|Born:||July 3, 1860 |
|Died:||August 17, 1935 |
|Occupation(s):||Short story and non-fiction writer, novelist, commercial artist, lecturer and social reformer.|
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (July 3, 1860 – August 17, 1935) was a prominent American non-fiction writer, short story writer, novelist, commercial artist, lecturer, and social reformer. She is mainly known today for her short story "The Yellow Wallpaper", based on her own bout with mental illness and misguided medical treatment.
Gilman was born Charlotte Anna Perkins in Hartford, Connecticut, the daughter of Mary Perkins (formerly Mary Fitch Westcott) and Frederic Beecher Perkins, a well-known librarian and magazine editor, and nephew of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Her father was rarely home, leaving his wife and daughter with his progressive aunts Harriet Beecher Stowe, Catharine Beecher, and Isabella Beecher Hooker.
After studying for two years at the Rhode Island School of Design, Gilman supported herself as a greeting-card artist. She married Charles Walter Stetson, a fellow artist, in 1884, and her only child, Katharine Beecher Stetson, was born the same year. During this time—and throughout her life—she suffered from depression, which influenced her writing.
She separated from her husband in 1888 (and divorced him six years later), and moved with her daughter to California, where she was active in organizing for social reform movements; she lectured across the country and in the United Kingdom. Her daughter subsequently went to live with her ex-husband and his second wife, Ellery Channing, who was also her best friend.
For a time she lived intimately with Adeline Knapp, a San Francisco newspaper reporter who shared her interests in social reform and the Nationalist Club, based on Edward Bellamy's utopian vision.
Her second marriage—from 1900 to his death in 1934—was to her first cousin, New York lawyer George Houghton Gilman; in her letters to him, she worried that her correspondence with Knapp would be published and cause a scandal.
In 1922, Gilman moved from New York to Norwich, Connecticut, where she wrote His Religion and Hers. Ten years later, having moved back to Pasadena—following the death of her husband, and in order to be closer to her daughter—she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer was inoperable, and she committed suicide on August 17, 1935, by inhaling chloroform.
Gilman's first book, In This Our World, was published in 1893. In 1898 she published the better-known Women and Economics. Her best-known literary work, however, was "The Yellow Wallpaper" (1890).
From the early 1890s, Gilman gained fame from her lectures and articles, many of which were published in her monthly journal, the Forerunner, in circulation from 1909 to 1916. In 1915 she serialized her novel Herland in The Forerunner.
By the end of her life she had published an impressive amount of text: 8 novels, 170 stories, 100 poems, and 200 non-fiction pieces.
Although Perkins Gilman had gained international fame with the publication of Women And Economics in 1898, by the end of World War I she seemed out of tune with her times. In her autobiography she even admitted, "unfortunately my views on the sex question do not appeal to the Freudian complex of today, nor are people satisfied with a presentation of religion as a help in our tremendous work of improving this world."
"The child learns more of the virtues needed in modern life -- of fairness, of justice, of comradeship, of collective interest and action-in a common school than can be taught in the most perfect family circle."