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Neith Boyce

NEITH BOYCE (1872 – 1951)

Her 1915 play, Constancy, is considered to be first of its kind and helped launch Modern American Theatre. Relying on a realistic approach to dialogue, Boyce and her cronies penned thinly-veiled-tales about each other changing only the names to protect the guilty. In this particular case, it was Boyce's retelling of what she had witnessed between Mabel Dodge and Jack Reed while overseas.

Neith Boyce was born into the publishing world as the daughter of the co-founder of the Los Angeles Times, where her first written articles would appear. Work with her mother as a book editor in Boston would lure her to the East Coast.

When Lincoln Steffens and friends took the reigns at America’s oldest newspaper, the New York daily, Commercial Advertiser, Neith was among a handful of new staff of writers hell-bent on ushering in the dawn of journalism. She began as a roving reporter focused on human interest stories before settling in as a desk copy editor. Among the new hires were Harvard grads and the sons of a prominent Chicago family, the brothers, Norman and Hutchins Hapgood.

Hutchins Hapgood prided himself on his anarchist views and as an urban ethnologist; obsessing with stories ripe with thieves, prostitutes and other colorful characters that were woven into the fabric of the turn-of-the-century New York landscape. Boyce’s edits would be the last pen to touch his work before going to print on the newspapers pages. Between Hapgood’s charm and Boyce’s good looks they were a match made in heaven. However, in this land of new openness, one person’s heaven could be another person’s hell.

Despite all this talk about free love and women’s rights and the advent of birth control, they were all a bunch of glorified swingers; not in the orgiastic sense of the word but rather as professionals in the sport of coveting each other’s significant others. It was a who’s who of who slept with who and as modern and open-minded it was rationalized to be, there was much carnage; jealousy and broken hearts were littered about. These stories would soon manifest in the form of plays.

By the first decade of the new century, the new husband-wife team had each produced an impressive run of successful novels.

The Forerunner (1903)

Eternal Spring (1906)

The Bond (1908)

July 29, 1914, found Mabel Dodge and Neith Boyce with their children in tow arriving at Dodge’s Villa where Mabel was set to connect up with Jack Reed who was on European assignment at the time. The very beginning of World War I was breaking out and things were getting weird fast. Carl Van Vechten was summoned to Florence from Paris to serve as the women and children’s protectorate and secure safe passage home. They were Americans making their way home. There would soon be a major wave of European born artists to follow.

As the summer of 1915 approached, Provincetown was the viable, safe alternative to Europe and talk swirled around Greenwich Village about the Cape Cod sanctuary. Hapgood and Boyce set up camp in the 600 block of Commercial Street.

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