Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) was a prominent American sociologist, novelist, writer of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction, and a lecturer for social reform. Her father abandoned the family when she was a child, and she received just four years of formal education. At an early age, she vowed never to marry, hoping instead to devote her life to public service. In 1882, however, at the age of 21, she was introduced to Charles Walter Stetson, an artist, and the two were married in 1884. Charlotte Stetson became pregnant almost immediately after their marriage, gave birth to a daughter, and sunk into a deep depression that lasted for several years. She eventually entered a sanitarium in Philadelphia to undergo the “rest cure,” a controversial treatment for nervous prostration given by Silas Weir Mitchell, which forbade any type of physical activity or intellectual stimulation. After four weeks, she returned to her husband and child and subsequently suffered a nervous breakdown. In 1888, she left Stetson and moved with her daughter to California, where her recovery was swift. In the early 1890s, she began writing and lecturing, and in 1892, she published her most famous story today, “The Yellow Wallpaper.” A volume of poems followed a year later. In 1898, she published her most famous book, Women and Economics. With its publication, and its subsequent translation into seven languages, Gilman earned international acclaim. In 1900, she married her first cousin, Houghton Gilman. Over the next 25 years, she wrote and published dozens of stories, essays, studies, novels, poems, and plays. Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a utopian feminist during a time when her accomplishments were exceptional for women, and she served as a role model for future generations of feminists because of her unorthodox concepts and lifestyle. In 1932, she learned that she had breast cancer. Three years later, at the age of 75, she committed suicide.