"The Yellow Wallpaper," first published in 1892 in the New England Magazine, is largely considered Charlotte Perkins Gilman's best work of short fiction. The story is a first-person account of a young mother's mental deterioration and is based on Gilman's own experiences with post-partum depression. Like Gilman, the unnamed protagonist of the story is advised, based on medical theories of the time, to abstain from any and all physical activity and intellectual stimulation. She is not allowed to read, write, or even see her new baby. To carry out this treatment, the woman's husband takes her to a country house where she is kept in a former nursery decorated with yellow wallpaper.
Gilman initially had difficulties getting "The Yellow Wallpaper" published. Horace Scudder of The Atlantic refused to print it, stating ''I could not forgive myself if I made others as miserable as I have made myself!" Eventually, "The Yellow Wallpaper'' began to win converts, and American writer William Dean Howells included it in his The Great Modern American Stories: An Anthology in 1920. Early reviewers generally classified "The Yellow Wallpaper" as a horror story, with most commenting on Gilman's use of Gothic conventions. It was not until Elaine R. Hedges's afterward to a 1973 edition of the story that "The Yellow Wallpaper" began receiving scholarly attention. Most modern commentators now interpret the story as a feminist indictment of society's subjugation of women and praise its compelling characterization, complex symbolism, and thematic depth.