Who is Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A Quick Overview
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. She felt very strongly that the only way for her to be well, was to break away from her marriage with Charles. The couple endured a separation for many years before the divorce was final, and in this time Gilman saw her health and mentality improving. Little 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 was a close friend of Charlotte and was noted by Gilman to be a perfect replacement for a mother figure. 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
Gilman's first book was Art Gems for the Home and Fireside (1888).
The Yellow Wallpaper, a 6,000 word short-story, semi-autobiographical account is regarded one of her greatest literary masterpieces. It was published in 1892 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.
In This Our World (1893), a collection of satirical poems, that first brought her recognition.
In 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).
The first draft of Women and Economics (1898). The book was published in the following year.
In 1903 she wrote one of her most critically acclaimed books, The Home: Its Work and Influence, which expanded upon Women and Economics.
Over seven years and two months the magazine produced eighty-six issues, each twenty eight pages long. The magazine had nearly 1,500 subscribers and featured such serialized works as What Diantha Did (1910), The Crux (1911), Moving the Mountain (1911), and Herland. The Forerunner has been cited as being "perhaps the greatest literary accomplishment of her long career". After its seven years, she wrote hundreds of articles which were submitted to the Louisville Herald, The Baltimore Sun, and the Buffalo Evening News. Her autobiography, The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which she began to write in 1925, appeared posthumously in 1935.
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 not unexpected in women and was often dismissed as it was 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 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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