Check out this post by Becca Anderson the author of “The Book of Awesome Women”
Niece of Catherine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charlotte Perkins Gilman also felt, in her own words, “the Beecher urge to social service, the Beecher wit and gift of words.” Born in 1860, Charlotte attended the Rhode Island School of Design and worked after graduation as a commercial artist.
Exposed to the “domestic feminism” of the Beechers, the extremely sensitive and imaginative young woman had resolved to avoid her mother’s fate of penniless desertion by her father and assiduously avoided marriage. But after two years of relentless wooing by artist Charles W. Stetson, Charlotte reluctantly agreed to marry. After she bore her daughter Katherine, she had the nervous breakdown that inspired her famous short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” and subsequent nonfiction accounts of her struggle with manic- depressive episodes. She wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper” for humanistic reasons: “It was not intended to drive people crazy,” she said, “but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked.” Attributing her emotional problems in part to women’s status in marriage, she divorced her husband and moved to California with her daughter; later, when Walter remarried, she sent Katherine to live with her father and stepmother, a move that was considered incredibly scandalous.
Although she suffered weakness and “extreme distress, shame, discouragement, and misery” her whole life, Charlotte’s accomplishments are more than those of most healthy folks. A social reformer who wrote in order to push for equality for women, she lectured, founded the Women’s Peace Party with Jane Addams in World War I, and wrote her best-known book, Women and Economics, in only seventeen days. At one point, she undertook a well-publicized debate in the New York Times with Anna Howard Shaw, defending her contention that women are not “rewarded in proportion to their work” as “unpaid servant(s), merely a comfort and a luxury agreeable to have if a man can afford it.” Gilman was unbelievably forward-thinking for her time, even going so far as to devise architectural plans for houses without kitchens to end women’s slavery to the stove so that they could take up professional occupations.
She wrote five more books pushing for economic change for women, a critically acclaimed autobiography, three utopian novels, and countless articles, stories, and poetry before her death by suicide after a long struggle with cancer in 1935.
With the passing of time, Charlotte Perkins Gilman is usually remembered only for “The Yellow Wallpaper” and for her feminist utopian novel Herland, in which three American men enter Herland, an all-female society that reproduces through parthenogenesis, the development of an unfertilized egg.
I knew it was normal and right in general, and held that a woman should be able to have marriage and motherhood, and do her work in the world, also.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Medieval Mystics, Pioneering Poets, Fierce Feminists and First Ladies of Literature (Feminist Book, Gift for Women, Gift for Writers)
This one-of-a-kind tome takes a tour with Sylvia Beach and other booksellers as well as librarians, editors, writers, bibliophiles, and celebrated book clubs. Join women’s studies scholar Anders as she takes you on a ribald ride through the pages of history. Chapter titles include “Prolific Pens” (including Joyce Carol Oates, author of over 100 books), “Mystics, Memoirists and Madwomen”, “Salons and Neosalons”, “Ink in Their Veins” (literary dynasties), and the titillating “Banned, Blacklisted, and Arrested.”