Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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Discuss the life and significant milestones of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, including her "hysteria" and nervous conditions.

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The life of the American writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman was one of considerable and influential work, both in literature and in social reform. It was certainly not an easy life, as she struggled with mental health issues, divorced her first husband, fought against the sexism of the period, and ended up committing suicide.

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman is an American writer, born 1860 in Hartford, Connecticut. Initially, she was best known for her short story "The Yellow Wallpaper," which is about a woman's decent into mental instability, but there has been renewed interest in her other work, much of which had a feminist bent. Perkins was a distant relative of Harriet Beecher Stowe, but despite this connection, her family was poor and her father left the family, leaving her mother to raise her and her siblings. She married in 1884, but it was a troubled relationship and she had a breakdown, sometimes attributed to depression or melancholia, although psychology was unknown at the time. It is thought that this breakdown was the inspiration for "The Yellow Wallpaper."

She divorced her first husband, at a time when this was uncommon and looked down upon, and remarried. This relationship would last until his death. Despite all the challenges she faced and her unconventional lifestyle, she wrote, lectured, and even started a magazine. Much of her work, perhaps inspired by her own negative experiences with her first marriage and her father's abandonment, was about the role of woman in society, in marriage, and in culture. She was a feminist at a time when few (if any) people used that word. So, in a sense, her whole life was a struggle, both on a personal and a professional level. Her other important books are the utopia novel Herland and the manifesto Women and Economics. Sadly, her life did not have a happy ending, as she was diagnosed with cancer and killed herself in 1935.

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