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Gilman, Charlotte Perkins

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins (1860–1935) Gilman was an American writer who published a huge range of work across a broad spectrum of disciplines, including sociology, literature, political science, economics, and women's studies. Her best-known volume is The Yellow Wallpaper (1892), written after her nervous breakdown in 1885. It can be taken as a semi-autobiographical record of psychiatric treatment and the descent into ‘madness’, but can also be interpreted as a metaphorical account of women's situation generally, and particularly that of married women in a patriarchal society. Her more specifically sociological work addressed the culturally repressed status of women and how this impeded full intellectual development.

Like Harriet Martineau in her earlier works, and also some contemporary radical feminists, Gilman suggests an analogy between women's social situation and slavery. She rejected Herbert Spencer's theory of social determinism, and maintained that humans are dynamic agents who are not determined by inherited traits or ruthless competition, but can plan and direct their own destiny. She subscribed to Lester Frank Ward's gynecocentric theory, which saw women as the original and dominant form of the species, with men serving only as assistants in the fertilization process. She thus dismissed the basic tenets of Marxism because she saw sex as a more fundamental social division than class, arguing that women's social repression is a direct result of their singular role of motherhood, a role that impedes and minimizes creativity and expression.

Children, she believed, should be entrusted to child-care experts, and she saw strong state agencies as essential to maintaining a more just society for women. Similarly, she argued that private housekeeping was both inefficient and wasteful, and suggested that households and the economy generally would be more productive if women worked in the labour force and co-operative kitchens were set up for the mass-preparation of food. Gilman published some 2,173 written works, including Herland (1915), and The Home: Its Work and Influences (1903).

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Gilman, Charlotte Perkins

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1860–1935, American feminist and reformer, b. Hartford, Conn.; great-granddaughter of Lyman Beecher. Prominent as a lecturer and writer on the labor movement and feminism, she edited the Forerunner, a liberal journal. She wrote many works on social and economic problems, the most important of which is Women and Economics (1898). She is perhaps best known for her semiautobiographical short story The Yellow Wallpaper (1890), which describes a woman's nervous breakdown. Incurably ill, she committed suicide.

See her autobiography (1935); study by H. L. Horowitz (2010).

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"Gilman, Charlotte Perkins." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Gilman, Charlotte Perkins." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gilman-charlotte-perkins

"Gilman, Charlotte Perkins." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gilman-charlotte-perkins