Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Charlotte Anna Perkins Gilman) Biography
(1860–1935), (Charlotte Anna Perkins Gilman), Women and Economics, What Diantha Did, Benigna Machiavelli, The Forerunner, Herland
American novelist and social theorist, born in Hartford, Connecticut. After an insecure and unhappy childhood she studied art, and supported herself by teaching until her marriage to Charles Stetson in 1884. After recurrent periods of severe depression she left her husband, moved to California, and wrote ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ (1892), a chilling fantasy of mental breakdown whose subtext is a powerful critique of women's enforced passivity under patriarchy. She became a dedicated champion of women's right to economic independence and ‘world work’; several polemic studies, of which Women and Economics (1898) was the most famous, established her as a leading theorist of the early feminist movement. Happily married to her cousin George Gilman in 1900, she continued lecturing and writing on issues of gender and social organization, and popularized many of her ideas in fictional form: a stream of short stories and serialized novels, including What Diantha Did (1912) and Benigna Machiavelli (1914), appeared in her own monthly magazine The Forerunner. Though sometimes over-schematic, Gilman's fiction at its best, notably in the lively feminist utopia Herland (1915), conveys a challenging vision of alternative possibilities. Aged 75, she committed suicide rather than prolong a losing battle with cancer. See also Utopia and Anti-Utopia.