Charlotte Perkins Gilman
On this date in 1860, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born in Connecticut. A respected poet, author, editor and theorist, Charlotte became one of the most celebrated feminists of her day. Her father, who virtually abandoned the family, was the grandson of evangelist Lyman Beecher. Charlotte educated herself, embracing daily exercises and eschewing corsets. She married artist Charles Walter Stetson when she was 23. She recorded a paralyzing depression brought on after giving birth in 1885 to her daughter Katherine, in her 1890 classic feminist horror story, "The Yellow Wallpaper." Charlotte's life blossomed after separating from her husband, and launching her impressive career as lecturer, journalist and author. She went on a 5-year speaking tour at age 35, its first stop Hull House. Her collection of poems, In This Our World (1893), includes a poem "To the Preacher," which jeers: "Preach about yesterday, Preacher! . . Preach about the other man, Preacher!/Not about me!" When she attended her first National American Woman Suffrage Association convention in 1896, a sister feminist wrote that Charlotte had "originality flashing from her at every turn like light from a diamond." Charlotte defended Elizabeth Cady Stanton's Woman's Bible when the delegation passed a resolution against it. Woman and Economics (1898) made her an international figure.
Other nonfiction included: Concerning Children (1901), Human Work (1904), The Man-Made World; or, Our androcentric Culture (1911), and His Religion and Hers: A Study of the Faith of Our Fathers and the Work of Our Mothers (1923). In this work of great originality, Charlotte repudiated "death-based religion," and the fact that "One religion after another has accepted and perpetuated man's original mistake in making a private servant of the mother of the race." She asked: "what glory there was in an omnipotent being torturing forever a puny little creature who could in no way defend himself? Would it be to the glory of a man to fry ants?" She found happiness in her 35-year marriage to George Houghton Gilman, and wrote her autobiography, The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, in 1935. That year Charlotte, a firm believer in euthanasia, took her own life, using chloroform, when pain from inoperable breast cancer became unbearable. D. 1935.
Once we thought the earth was flat--
What of that?
It was just as globos then
Under believing men
As our later folks have found it,
By success in running round it;
What we think may guide our acts,
But it does not alter facts.
—-Charlotte Perkins Gilman. For more on Gilman, see Women Without Superstition
Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor
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