Charlotte Perkins Gilman
By nava | On July 13, 2012 | Comments (2)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (July 3, 1860 – August 17, 1935) was an American author of fiction and nonfiction, praised for her feminist works that pushed for equal treatment of women and for breaking out of stereotypical roles as homemakers.
Her first marriage was to a man who kept her at home and wouldn’t allow her to do any activities to further herself, which only led to her already depressed state to worsen. This experience was the basis for her semi-autobiographical novella (or long short story) The Yellow Wallpaper, arguably her best known work.
After separating from her husband, she created a life of worth for herself by working with social groups, publishing short stories in magazines, as well as pithy tracts like Women and Economics.
Gilman will always be remembered for her visionary feminist writings, lectures, and passion for social justice and women’s rights. In 1994 she was welcomed into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and named one of the most influential women of the twentieth century.
You might also like: CPG on feminist ideals
A prominent career, beyond just books
Not only was Gilman a novelist, short story, and poetry writer, but she was a sociologist, activist, and singlehandedly created and edited a journal, The Forerunner, which was published from 1909 to 1916.
In 1903 she wrote one of her most critically acclaimed books, The Home: Its Work and Influence, which expanded on the themes in Women and Economics. Gilman was steady in her beliefs that women led oppressed lives, dependent and sheltered by men. She pushed for women to rise up in the workforce and to expand their lives beyond homemaking and childbearing.
Battle with postpartum depression
In 1884 Gilman married Charles Stetson, and within their first year gave birth to their daughter Katharine. Already suffering from depression, her symptoms spiraled downward. Diary entries detailed her hardship and struggles. “The Yellow Wallpaper” was inspired by her bouts of melancholia during this time.
In 1900, Gilman married her second husband, George Gilman, who was a cousin. He died in 1934, and the following year, soon after she discovered she had inoperable breast cancer, she committed suicide.
Gilman left behind a suicide note. It was published verbatim in the newspapers. It read, “When all usefulness is over, when one is assured of unavoidable and imminent death, it is the simplest of human rights to choose a quick and easy death in place of a slow and horrible one.”
Her legacy continues through her powerful literature. Her works are bold and progressive, and relatable to future generations of feminists.
More about Charlotte Perkins Gilman on this site
- 8 Feminist Quotes
- On Feminist Ideals
- Gilman’s 1911 Version of “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman Quotes
- “Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper” (1913)
- Women and Economics (1898) — an excerpt
- The Giant Wistaria — an analysis
Full texts on this site
- The Yellow Wallpaper
- Herland (an analysis)
- Women and Economics
- What Diantha Did
- The Man-Made World; Or, Our Androcentric Culture
Autobiographies and Biographies
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman Society
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman Website
- Essays by C.P. Gilman
- Reader discussion of Gilman’s books on Goodreads
- Gilman’s books on audio on Librivox.org
Articles, News, Etc.
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