Charlotte Perkins Gilman on Feminist Ideals

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860 – 1935) was a woman ahead of her time. From these brief quotes on her feminist ideals, we can see that on the whole, women have not progressed nearly as much as we’d like to think.

As an unconventional mother and as a divorced wife, Charlotte experienced a great deal of bias. She began to think about the social forces that oppressed women — even relatively privileged women.

Shedding a light on the economic and social discrimination that forced women into second-class citizenship was the mission of her 1898 book, Women and Economics: A Study of the Economic Relation Between Men and Women as a Factor in Social Revolution. This hugely successful book, which was reprinted many times and translated into seven languages, is still, alas, relevant today.

This classic treatise explored the roles of women in American society, particularly on the impacts of marriage and motherhood. Charlotte argued that motherhood wasn’t exclusive to working outside the home, that domestic tasks ought to be professionalized, and most of all, that women shouldn’t have to be financially dependent on men. It’s now considered a classic treatise from the first-wave feminist movement.

Here are some thoughts by Charlotte Perkins Gilman on feminist ideals from a profile of her published in the Atlanta Constitution, December 10, 1916:


“Feminism, really, is the social awakening of the women of all the world. Women are going through, in a century or so, swiftly, and in large measure voluntarily, the same steps of social progress which men have been struggling through in hundreds of thousands of years.”


“We have to thank men for all the loving kindness, the wise helpfulness, the justice and generosity which have been given to women; and we have to blame men for a long black record of rank injustice, cruelty, and the most violent and unfair opposition to every step of woman’s upward progress.”


“A woman who holds the wholly ignorant, helpless, and subordinate position so common a century ago, is now the conspicuous one.”


Charlotte Perkins Gilman

You might also like: 8 Feminist Quotes by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


“The female is the race-type — not the male. The male is the sex-type, especially, and then human — as far as his masculinity allows. His being a male hinders his being human more than her being a female does. A more feminine world means a better world, cleaner, safer, healthier, better taught.”


“The essential duty of the female a such is to exercise careful selection in choosing a father for her children. This requires freedom, and knowledge. Women will always love men. They always have, even with the kind of men the past has given them, even with the kind of treatment they have had to bear. With that in mind need we double that they will love the wiser, nobler mean who are coming?”


“People who are happily mated do not talk, write, or sing about it all the time. Feminism, step by step, makes possible closer union, deeper attachment between men and women, because it develops in the women the broader human characteristics; it means comradeship, friendship, a larger love.”


Charlotte Perkins Gilman

See also: Books by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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