The play is loosely based on the murder of John Hossack, which Glaspell reported on while working as a news journalist for the Des Moines Daily News. Hossack's wife, Margaret, was accused of killing her husband. However, Margaret argued that an intruder had killed John with an axe. She was convicted but it was overturned on appeal.
"...years later ... the haunting image of Margaret Hossack's kitchen came rushing back to Glaspell. In a span of ten days, Glaspell composed a one-act play, Trifles ... A year later, Glaspell reworked the material into a short story titled "A Jury of Her Peers."