Illustration by Maria Manhattan
Tennessee Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams on March 26, 1911 in Columbus, Mississippi where he lived before moving with his parents to St. Louis, Missouri in 1918. He began to write when his mother gave him a typewriter for his eleventh birthday. Williams, the second of three children, was exceedingly close to his older sister, Rose, who was mentally ill. Difficult family relationships and the portrayal of sensitive and poetic individuals’ confrontation with the brutality of modern life inspired his most successful plays. He is best known for three plays, The Glass Menagerie, 1945; A Streetcar Named Desire, 1947—Pulitzer Prize 1948; and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1955— Pulitzer Prize 1955. Williams is usually named with Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller as one of the three leading dramatists of the 20th century.