Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

See also: Books by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman on literarture

8 Feminist Quotes by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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2 Responses to “Charlotte Perkins Gilman”

  1. The Yellow Wallpaper was a harrowing story, very haunting. Leaving your husband in her day was very risky — good for her for having the courage to go. I assume she had no children by her first husband? That would make leaving a lot easier (though not easy!)

    • I love CPG and wish she was better known today. She was brilliant and so far ahead of her time. I’m reading Herland, and loving it. She did have a daughter with the first husband and gave up custody to him and his new wife. As you can imagine, she was slammed for doing that. But if I’m correct, she and her daughter had a good relationship later on. Thanks for the comment, Susan!

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