Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was the leading intellectual in the women’s movement during the first twenty years of the twentieth century. Born Charlotte Anna Perkins, she was the daughter of Frederick Beecher Perkins and Mary Fitch Wescott Perkins. In 1866 Frederick Perkins left his wife and three children. Gilman looked to her mother and her aunt, Harriet Beecher Stowe, for role models and learned early that a woman alone could lead a satisfying and useful life.
Gilman taught herself to read before she was five, and in adolescence she amused herself by writing extravagant tales of heroic fairy princesses, until her mother ordered her to stop. In her later life as a writer, she was continually to distrust her imaginative side, although she occasionally gave it free rein. With only four years of formal schooling, Gilman was determined to educate herself, and she continued to read voraciously throughout her life. When she was seventeen she wrote to her father, who was working as a librarian, and asked him to recommend books for her.
As she matured, Gilman came to feel keenly the injustices women suffered in the world. In her early twenties she earned a modest income giving private lessons and working as a commercial artist, but she aspired to a career as a writer. She wrote poetry, exercised her body to make it strong and fit, refused...
(The entire section is 989 words.)
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Charlotte Anna Perkins Gilman was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on July 3, 1860. Her father was Frederick Beecher Perkins, and her mother was Mary Fitch Westcott. The Beechers, including her early role model, Harriet Beecher Stowe, influenced her social convictions. Gilman married Charles Walter Stetson, a young artist, in 1884. Within the year, their daughter Katharine was born. Thereafter, Gilman suffered bouts of depression stemming from her desire to work as artist, writer, and advocate of women’s rights and the conflict between this desire and her more traditional role as wife and mother.
In 1886, Gilman had a breakdown and was treated for hysteria by neurologist S. Weir Mitchell, who prescribed total rest and abstinence from work. Despite the treatment, Gilman grew worse and feared for her sanity. She decided to take matters into her own hands, separated from Stetson, and moved to California, where she began to publish and lecture on the economic and domestic dependence of women.
During the 1890’s, Gilman published the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” based on her breakdown and rest treatment. During that time, she also published her first book of poetry, In This Our World, and a major volume of social criticism, Women and Economics. In 1900, Gilman married George Houghton Gilman. She continued to publish social criticism and fiction throughout the next decades. From 1909 to 1916, she single-handedly wrote...
(The entire section is 245 words.)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s childhood experiences prepared her for a life of solitude and discipline, which is often essential to the life of an author. Abandoned by her husband, Charlotte’s mother decided to prepare her daughter for hardships by denying affection. Not only did she withhold from Gilman natural physical contact, but she also saw to it that Gilman had no intimate friends. Gilman turned to books for solace. When she was seventeen, her father sent her nonfiction books that prompted her to see her life’s work as a mission to help society.
From her teenage years, she seemed destined to pursue the arts in one form or another. She attended the Rhode Island School of Design and gave drawing lessons to children. Her formal education took place during eight years in seven different schools; at age fifteen, her formal education was finished. For the remainder of her life she was self-taught.
Gilman had social awareness, and she soon realized the role of women in her time was changing. They were becoming more educated and some were working outside the home. By the age of twenty-one she was eager to go out alone, much to her mother’s displeasure. In 1882, she met Charles Walter Stetson, who was also a painter, and in 1884 they were married. A daughter was born to them in 1885, but serious bouts of depression followed the...
(The entire section is 453 words.)
Biography (Women's Issues (Ready Reference series))
A humanistic social Darwinian and communitarian, Charlotte Perkins Gilman believed that modern society needed to revise its foundations completely before full self-realization and freedom could come for both women and men. Gilman condemned capitalist society for its uncaring creation of a hopeless lower class, kept in ignorance by social and theological “rules.” (Unfortunately, much of Gilman’s work reflects a degree of racism and anti-Semitism.)
Gilman’s most influential work, Women and Economics: The Economic Relation Between Men and Women as a Factor in Social Evolution (1898), asserts that the oppression of women is ultimately based on women’s economic dependence on men. Other institutions—religion, education, ethics, marriage and family—simply reinforce this relationship. From childhood, she claimed, “young boys plan for what they will achieve and attain, [while] young girls plan for whom they will achieve and attain.” Here and in subsequent works, including the journal The Forerunner and her feminist utopian novel Herland (1915), Gilman also argues that women naturally possess ethical and moral superiority that, if respected, could reinvent society.
