Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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Only as we live, think, feel, and work outside the home, do we become humanly developed, civilized, socialized.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (July 3 1860August 17 1935) was an American poet, non-fiction writer, short story writer, novelist, lecturer, and social reformer.


  • The latest and highest form of Feminism has great promise for the world. It postulates womanhood free, strong, clean and conscious of its power and duty.
    • "Feminism" (1908), quoted in Susan Ware, Why They Marched: Untold Stories of the Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote. Harvard University Press, 2019.
  • For many years I suffered from a severe and continuous nervous breakdown tending to melancholia — and beyond. During about the third year of this trouble I went, in devout faith and some faint stir of hope, to a noted specialist in nervous diseases, the best known in the country. This wise man put me to bed and applied the rest cure, to which a still-good physique responded so promptly that he concluded there was nothing much the matter with me, and sent me home with solemn advice to "live as domestic a life as far as possible," to "have but two hours' intellectual life a day," and "never to touch pen, brush, or pencil again" as long as I lived. This was in 1887.
    I went home and obeyed those directions for some three months, and came so near the borderline of utter mental ruin that I could see over.
    Then, using the remnants of intelligence that remained, and helped by a wise friend, I cast the noted specialist's advice to the winds and went to work again — work, the normal life of every human being; work, in which is joy and growth and service, without which one is a pauper and a parasite — ultimately recovering some measure of power.
    Being naturally moved to rejoicing by this narrow escape, I wrote The Yellow Wallpaper, with its embellishments and additions, to carry out the ideal (I never had hallucinations or objections to my mural decorations) and sent a copy to the physician who so nearly drove me mad. He never acknowledged it.
  • Many years later I was told that the great specialist had admitted to friends of his that he had altered his treatment of neurasthenia since reading The Yellow Wallpaper.
    It was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked.
    • "Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper" in The Forerunner (October 1913).
  • A normal feminine influence in recasting our religious assumptions will do more than any other one thing to improve the world.
    • His Religion and Hers, (1923).
  • The stony-minded orthodox were right in fearing the first movement of new knowledge and free thought. It has gone on, and will go on, irresistibly, until some day we shall have no respect for an alleged "truth" which cannot stand the full blaze of knowledge, the full force of active thought.
    • The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, (1935).

"The Yellow Wallpaper" (1891)[edit]

Full text online at Wikisource
  • The color is repellent, almost revolting: a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.
  • This wallpaper has a kind of sub-pattern in a different shade, a particularly irritating one, for you can only see it in certain lights, and not clearly then.
  • I'm getting really fond of the room in spite of the wallpaper. Perhaps because of the wallpaper.
  • There are things in that wallpaper that nobody knows about but me, or ever will.
  • You think you have mastered it [the wallpaper pattern], but just as you get well under way in following, it turns a back-somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you.
  • It becomes bars! The outside pattern, I mean, and the women behind it is as plain as can be. I didn't realize for a long time what the thing was that showed behind, that dim sub-pattern, but now I am quite sure it is a woman. By daylight she is subdued, quiet. I fancy it is the pattern that keeps her so still.
  • 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!

In this Our World : Poems (1898)[edit]

  • A million million worlds that move in peace;
    A million mighty laws that never cease;
    And one small ant-heap, hidden by small weeds,
    Rich with eggs, slaves and store of millet-seeds.
    They sleep beneath the sod
    And trust in God.
    • A Common Inference.
  • Said I, in scorn all burning hot,
    In rage and anger high,
    "You ignominious idiot,
    Those wings are made to fly!"
    • A Conservative.
  • I do not want to be a fly,
    I want to be a worm!
    • A Conservative.

Women and Economics (1898)[edit]

  • The labor of women in the house, certainly, enables men to produce more wealth than they otherwise could; and in this way women are economic factors in society. But so are horses.
    • Ch. 1.
  • Where young boys plan for what they will achieve and attain, young girls plan for whom they will achieve and attain.
  • There is no female mind. The brain is not an organ of sex. As well speak of a female liver.
    • Ch. 8.
  • To-day there is hardly a woman of intelligence in all America, to say nothing of other countries, who is not definitely and actively concerned in some social interest, who does not recognize some duty besides those incident to her own blood relationship.
    • Ch. 8.
  • Only as we live, think, feel, and work outside the home, do we become humanly developed, civilized, socialized.
    • Ch. 10.
  • The mother as a social servant instead of a home servant will not lack in true mother duty.... From her work, loved and honored though it is, she will return to her home life, the child life, with an eager, ceaseless pleasure, cleansed of all the fret and fraction and weariness that so mar it now.
    • Ch. 13.

External links[edit]

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