Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

St. Valentine’s House by Frances Gillespy Wickes

Howdy all and Happy Valentine’s Day!


We here at Unknown Playwrights have found a wee Valentine’s Day play from 1916 from a writer who seemed to have led a much more interesting life outside writing children’s plays. More on that later. But now, the play’s the thing.

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I can see this story has been influenced by the folklore of another commercial holiday.

This play comes from a book of children’s plays.

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The play finds elves hard at work making Valentine’s Day cards.

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BTW, a Valentine’s Day card from 1916 looked like this:

Man, them elves put in a lot of work.
You can buy this one on Etsy.
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If only managers at Cracker Barrel were this easy to please. 

What’s really cool is that the elves have a drinking working song.

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Then a lost child shows up and everyone gets into a tizzy.

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Old Man Valentine explains where “valentines” come from. Hint: not storks.

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Ahhh. Child labor! A labor of love. And when the child doesn’t understand?

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Unknown Playwrights: Second Elf, you’re a dick. I’m gonna fry you in my wok and serve you on toast.

Prblem solved.

The play was illustrated by that illustrious illustrator Marie Abrams Lawson who married the Caldecott and Newberry Award-winning Robert Lawson.

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“I bring women with giant butterfly wings on their backs and some sort of weird plant on their heads.”

Then the bad guys show up.

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The blown comb sounds scary. 
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They’re edgy. 
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I hate Sally, too. 

It turns out there’s a Sir Valentine who lives nearby and is responsible for cruel tricks on Valentine’s Day. Like that time in junior high when I got a rose from someone who didn’t put their name on the card and all the kids made fun of me and said I ordered it myself. And my name was misspelled. That’s Sir Valentine’s fault.

I don’t like this Sir Valentine chap at all.

The elves ask the child to make a Valentine’s Day card for her mom which is sweet and touching and reminds me how confused I was as a kid when I learned kids got Valentine’s Day gifts for their moms. It kinda makes sense, considering where I grew up.

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That’s kinda sweet.

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Mom’s gonna love that massive valentine!

The author, Frances Gillespy Wickes, had an interesting career that went beyond children’s plays. Here are some basics:

That almost wraps up this week’s post.

Don’t forget to check out other Unknown Playwrights, Monologue Mondays, Theatre Horror Stories or last year’s Valentine’s Day play.

If you are member of the Dramatists Guild and want to see the writer of this blog elected to the Guild Council, you can totally vote for him here.

In honor of Valentine’s Day and all the trauma it inflicts, let’s listen to a sad country song.


Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

Milk as Theatre (Rae Abraham, Estelle Silverman, Isabella H. Huggins, Victoria Heindel, Minnie H. Niemeier)

Today’s play is brought to us by the Child Health Organization of America which in 1921 published Health plays for school children as developed by teachers and pupils in public schools of Greater New York.

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It’s every bit as entertaining as the title implies.

The purpose is good, teaching children to be healthy through drama. However, it lends itself to supreme goofiness, especially considering half of the plays are pushing milk onto little kids.

They forget to mention that cows’ milk is linked to both higher rates of acne AND prostate cancer.

And about 2/3 of the planet are lactose intolerant.

In fact, there are so many of these milk plays, that today we’re doing a “milk only” special.

Unknown Playwrights: The Milk Edition

The Wizardry of Milk

Our first play, The Wizardry of Milk by Rae Abraham is a doozy.

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Today’s word of the day: Farmerette.

She obeyed The Milk Wizard.

And now something for the ladies:

Until the cows…never mind.

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This play is exceedingly basic. The Milk Wizard shows up and telles everyone to drink guess what? And like a bunch of sheeple, they agree.

In the aftermath of the massive bloodletting known as World War I, patriotism was high on milk’s virtues:

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At the end the Milk Wizard lectures the audience, because everyone loves self-righteous plays:

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Of course oat meal makes one strong. Just look at it.


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I just want to throw out there that Milk even makes cameos in the other plays. For example, in Estelle Silverman’s The Carpenters’ Union – milk shows up at the end…and the children are forced to write the word MILK with their bodies like some twisted, calcium-rich version of YMCA.

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Caption unnecessary.

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Estelle Silverman was assistant principal of PS 39 in Manhatten in the early 1920s.

Moving on…

Our Friend Milk

Isabel H. Huggins can claim the next piece, Our Friend Milk, which is slightly more entertaining than Our Friend Formaldehyde. 

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A couple of things: That girl dressed like milk is nobody’s friend.

And how often did the poor child have to break their bones until mommy “tired” of it? Like 5? 12?

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I wanna throw balls…

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Know thy enemy.

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Side effect of not drinking milk: Dreams of being chased by a bull.

So the Happy Children confront the Unhappy Children.

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Say what??? If the Happy Children are all like this dweeb, no wonder the other children are unhappy.

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All the Happy Children use peer pressure.

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Milk obtains another innocent child’s soul.

Isabella H. Huggins is listed in the 1920 NYC school teachers’ directory. She graduated from what is now Drexel University in 1900 and in 1904 was listed as a teacher of cookery in NYC. She apparently resigned in 1909.

The Magic Milk Game

Nor nearly as entertaining at The Skin Game, Victoria Heindel’s The Magic Milk Game offers the following:

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Well, your name is Fat. Just sayin’.

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Dr. Milk Bottle

Minnie H. Niemeier’s Dr. Milk Bottle is a bizarre climax to this little book of plays.

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Run, “vitamines” – RUN!!!!

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Seriously. This character looks like the offspring of Dr. Giggles and a milk bottle.



I can see it.

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Mary gets doublecast. “Pale Mary” vs. “Red-cheeked Mary.”

Pale Mary, full of grace…

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Again, milk doesn’t agree with 2/3 of humanity. But does Lillian care??? NO.

The other girls abandon her to the clutches of Dr. Milk Bottle and his goons.

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God, Protein. So judgmental.

teach her to like the thick curd of sour milk –” <<<< greatest line in Western drama since 1500.

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Hands cold; eyes lifeless…” Yeah, that’d be because she’s in mortal fear of the good doctor.

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“- a smooth, creamy sweetness -” When sugar starts talking to you, it’s time to lay off the mushrooms.

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Dr. Milk Bottle & Mr. Curd? Once Mary (through intense fear and self-prservation) pretends to like him, he becomes gentle.

BTW: “Please Dr. Milk Bottle, don’t let them cut me up and hammer nails into me.” is the NEW greatest line in Western drama since…ever?

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WTF Dr. Milk Bottle?

Only good Americans drink milk….because eugenics or something?

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Pictured: Pretty much the opposite of what Dr. Milk Bottle was talking about.

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Betcha didn’t know there’s THE LAXATIVE BROTHERS!

They force her from the stage.

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And thus ends the saga of Dr. Milk Bottle’s abuse of Mary.

The book of plays itself is available here.

As you may have noticed, one of the characters is Sugar. 

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This kinda reminded me of the song Sugar, Sugar by the Archies.

Except there’s a fun version in Indonesian you can listen to.

These lyrics have nothing to do with sugar.

She’s REALLY into a new bike her mom gave her.