Through her writings and lectures, Gilman became the most...
(The entire section is 723 words.)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born in 1860 in Hartford, Connecticut, to Frederick Beecher Perkins, a noted librarian and magazine editor, and his wife, Mary Fritch Perkins. Although Gilman's father frequently left the family for long periods during her childhood and eventually divorced his wife in 1869, he directed Gilman's early education, emphasizing study in the sciences and history. During his absences, Perkins left his wife and children with his relatives. This brought Gilman into frequent contact with her independent and reform-minded great-aunts: Harriet Beecher Stowe, an abolitionist and author of Uncle Tom's Cabin; Catherine Beecher, the prominent advocate of "domestic feminism"; and Isabella Beecher Hooker, an ardent suffragist. Their influence—and the example of her mother's own self-reliance—were instrumental in developing Gilman's feminist convictions and desire to effect social reform. Early in her life, Gilman displayed the independence she later advocated for women: she insisted on remuneration for her household chores, and later she paid her mother room and board while supporting herself as a teacher and as a commercial artist.
At twenty-four, she married Charles Walter Stetson, who was also an artist. Following the birth of their daughter in 1884, Gilman suffered a severe depression. She consulted the noted neurologist S. Weir Mitchell, who prescribed his "rest-cure": complete bed rest and limited intellectual activity. Gilman...
(The entire section is 423 words.)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born as Charlotte Anna Perkins on July 3, 1860, in Hartford, Connecticut. Gilman’s father, Frederick Perkins—a librarian and editor—deserted the family when the author was an infant. As a result, Gilman, her siblings, and her mother lived with relatives, including the famous abolitionist author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Under the instruction of Stowe and her two sisters, Isabella Beecher Hooker and Catharine Beecher, two feminist activists, the young Gilman developed her independent spirit and desire for equality.
Despite her doubts about the institution of marriage, Gilman married Charles Walter Stetson in 1884, at the age of twenty-four. The union was disastrous. Within a year, Gilman had given birth to a daughter, Katherine, and had entered into a state of deep depression. Under the advice of a noted neurologist, Gilman tried a cure of bedrest and seclusion. The cure only made Gilman’s condition worse. However, it did provide Gilman with the background for her first published novella, The Yellow Wallpaper—first published in the New England Magazine in 1890; published on its own in 1899— which depicts such a treatment failing miserably. Although Gilman later admitted that the work was merely an attempt to get back at the neurologist who suggested her rest cure, it is generally considered her finest work and a key feminist work. During the 1890s, Gilman produced two other works that displayed her...
(The entire section is 434 words.)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born in 1860 in Hartford, Connecticut, to Frederick Beecher Perkins, a noted librarian and magazine editor, and his wife, Mary Fritch Perkins. Although Gilman's father frequently left the family for long periods during her childhood and eventually divorced his wife in 1869, he directed Gilman's early education, emphasizing study in the sciences and history. During his absences, Perkins left his wife and children with his relatives, thus bringing Gilman into frequent contact with her independent and reform-minded great aunts: Harriet Beecher Stowe, an abolitionist and author of Uncle Tom's Cabin; Catherine Beecher, a prominent advocate of "domestic feminism"; and Isabella Beecher Hooker, an ardent suffragist. Their influence—and the example of her mother's own self-reliance—were instrumental in developing Gilman's feminist convictions and desire to effect social reform. Early in her life, Gilman displayed the independence she later advocated for women: she insisted on remuneration for her household chores, and later she paid her mother room and board, supporting herself as a teacher and a commercial artist.
At twenty-four, she married Charles Walter Stetson, who was also an artist. Following the birth of their daughter in 1884, Gilman suffered a severe depression. She consulted the noted neurologist S. Weir Mitchell, who prescribed his "rest-cure": complete bed rest and limited intellectual activity. Gilman credited...
(The entire section is 417 words.)