1935 December 18

“The Children’s Hour” Denounced as “Abhorrent” and “Revolting” by Mayor of Boston


The celebrated play The Children’s Hour, by Lillian Hellman, was denounced as “abhorrent” and “revolting” by Boston Mayor F. W. Mansfield on this day. The play has a lesbian theme, in which a young girl runs away from a boarding school and, to avoid being returned, tells her grandmother that the two headmistresses of the school are having a love affair. The accusation ruins the women’s careers and their relationship.

A 1936 film version of the play, under the title These Three, was considerably sanitized of its lesbian themes because of censorship by the Hollywood Production Code (June 13, 1934). By 1961, when the film was remade under its original title, the Production Code had lost much of its power and the version was closer to the original play.

Playwright Lillian Hellman is famous for her denunciation of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) on May 21, 1952, when she declared, “I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions . . . .” Hellman ran afoul of HUAC because of her left-wing political beliefs and associations, and also because of her long relationship with the famous novelist Dashiell Hammett, (author of The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man), who was also involved in left-wing political activities.

Learn more about Hellman: William Wright, Lillian Hellman: The Image, The Woman (1986)

Read the play: Lillian Hellman, The Children’s Hour (1934)

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