Course:SOCI1110/Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Who is Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A Quick Overview
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is mostly known for her work as an author and poet in the late 1800's, writing poems, as well publishing 186 short stories in magazines and newspapers. She was an exceptional woman who pushed the boundaries and expectations of a women's role in society at that time. A leading activist in the realm of feminism, Gilman progressed into many other forms of social advocacy, the most notable being the feminist movement.
|ALSO LISTED IN||Sociologists|
|BORN ON||03 July 1860 AD|
|DIED AT AGE||75|
|BORN IN||Hartford, Connecticut|
|DIED ON||17 August 1935 AD|
|FATHER||Frederic Beecher Perkins|
|SPOUSE/PARTNER||Charles Walter Stetson 1884 - 1888 (legally 1894),
Houghton Gilman 1900 - 1934
|CHILDREN||Katharine Beecher Stetson|
Gilman was born on July 3, 1860 in Hartford, Connecticut . During Charlotte's infancy, her father abandoned the family, leaving them in poverty, as her mother was unable to support the family on her own. Most of her youth was spent in Providence, Rhode Island. she attended seven different schools, in just four years. Charlotte’s teachers were often disappointed in her because she was a poor student, though she had natural intelligence and breadth of knowledge. She unknowingly prepared herself for a successful life by frequently visiting the public library and educating herself. As she was unashamed to call herself a tomboy the majority of her friends were male (which was unorthodox for the time). In 1878, at 18 years old she enrolled in classes at the Rhode Island School of Design with the help of her absent father, and supported herself as an artist of trade cards. She was also a tutor, and encouraged others to expand their artistic creativity.
After declining many proposals for her own personal interests, Charlotte Gilman finally wed Charles Walter Stetson, in 1884. In 1885 they bore their only child, Katherine Beecher Stetson. Upon the birth of her daughter, Gilman's mental state started to deteriorate into post-partum depression. At the time it wasn't an unusual illness for women to suffer from; moreover, as women were considered frantic and overemotional, symptoms were passed off as being due to the sex. That being said however, Charlotte Gilman felt very strongly that the only way for her to be well, was to break away from her marriage with Charles. This came after being assigned to bed rest to cure her suffering. The couple endured a separation for many years before the divorce was final, and in this time Gilman saw her health and mentality improving. Katherine lived with her mother during these years until her father remarried and Gilman sent her to live with her father. Charles Stetson's new wife, as it so happened, was a close friend of Charlotte. Gilman admitted that there could be no better replacement for a mother figure than Katherine's recent stepmother. Although her father was hardly present throughout her life, Gilman wanted Katherine to grow up knowing her father, unlike she had. During the time she spent away from her role as a wife and mother, she began joining various reformist groups and movements. In 1900, Gilman had married for the second time. She wed her cousin George Gilman, and the two stayed together until his death in 1934. After discovering that she had inoperable breast cancer, Charlotte Perkins Gilman committed suicide on August 17, 1935. It was her belief that people had a right to end their suffering, and she expressed her opinions of it in both her writings, and the note she left upon her death. Chloroform (which was used as an anesthesia then) was the method she "chose [...] over cancer." Her death was swift.
While she is best known for her fiction, Gilman was also a successful lecturer and intellectual. One of her greatest works of nonfiction, Women and Economics, was published in 1898. It was even used as a textbook at one time. The main themes of her writings were generally focused on the lack of social development of women in society. Other important nonfiction works followed, such as The Home: Its Work and Influence (1903) and Does a Man Support His Wife? (1915).
Along with writing books, Charlotte Perkins Gilman established The Forerunner, a magazine that allowed her to express her ideas on women's issues and on social reform. It was published from 1909 to 1916 and included essays, opinion pieces, fiction, poetry and excerpts from novels. Gilman's most famous piece is her short story "The Yellow Wallpaper", which became a best-seller of the Feminist Press.
Her Major Works
1888: Gilman's first book was Art Gems for the Home and Fireside.
1892: The Yellow Wallpaper, a 6,000 word short-story, semi-autobiographical account is regarded one of her greatest literary masterpieces. It was published by ‘The New England Magazine’, which went on to become one of her most influential works illustrating the 19th century attitudes towards women. The work became so popular that it has a number of adaptations in the form of paintings, audio plays, films such as ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, music and even television shows.
1893: In This Our World, is a collection of satirical poems, that first brought her recognition.
1894–95: Gilman served as editor of the magazine The Impress, a literary weekly that was published by the Pacific Coast Women's Press Association (formerly the Bulletin).
1898: The first draft of Women and Economics. The book was published in the following year. 1903: She wrote one of her most critically acclaimed books, The Home: Its Work and Influence, which expanded upon Women and Economics.
1909-1916: Gilman began writing, The Forerunner, a magazine written and edited by Gilman herself. This was the medium for most of her later pieces and works of fiction. Her hope was to "stimulate thought" and give a platform to voice her ideas and opinions on various matters of her time, i.e. Suffragist Movement, independence, and equality among classes.
Features in The Forerunner:
1910: What Diantha Did, a collection of writings that became a series. 1911: The Crux, Moving The Mountain and Herland.
The magazine was reputed to be one of the greatest achievements of her career.
Later she submitted her articles to numerous other newspapers and magazines such as Louisville Herald, The Baltimore Sun, and the Buffalo Evening News.
1925: Gilman commenced writing her autobiography, The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. 1935: Gilman's autobiography is published shortly after her death.
Major Points and Conclusions
Gilman lived in a time where the common role of women was subordination to men, and where their isolation from the social world was prominent. Depression, psychological stress, and mania was common in women, but often dismissed, as it was considered usual in that day. As a wife to Charles Walter Stetson from 1884 to 1888 (legally divorcing in 1894), Gilman suffered from depression and did not fit well into the conventional position of a housewife. A brief insight into this period of her life can be found in her story, "The Yellow Wallpaper." Her point in writing this book was not only to show her own personal struggle, but the struggle of women in low social solidarity positions in society. Being confined to their homes, instead of socializing would cause the symptoms listed above. The various experiences that Gilman lived with growing up, became some of the main points in her work as an author, lecturer and social reformist. For instance, growing up mostly in the presence of her great aunts (who were suffragists and abolitionists), Gilman would come to know of the cultural and gender hegemony that surrounded her. Not only were the view's of the higher classes universal, but more specifically those of men. Being a compelling feminist, her focus had a large part in gender stratification; the disproportionate division of what is known as the three Ps: power, prestige and property. This goes hand in hand with her ideology that women also need these conditions, much like men, to remain mentally sound. This once again, is evident in her story titled, "The Yellow Wallpaper". Housework simply is not productive work. She advocated for professionalization of traditional female jobs such as cooking and childcare, thus calling for economic independence for women. Her perspectives were heavily rooted in both conflict theory and feminist theory ideals.
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