A Brief Synopsis of the Life of Charlotte GilmanFrom reading the select works of Charlotte Perkins Gilman such as The Yellow Wallpaper in 1913, one might think that she was a very dull and depressing woman. Following a marriage in 1884 that "threatened her sanity" (Baym, 1570), she did suffer depressive episodes that were later reflected in some of her works. However, Gilman was a very politically and socially active person most of her life, known for taking powerful leadership roles in the women s movement of the early 20th century. She won a place in the literary canon by speaking publicly and writing literature that promoted her ideals and values. It is this active political and social aspect of Gilman s life that I will focus on in my essay. After The Yellow Wallpaper, it would almost seem ironic that Zona Gale, a well-known writer and close friend, spoke highly of Gilman for blazing the message, "Life is Growth" as well as expanding social consciousness throughout the world (Gilman, xxvii). Her energy and wit guided her throughout the country writing and speaking to women as well as men about the social ills that result from a competitive economic system in which women are subordinate to men (Baym, 1571). As an influential leader of the feminist movement, she became acknowledged for promoting the moral standard that men and women should be equals (Gilman, xxxix). This was one of Gilman s driving forces that inspired her writing. However, she was not simply persuasive writer. Gilman was also an excellent speaker who traveled as far as England bringing her message of equality and influencing women to stand up for their rights.
Gilman was related to the Beechers, the best known of which was Harriet Beecher Stowe. Her pride in this family line was linked to their political activeness in promoting higher education of women as well as the demand for equal suffrage (Gilman, 3). Gilman used them for personal inspiration and as models for her attacks on the social injustices that were being committed towards women. In her book, Women and Economics (1898), she explores the social dependence on men for food and shelter, followed by the sexual and maternal obligations, women were expected to meet. By exposing the elements of society that most people were blind to, she hoped that individuals would alter their lifestyles and transform the traditional roles they grew up with into more equal and supportive ones. In Conclusion, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a very active and inspiring character in American history. She was a huge influence on the women s rights movement and an influential leader in developing a modernistic society that downplayed traditional roles. She expressed the need for people to take an initiative and question what was right and moral in their own lives. Most importantly, she teaches us not to settle for less than we are entitled and encourages us to be ourselves, not to conform to societal pressures.