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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

3. Gothic Undercurrents

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- Henry Ward
- Ambrose
- Charles
Brockden Brown
- Emily Dickenson
- Charlotte
Perkins Gilman
- Nathaniel
- Washington
- Herman
- Edgar
Allen Poe
- William
Gilmore Simms
- Suggested
•  Timeline
•  Activities

Authors: Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935)

Charlotte Perkins Gilman
[5361] Frances Benjamin Johnston, Charlotte Perkins Gilman (c. 1900),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-49035].

Charlotte Perkins Gilman Activities
This link leads to artifacts, teaching tips and discussion questions for this author.
Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Charlotte Perkins was raised by her mother. Her father abandoned the family shortly after her birth (her father was the nephew of siblings Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Ward Beecher). Gilman's mother moved her two children to her original home, Rhode Island, where she withheld physical expressions of love from them in an attempt to steel them against the future pain of broken relationships. Gilman worked as a governess, teacher, and greeting-card designer before reluctantly marrying Charles Stetson in 1884--she had become increasingly aware that women did not receive equal rights, and she was concerned that as a new wife and mother she would have difficulty beginning a writing career.

After the birth of her daughter, Gilman became depressed and was advised to seek bed rest and to limit her intellectual endeavors. This "cure" so frustrated Gilman that she nearly went mad, recovering by thrusting her energies into the American Woman Suffrage Association. Soon after, she composed "The Yellow Wall-paper" (1892), which was based on her experience with depression. When her marriage broke up, Gilman sent her daughter to live with her exhusband and his new wife, Gilman's former best friend. She married her first cousin, George Houghton Gilman, in 1900 and continued her writing career, producing books that advocated reform, including Women and Economics (1898), Concerning Children (1900), and The Man-Made World (1911), as well as the novels Moving the Mountain (1911), Herland (1915), and With Her in Ourland (1916). We can see that same reformist spirit in Gilman's most famous text, her critique of women's oppression under patriarchy, "The Yellow Wall-paper."

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