The Role of Women in Lillian Hellman´s "The Little Foxes"

With regard to the role of women in society in the 20th century

Term Paper, 2010

9 Pages, Grade: 2,3


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. The Role of women in society in the 20th century

3. The Role of women in “The little foxes”
3.1 Regina
3.2 Birdie
3.3 Alexandra

4. Conclusion

5. References

1. Introduction

The following paper deals with the female characters in the play “The little foxes”, written by Lillian Hellmann in 1939.

In the United States the role of women in society changed drastically in the 20th century. In the past married women were homebound and dependent on their husbands, but they became active and independent in 1900. The increasing possibilities to work outside the house led to the fact that women became wage- earners. Finally, the women’s attitude to life changed dramatically.

In the beginning of this paper an overview of the historical background, considering the social role of women in the 20th century, is given. Afterwards, the change of the role of women will be exemplified by the female characters of Regina, Birdie and Alexandra in “The Little Foxes”. Especially Regina and Birdie can be seen as contrastive examples because they show in an opposite way how to deal with their powerless role in the Hubbard family.

2. The Role of women in society in the 20th century

Before 1900 the life- task of women was to be a mother and to work in the household. Their role was to bear and raise children, while the men went to work and earn money. With the marriage a woman did not only give up her name; furthermore the whole property was immediately controlled by the husband. The man was the owner of his wife and the children, who could be seen as the husband‘s possessions. A married woman was not allowed to own property and even when the woman and their husband got divorced, the husband still had the control over the money. When the husband died in these times, the material possessions were given to the sons. Neither the wives nor the daughters were used to get the property.

During the First World War, women in the North had to work in factories and hospitals to replace the men who had to fight. The role of women changed and brought „disintegration of traditional roles and the consequent stress in family relationships“ (Friedman 72). A lot of men could not accept successful women in the business world and furthermore women had difficulties to manage both their family and a career. So women were often alienated from their families when they became to wage-earning consumers.

Additionally, in 1920 the women’s right to vote was won, but a lot of women were still economical dependent on their husbands. Nevertheless, the first step of the women’s independence was achieved. With the new possibilities to work outside the family home and the income of the money of their own, women developed to be active and independent. Hellman is of the opinion that real power “comes with having enough money to control one's life” (Adler 119). Consequently a woman, who had work outside the home but did not earn enough money to support herself, was still not free and independent.

3. The Role of women in “The little foxes”

The female characters in Hellman´s play deal in a different and oppositional way with their state in the Hubbard family. In contrast to Birdie, who passively endures her fate, Regina fights against the injustice against women. She does not accept that she did not inherit a third of her father’s fortune and does not want to give up until her aim is reached. Their contrastive behaviour regarding the state of women represents the different possibilities to either fight against or accepts the women’s treatment in society.


Excerpt out of 9 pages


The Role of Women in Lillian Hellman´s "The Little Foxes"
With regard to the role of women in society in the 20th century
University of Wuppertal
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ISBN (Book)
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role, women, lillian, hellman´s, little, foxes
Quote paper
Kira Wieler (Author), 2010, The Role of Women in Lillian Hellman´s "The Little Foxes", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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