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The Yellow Wallpaper Study Guide

by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


Charlotte Perkins Gilman Biography

writter Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Charlotte Perkins Gilman was an American feminist writer, lecturer, and social reformer, born on July 3, 1860, in Hartford, Connecticut. Her father, Frederick Beecher Perkins, was a librarian and writer, and her mother, Mary Fitch Westcott, was a homemaker. Perkins was related to Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, through her father's family. Perkins grew up in a household that valued education, and she was encouraged to pursue her intellectual interests. However, she suffered from depression and was prescribed the "rest cure," which involved complete bed rest and isolation. This experience inspired her most famous work, "The Yellow Wallpaper," which was published in 1892.

Throughout her life, Perkins was a passionate advocate for women's rights. She believed that women should have access to education and the right to work outside the home. In 1884, she married Charles Walter Stetson, a New York City artist, and the couple had a daughter named Katherine.

Perkins' marriage was difficult, and she suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter. She eventually separated from Stetson and moved to California with her daughter. In 1894, she married George Houghton Gilman, a fellow writer, and lecturer.

Perkins' literary career began in the 1880s, and she wrote articles and stories for various publications, including The New England Magazine and The Woman's Journal. In 1898, she published her most famous book, Women and Economics: A Study of the Economic Relation Between Men and Women as a Factor in Social Evolution. In this book, Perkins argued that women's economic dependence on men was a barrier to their equality and that women should be given equal access to education and employment.

Perkins was a prolific writer, and she continued to publish essays, articles, and books throughout her life. She also lectured extensively on women's issues and social reform. In 1900, she founded The Forerunner, a monthly feminist magazine that she edited and wrote for until 1916.

Perkins' beliefs and activism put her at odds with many of her contemporaries, both male and female. She was critical of the women's suffrage movement, which she felt focused too narrowly on the right to vote, rather than on broader issues of social and economic justice. She also disagreed with many of the leading male writers and intellectuals of her day, including H.G. Wells and Jack London.

Perkins' personal life was marked by tragedy. Her daughter Katherine committed suicide in 1934, and Perkins herself was diagnosed with incurable breast cancer in 1932. She took her own life on August 17, 1935, at the age of 75.

Perkins' legacy as a writer and feminist is significant. Her work helped to shape the emerging feminist movement of the early 20th century, and her ideas about women's economic independence and social equality remain relevant today. Her most famous work, "The Yellow Wallpaper," is considered a seminal feminist text and has been widely analyzed and celebrated for its portrayal of a woman's descent into madness.

In conclusion, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a pioneering feminist writer and social reformer who devoted her life to the advancement of women's rights and social justice. Her work continues to inspire and inform feminist thought and activism, and her legacy as a writer and advocate for women's equality is an important part of American literary and cultural history.

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