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Charlotte Perkins Gilman

John Simkin

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman was an extremely popular writer at the end of the 19th century. However, she is now largely a forgotten literary figure. At the time she was considered to be one of the first feminist writers. Her most important story, The Yellow Wallpaper. Published in January 1892, recounts her own mental breakdown. She later claimed she wrote the story how women's lack of autonomy is detrimental to their mental, emotional and physical well being.

She was already out of fashion by the 1920s. However, she did write an impressive autobiography, The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1935). It tells the story of how her father, Frederick Perkins, abandoned the family shortly after her birth and she grew up in poverty and received very little formal education. Her mother was so upset by her husband leaving that she brought her daughter up to deal with broken relationships. In the book she argues that her mother was not affectionate and to stop them from getting hurt, insisted she did not make close friends or read novels. Charlotte added that her mother only showed affection only when she thought her young daughter was asleep.

Suffering from breast cancer, Charlotte Perkins Gilman committed suicide on 17th August, 1935. She left a note that said: "When all usefulness is over, when one is assured of unavoidable and imminent death, it is the simplest of human rights to choose a quick and easy death in place of a slow and horrible one. I have preferred chloroform to cancer."


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Women were very much treated as property for the owner to with as he wishes with the entire society geared for that. Even today, a woman who is assertive and comes up against misogynistic barriers will often end up in a mental institute.

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