to be admitted to the union (U.S.).
- 1908, Zona’s short story “Friendship Village” is published. The famous New Year’s ball drops for the first time in New York City. Converse Rubber Shoe company is founded.
- 1909, Zona publishes “Friendship Village Love Stories”. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is formed. The first National Woman’s Day is observed in the United States.
- 1911, Zona publishes “Mothers to Men”. Zona wins an award from Delineator magazine. The Portuguese expel the Jesuits. Hiram Bingham discovers the lost city of Machu Picchu. Ronald Reagan, Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball, and Tennessee Williams.
- 1912, Zona’s novel Christmas: A Story is published. The Titanic sinks. New Mexico becomes the 47th state (U.S.).
- 1913, Zona publishes “When I Was a Little Girl”. Zona releases her pamphlet “Civic Improvement in the Little Towns”. Ford implements the world’s first moving assembly line for it’s Model T.
- 1914, Zona publishes “Neighborhood Stories” as well as the play The Neighbors. Charlie Chaplin makes his film début in Making a Living. World War I begins.
- 1915, Zona’s novel Heart’s Kindred is published. U.S. House of Representatives rejects a bill giving women the right to vote. Alexander Graham Bell makes his famous cross-country call to Watson.
- 1917, Zona’s novel A Daughter of Morning is published. The U.S. enters WWI. The “Silent Sentinels” (suffragettes) first protest outside The White House. Mata Hari is arrested.
- 1919, Zona’s novel Birth is published. Zona publishes “Peace in Friendship Village”. The 19th amendment to the U.S. constitution (women’s right to vote) is ratified by congress. The 18th amendment to the U.S. constitution (prohibition of alcohol) is ratified by a majority of states thus becoming part of the constitution.
- 1920, Zona’s novel Miss Lulu Bett is published and transformed to her Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name this same year. Zona publishes “The Neighbors”. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is formed. Walt Disney begins to work as an artist (for KC Slide Co.).
- 1921, Zona becomes the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play Miss Lulu Bett. Zona publishes her book of poetry The Secret Way. The Wisconsin Equal Rights Law is passed into law, becoming the first equal rights bill passed into law in the U.S. Agatha Christie published her first novel. The Communist Party of China is established. Adolph Hitler becomes leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party.
- 1922, Zona releases her play Uncle Jimmy. Zona releases her pamphlet “What Women Won in Wisconsin”. Zona’s essay “The Novel of Tomorrow” is published in The Novel of Tomorrow and the Scope of Fiction by Twelve American Novelists. The U.S.S.R. is created. The Lincoln Memorial is dedicated. The BBC is formed.
- 1923, Zona’s novel Faint Perfume is published. Last U.S. troops leave Rhineland (Germany). Hitler stages a demonstration of 5000 storm troopers denouncing the “November Crime”. Fascist volunteer militia forms under Mussolini.
- 1925, Zona releases her play Mr. Pitt. Mussolini dissolves the Italian parliament. First all female Supreme Court formed in Texas. First issue of New Yorker magazine published. Tennessee makes it illegal to teach evolution (the Butler Act).
- 1926, Zona’s novel Preface to Life is published. John Logie Baird gives the first demonstration of television in his laboratory in London (TV is invented). Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio becomes Walt Disney Studios. Atlanta, Georgia makes teaching evolution in schools illegal.
- 1927, Zona publishes “Yellow Gentians and Blue” and “Bill”. Harlem Globe Trotters play their first game. Alfred Hitchcock has his directorial début. First Volvo car produced. Actress May West found guilty of “obscenity and corrupting the morals of youth” in a New York stage play entitled “Sex”, ultimately leading to the launch of her film career.
- 1928, Zona publishes Portage, Wisconsin and Other Essays. Zona marries William L. Breese. The first U.S. air conditioned office space opens in San Antonio. Scotch tape first marketed by 3-M. Mussolini ends women’s rights in Italy. Sliced bread sold for the first time by the Chillicothe Baking Company, Missouri.
- 1929, Zona’s novel Borgia is published. President Hoover approves building of Boulder Dam (now known as Hoover dam). Fascist government in Italy bans foreign words. We have the first manned rocket fuelled flight by auto maker Fritz von Opel. Women are considered “persons” under Canadian law. The great stock market crash (U.S.) marks the beginning of the Great Depression.
- 1930, Zona publishes Bridal Pond, a collection of short stories. The cartoon character Betty Boop makes her début. Pluto is discovered.
- 1932, Zona releases her plays The Clouds and Evening Clothes. Wisconsin enacts the first U.S. unemployment insurance program. James Markham receives the first patent for a tree (it was a peach tree). Austrian immigrant Adolph Hitler gets his German citizenship. U.S. President Herbert Hoover suggests a 5-day work week. Al Capone starts his sentence for tax evasion.
- 1933, Zona’s novel Papa La Fleur is published. Zona publishes “Old-Fashioned Tales”. Adolph Hitler forms government with Franz von Papen. The German parliament is dissolved. Ghandi participates in hunger strikes (resulting in jail time) in protest against British oppression in India. German Secret State Police (Gestapo – Geheime Staats Polizei) is established. Albert Einstein arrives in the U.S. as a refugee.
- 1934, Zona releases her play Faint Perfume, a dramatization of the novel by the same name. Shirley Temple performs in her first film. Leo Szilard patents the chain-reaction design for the atomic bomb.
- 1937, Zona’s novel Light Woman is published. First state (U.S.) contraception clinic opens in Raleigh, NC. First U.S. social security payment is received. Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan disappear while flying over the Pacific Ocean. Marihuana tax passed in U.S. essentially rendering the drug illegal. Appalachian Trail is formally completed.
- 1938, Zona publishes Frank Miller of the Mission Inn (a biography of Frank Miller). Zona Gale dies of pneumonia in Chicago, Il. We have the first use of a “seeing eye dog”. Oil is discovered in Saudi Arabia. Germany begins persecution of Jews. The March of Dimes is founded in the U.S. Superman appears for the first time in U.S. comic.
- 1939, Zona’s novel Magna is published posthumously. WWII begins.
In the year of her birth (1874) in the U.S., the average work week was around 60 hours and paid roughly $1.60 per day.
In the year of her death (1938) in the U.S. the average cost of a new house was $3,900.00. The average wages per year were $1,730.00/year. The average cost of a gallon of gas was 10 cents. The average cost for rent was $27.00/month. A loaf of bread cost 9 cents. The average price for new car was $763.00.