Woman Making History #62: Charlotte Perkins Gilman


cpgilman.gifWriter and early feminist theorist Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born in Connecticut in 1860. Harriet Bleacher Stowe was her great-aunt. Gilman's father abandoned the family in 1866, and she grew up in poverty.

Gilman was a voracious reader as a child studied hard. She went to the Rhode Island School of Design for two years, then began to earn a living designing greeting cards. She married an aspiring artist in 1884, then had a daughter. After her daughter's birth, Gilman, who had always tended towards depression, began to have serious problems with it, which were compounded by the medical advice she received, which was to "live as domestic a life as possible" and not give in to the temptations of writing or art. Gilman's most famous short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper," was inspired by her post-natal depression and the ridiculous medical treatment she received.

In 1888, Gilman separated from her husband (they later divorced) and moved to California. She then married again, and became the editor of a literary publication, The Impress. At this time, Gilman began experimentally publishing her own short stories, and in 1893, she published her first book, In This World, satirical feminist poetry.

For the next twenty years, Gilman lectured on feminist ethics, and human rights issues and wrote and published fiction. She also wrote and published her own feminist paper, The Forerunner, from 1909 through 1916. Many of Gilman's novels, including the feminist utopian Harland, were first published serially in her paper.

Gilman did not limit her writing to fiction. She also wrote about women and the economy in Women and Economics (1898) and the need for professional child-care in Concerning Children (1900). She took on religious freedom in 1922 with His Religion and Hers, and wrote a posthumously published autobiography, The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1935).

In 1932, Gilman was diagnosed with inoperable breast cancer. In 1934, her husband died unexpectedly of a cerebral hemorrhage. Gilman, an advocate of euthanasia and the right to die, took an overdose of chloroform and died in 1935. Over the course of her lifetime, Gilman published an amazing 8 novels, 170 stories, 100 poems, and 200 non-fiction pieces.

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Hi. I love your blog btw! But. I have a request. Im writing a research paper on Classical Theory and I want to quote your write-up on Gilman is that ok?

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