Sex For Sale: Six Progressive-era Brothel Dramas by Katie N. JohnsonSex For Sale: Six Progressive-era Brothel Dramas by Katie N. Johnson

Sex For Sale: Six Progressive-era Brothel Dramas

byKatie N. Johnson

Paperback | May 15, 2015

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In early twentieth-century U.S. culture, sex sold.  While known mainly for its social reforms, the Progressive Era was also obsessed with prostitution, sexuality, and the staging of women’s changing roles in the modern era. By the 1910s, plays about prostitution (or “brothel dramas”) had inundated Broadway, where they sometimes became long-running hits and other times sparked fiery obscenity debates. In Sex for Sale, Katie N. Johnson recovers six of these plays, presenting them with astute cultural analysis, photographs, and production histories. The result is a new history of U.S. theatre that reveals the brothel drama’s crucial role in shaping attitudes toward sexuality, birth control, immigration, urbanization, and women’s work.

The volume includes the work of major figures including Eugene O’Neill, John Reed, Rachel Crothers, and Elizabeth Robins. Now largely forgotten and some previously unpublished, these plays were among the most celebrated and debated productions of their day.  Together, their portrayals of commercialized vice, drug addiction, poverty, white slavery, and interracial desire reveal the Progressive Era’s fascination with the underworld and the theatre’s power to regulate sexuality.  Additional plays, commentary, and teaching materials are available at
Plays included:
Ourselves (1913) by Rachel Crothers
The Web (1913) by Eugene O’Neill
My Little Sister (1913) by Elizabeth Robins
Moondown (1915) by John Reed
Cocaine (1916) by Pendleton King
A Shanghai Cinderella (renamed East is West, 1918) by Samuel Shipman and John B. Hymer
Katie N. Johnson is Associate Professor of English and an Affiliate of Film and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Miami University of Ohio. She is the author of Sisters in Sin: Brothel Drama in America (2006) and numerous articles and book chapters on theatre, performance, film, and U.S. culture. 
Title:Sex For Sale: Six Progressive-era Brothel DramasFormat:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 9.25 × 6.25 × 1.3 inPublished:May 15, 2015Publisher:University Of Iowa PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1609383133

ISBN - 13:9781609383138

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Editorial Reviews

“In this pathbreaking collection, Katie Johnson brings together six long-overlooked Progressive-Era plays about prostitution, spanning experimental theater and Broadway. Thanks to Johnson’s rich connections between these dramas and race, sexuality, and immigration, these plays show the breadth and depth of the theater’s often contradictory commentary on one of the most pressing political issues of the turn of the twentieth century.”—Alison Kibler, author, Rank Ladies: Gender and Cultural Hierarchy in American Vaudeville