Sunday, May 1, 2011

"The Yellow Wallpaper"

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is about a woman, the author of the story, who has just had a child, and after a nervous breakdown is taken by her husband John, a doctor, to a secluded estate to recover. She initially sees this as his way of caring, and follows his instructions, and those of his sister, Jennie, who came to help take care of the child and her. The room that she and John stay in is a former nursery that has patterned yellow wallpaper and abused furniture. The author is given tonics and occasionally writes, against John’s orders, about the room and the yellow wallpaper. Within the pattern she sees eyes, and after awhile, a woman “moving” behind it. Later, she sees this woman outside, and says that is the secret of the wallpaper. At the end of the story, she locks herself in the room, and tries to tear the wallpaper off, to free the women, and then “climbs” into it instead, telling John he can’t get her now.
This is the closest Charlotte has to an autobiographic story. The initial trials of the author match that of her own, when she was married and had a child. She went through depression, and would have fits and nervous breakdowns. The main themes of the story are women’s isolation from society and man’s power over them. At this time it was still legal for a man to beat his wife. And women were unable to do all the things men were, so they had few friends who they could go to for support. The author shows the role of women in society, and John shows how dominant men are over them. John, being a doctor, takes control of the author’s recovery, refusing to listen to her. This portrays the reaction of men to women voicing their opinions and thoughts in society. The sister of John shows how they thought women should be: submissive and caring for children. The wallpaper itself has a meaning. It shows how society traps women, as the pattern of the wallpaper had trapped the woman behind it, and when she was out, it was seen as shame. Women were trapped in their positions in the house, and women working outside the house were not viewed as positive. These were most often unmarried women, and after marriage would leave these jobs.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Women's Movement and Charlotte

The Women’s Rights Movement really began in the late 1840s, and is often referred to as the first wave. The primary goal of this movement was to gain women a voice in the government. This began over tea, and shortly after the first convention, they had collected a list of grievances, although the right of women to vote was a shocking idea to many of the women there.
Charlotte grew up in this first wave, and although many of her opinions differed from the movement, she was an important worker for it. Many of the views of the Women’s Rights Movement centered on the rights of women and their betterment. Charlotte, however, saw the betterment of women as a benefit to all society, because it would free men also. The movement was also did also push for women to be allowed basic rights such as education and property rights. The right to vote became the central issue, because this one act would help achieve several others.
Both were very close to Nationalism and the writer Bellamy’s ideas. Many women joined this movement because it reflected much of their own. And Charlotte began much of her career in Nationalist places, giving lectures and writing. She never referred to herself as a feminist, though at the time the word was unknown. She saw herself as trying to benefit all of humanity, by showing that the will to change is all it took.


Lane, Ann J. To Herland and Beyond: The Life and Works of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. New York: Pantheon Books, 1990.

Eisenberg, Bonnie and Mary Ruthsdotter. "Living the Legacy:
The Women's Rights Movement 1848 - 1998." History of the Movement. 4/20/11. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

A picture of Charlotte Perkins

Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born on July 3, 1860 as Charlotte Anna Perkins in Hartford to Fredrick Beecher Perkins and Mary Fitch Westcott. Her family tree included Lyman Beecher, Henry Ward Beecher, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. She was one of two living children, and had little contact with her father as the family moved from relative to relative while he remained distanced from them. Most of these relatives didn’t care much for Charlotte and her family, so she didn’t get the education she wanted as a child. Her mother also wasn’t very loving towards her two children. She ordered Charlotte to shut out her fantasy world as a child, which she did out of obedience.
As an adult, she attended art school for a while, and struggled with the choice between marriage or career. She eventually vowed not to marry, but this was broken when she married Charles Walter Stetson in May 2, 1884. Their marriage was rocky, and on March 23, 1885, Charlotte gave to birth to Katharine Beecher. She eventually went to see Dr. Mitchell, a neurologist who had treated two Beecher women already. Charles and Charlotte separated in the fall of 1887, and a year later she left with Katherine for California.
 There she was able to focus on her work more, due to help from others in raising Katherine. She wrote articles and gave lectures while Katherine lived with Walter and his new wife, and close friend of Charlotte’s, Grace. She spent much of this time on her own, and she later remarried George Houghton Gilman. They were married for 34 years before his death. Charlotte died in 1932 after committing suicide. She had incurable breast cancer, and she chose “chloroform over cancer.”
Throughout her life, Charlotte took strength from the trials she struggled with. Many of them stemmed from the role of woman in marriage and her relationships with various people in her life, including Walter and her daughter Katherine.


"Charlotte Perkins Gilman." Domestic Goddess. 4/20/11. 

Lane, Ann J. To Herland and Beyond: The Life and Works of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. New York: Pantheon Books, 1990.