Charlotte Perkins Gilman, an acclaimed American novelist, and writer was born on the 3rd of July in 1860 in Hartford, Connecticut. She was a bright daughter of Fredrick Beecher Perkins, an established writer, and librarian, while her mother, Mary Perkins, was a housewife. Unfortunately, the poor soul was brought up in a cheerless and unhappy home, for during her infancy, her father left her mother and children high and dry. Seeing no other option, the poverty-stricken family moved from relative to relative to make both ends meet. Although her childhood faced challenges, she did not get the troubles and trials on nerves and emerged as a resolute girl with having the knack for using words and taking part in social reformation.
Since the family was left reeling on the edge of poverty, Charlotte failed to receive a quality education. Despite her stay in various educational institutions, luck did not favor her. She had the formal setup of an educational upbringing. However, she managed to educate herself for a better future by visiting public libraries and studying marvels of literature. Besides, her mother also played a vital role in shaping and developing her creative brain. She used to read fiction to her children, which set grounds for Charlotte’s future. Later, in 1878, her absent father proved a helping hand for her when he appeared, and she got admission to the Rhode Island School from where she passed out as an accomplished artist and painter.
Personal Life and Death
Like Charlotte’s childhood, perhaps married life also proved somewhat bumpy for her. First, she married Charles Walter Stetson, an American artist in 1884, and the couple had a daughter the following year. She suffered bouts of serious illness soon after the birth of her child. Besides, she shared a strained relationship with her husband that led to their separation in 1984. Later, they officially got divorced in 1894. She remarried her cousin, George Gilman, in 1900, and the two shared an unbreakable bond until his death in 1934. Following year, she was also diagnosed with breast cancer that left her devastated. The illness and depression led her to commit suicide on the 17th of August in 1935.
Some Important Facts of Her Life
- She achieved international fame with the publication of Women and Economics in 1898. The work was translated into seven languages soon after its first appearance.
- Her other articles and books also have been translated into many languages across the globe.
Charlotte faced various hurdles on her way, and yet courageously faced them during her life and won international acclaim. Being brave and passionate about writing, she decided to fictionalize the insecurities, challenges, troubles, and traumas she faced in life. Her first published short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, narrates the story of a woman whom her husband locked for three months in a room for her health. Hence, she faced an acute depression. The isolation, depression, and anxiety led her to revolt against the present state. This attempt made her stand among the best literary figures. Later, another masterpiece, Women, and Economics, published in 1898, helped cement her persona as an emerging social activist. Her other notable attempts include Art Gems for the Home and Fireside, In This Our World, and The Home: Its Work and Influence.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman is widely known due to her feminist trend. Her bitter life experiences and love for humanity led her to discuss the problems women face in the world. Most of her works contained a feminist point of view, such as; The Yellow Wallpaper, Women, and Economics, and What Diantha Did. She used various symbols coupled with other literary devices in her writings to give voice to her feelings and ideas. The major themes in her books include gender roles, cultural influences, isolation, ambition, and female empowerment.
Some Important Works of Charlotte Perkins Gilman
- Best Novels and Novellas: Her best novels include What Diantha Did. Forerunner, Benigna Machiavelli, Herland, With Her in Ourland and Moving the Mountain.
- Other Works: Besides writing novels, she tried her hands on other genres of literature as well as non-fiction. Some of them include “Something to Vote For”, Women and Economics, “The Business League for Women.”, “The Home and the Hospital.” and In This Our World.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Impacts on Future Literature
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s considerable legacy is an asset for the succeeding generations. Her novels, short stories, lectures, and biographies touched several hearts and made the world think about the place of women in the financial and working world. Her feminist point of view was adored by various writers, critics, and the world at large. She fictionalized her ideas in her works so well that writers tend to follow in her footsteps even today.
- “As for mother Eve – I wasn’t there and can’t deny the story, but I will say this. If she brought evil into the world, we men have had the lion’s share of keeping it going ever since.” (The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings)
- “I really have discovered something at last. Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally found out. The front pattern does move – and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it! Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over. Then in the very ‘bright spots, she keeps still, and in the very shady spots, she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard. And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern – it strangles so:…” (The Yellow Wall-Paper)
- “Through it [literature] we know the past, govern the present, and influence the future.” (The Man-Made World)