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Schlesinger Library / Collections

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860–1935) was many things throughout her life: philosopher, artist, novelist, lecturer, mother, divorcée, editor, suffragist, journalist, wife, invalid, and publisher. She was a popular and influential public figure who tirelessly worked against women's inequality inside and outside the home, and she wrote about the social changes she thought necessary to achieve gender equality. She is the author of the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper."

Portrait of Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Connell, Lena. Portrait of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, ca. 1909-1915. Charlotte Perkins Gilman Papers.

Gilman believed that cooking, cleaning, and child-rearing should be done by professionals, not family members. She advocated for dress reform for women, partly as a way to promote physical fitness. She argued that women needed economic independence, not just suffrage, to achieve true equality with men.

Gilman used literature to advance her ideas; her well-known short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" describes a woman's descent to insanity as result of patriarchal medical care.

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