American Women Fiction Writers, 1900-1960 - Vol. 1

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview

CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN

1860-1935

CHARLOTTE PERKINS was born on July 3, 1860, in Hartford, Connecticut.Charlotte and her older brother were raised by their mother, Mary Fitch Perkins, after their father left the family. Gilman identified her intellectual ambitions with her mother's family, the Beechers; she was the grandniece of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Charlotte briefly attended the Rhode Island School of Design and later worked as an art teacher and commercial artist.

In 1884, Charlotte married Charles Walter Stetson, an artist. After the birth of their daughter, she suffered from what might now be diagnosed as postpartum depression, a nervous collapse that would affect her throughout her life. In 1892, she wrote the classic short story " The Yellow Wallpaper," describing the "dark fog" that had enveloped her. The following year, she moved with her daughter to Pasadena, California, divorced Stetson, and then made an anguished decision to send her daughter to live with him and his new wife, Charlotte's friend Grace Ellery Channing.Charlotte was consequently reviled in newspaper accounts as an unnatural and unfeeling mother. Despite this, she worked as an editor, writer, lecturer, and teacher, first in Oakland and then in San Francisco.

Women and Economics, published in 1898, marked Charlotte Perkins's emergence as a prominent feminist; the book was widely read in North America and Europe and was subsequently translated into seven languages. In it, she argues that the cultural emphasis on women's sexual and maternal roles has been at the expense of their social and economic development and indeed to the detriment of the human species. The subordination of women may have been necessary in the past, she posits, but 20th-century life demands that male assertiveness and female culture work in cooperation. Only in economic independence can women be free.

Charlotte Perkins married her cousin, George Houghton Gilman, in 1900. Until his death in 1934, his support, as well as additional domestic help, allowed her to develop her socialist and feminist ideas through a range of publications and activities. In Concerning Children ( 1900), Gilman proposed new social organizations to free women from domestic subservience. The Home ( 1903) and Human Work ( 1904) propose day-care centers, remuneration for household tasks, and houses without kitchens. Gilman lectured extensively on women's

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American Women Fiction Writers, 1900-1960 - Vol. 1
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • American Women Fiction Writers 1900-1960 - Volume One *
  • Contents *
  • The Analysis of Women Writers xiii
  • Introduction xvii
  • Djuna Barnes 1
  • Jane Bowles 21
  • Kay Boyle 33
  • Pearl S. Buck 48
  • Willa Cather 64
  • Jessie Redmon Fauset 83
  • Edna Ferber 93
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher 104
  • Zona Gale 114
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman 126
  • Ellen Glasgow 143
  • Caroline Gordon 161
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