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The Yellow Wallpaper Didn't Hold Gilman Down

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" was first published in 1892. It focuses on a woman who has been confined to bed in a room with yellow wallpaper. Her physician husband has deemed her hysterical and has banned her from mental and physical stimulation. She is basically imprisoned, and is forced to look at the yellow wallpaper that ultimately seems to drive her mad. This is a particularly important piece of literature because it gives the audience insight to how mental illness or the perception of it was treated at the time, especially for women. (Gilman)

Gilman married at 24, and gave birth to a daughter the following year. Afterward, she suffered from post-partum depression and sought treatment. She was prescribed Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell's "Rest Cure." This included treatments similar to the conditions she penned in "The Yellow Wallpaper." She was confined to bed, and basically, wasn't allowed to do anything for herself at all. Eventually, she was sent home to return to the care of her child. She was told to never write or create again. Her depression returned briefly after she returned home, and she separated from her husband. This was a practice that was very rare at the time. In Gilman's own words, "It was not a choice between going and staying, but between going, sane, and staying, insane (Gagnon)."(Gagnon)

After her 1888 divorce, Gilman seemed to blossom. She became active in the professional world of writing plays, and fiction and non-fiction works. She found a niche among the readers of progressive magazines. She also became a voice for feminism and social reform. A shrinking violet, she was not. The "Rest Cure" and tying her hands only diminished her creativity, and in turn, her mental health. When given a voice, she became a force. She believed that societal gender roles were oppressive to women, and men were also common oppressors. She also believed that women should not have to choose between motherhood and a life outside the home. (Gagnon)

Gilman went on to write more than a thousand works. While not always appreciated during her living years, Gilman's work lived on. It was revived during the women's rights era of the 1960s, and again gained recognition in 1990s. She was named the sixth most influential woman of the 20th century, and was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. (Gagnon)

Check out the sources listed below for further reading.

Works Cited:

Gagnon, Amy. "Charlotte Perkins Gilman." ConnecticutHistory.Org, 28 Mar. 2023, . Accessed 11 Jun. 2023.

Gilman, Charlotte P. "The Yellow Wallpaper." The Project Gutenburg, 4 Jan. 2021, Accessed 11 Jun. 2023.


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