Books by Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The Yellow Wallpaper & More

Charlotte Perkins Gillman

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860 – 1935) was an American novelist, poet, and pioneering feminist. An outspoken, bold woman with strong beliefs, Gilman served as a role model for future generations of feminists. Over the course of her life she wrote many pieces of fiction and non-fiction, short stories, and poetry. Here are some of the books by Charlotte Perkins Gilman that she’s best remembered for:


The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper


First published in The New England Magazine in 1892 as a 6,000 word short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is recognized as one of the important works of American feminist literature. Gilman illustrates the 19th century attitudes towards women’s physical and mental health.

Written in a first-person narrative, the story is a collection of journal entries by a woman who is slipping into a deep depression. The unnamed narrator and her husband are spending the summer at a colonial mansion where her he believes she should take time to rest and recuperate after the birth of their child. The story follows the entry’s of the woman as she grows obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her room, and as she slowly slips into madness with visions of women creeping behind the paper whom she soon imagines herself to be one.

In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman boldly explores social issues of the 19th century, exposing female oppression and the “lack of life” outside of the traditional homemaking roles. More about “The Yellow Wallpaper on this site:


Women and Economics

Women and Economics


Recognized as Gilman’s most influential work of nonfiction, Women and Economics (1898) skillfully follows the bold themes she favored. She examines marriage, the home, and social inequality, emphasizing her continued argument of “the economic independence and specialization of women as essential to the improvement of marriage, motherhood, domestic industry, and racial improvement.”

Gilman introduces the concept of women hiring cooks and housekeepers, one of the first public works to suggest professionalizing the “normal” duties of women. Gilman’s encouragement for women to enter the workforce and lead a more worldly life developed her image as “the leading intellectual in the women’s movement.”

Read an excerpt from Women and Economics.


HerlandHerland


Herland is the story of an isolated utopian society composed entirely of asexual women. In 1915 the stories first appeared published in serial form in The Forerunner, a magazine edited and published by Gilman herself.

The book explores the social construct of gender roles and how it is viewed as unchangeable by both genders. The story is told from the perspective of three male sociology students who are embarking on a journey to find a rumored mysterious society populated only by women. The men find themselves held captive by the women, but are treated well and assigned tutors to assist them in learning their language.

Gilman intellectually explores and promotes her beliefs on motherhood, gender roles, individuality and reproductive rights. Her words through Herland have stood the test of time, her themes highly popular through the feminist generations.

For more, see Herland: an anlysis


What Diantha DidWhat Diantha Did


Published serially in Gilman’s magazine, The Forerunner, in 1909, What Diantha Did  is a novel about Diantha Bell, a young woman who leaves her home and her fiancé to start a housecleaning business. Following the author’s consistent theme of women’s independence and empowerment, the protagonist’s business quickly booms and expands successfully.

The businesswoman soon develops branch businesses that include a maid service, food delivery service and a hotel. Ever the visionary, Gilman once again skillfully writes to the masses of her desire to release women’s dependency and uplift their social positions.


The Man-Made World

The Man-Made World


Another example of Gilman’s revolutionary works to support feminism, The Man-Made World (originally subtitled Or, Our Androcentric Culture) appeared as a serial in her magazine in 1911. As she did with Herland and What Diantha Did, Gilman analyzes the negative effects of a male dominated world.


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