Charlotte Perkins Gilman



A well-known feminist at the turn of the twentieth century, Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote and published thousands of works in her lifetime, including essays, novels, short stories, poems, nonfiction books, and numerous newspaper and journal articles. Born into the prominent Beecher family as Charlotte Anna Perkins, the author experienced a tumultuous childhood. Her father, Fredrick Beecher Perkins, abandoned the family leaving them impoverished. She moved so often as a child that her formal schooling totaled a mere four years. Despite these setbacks, Gilman managed to educate herself through reading and even sent herself to the Rhode Island School of Design for several years.

As an author, Gilman wrote prolifically about her personal interests including: gender equality, social work for the advancement of humanity, specialized labor practices, education reform, and social commentary. Her 1898 nonfiction book Women and Economics gained Gilman national and international acclaim. It was translated into several languages and even served as a textbook at Vassar College for a time. In her lifetime, Gilman traveled throughout America and Europe lecturing on women’s rights and social reform. In 1935, Charlotte Perkins Gilman committed suicide after suffering years with inoperable cancer. Her autobiography, The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, was published posthumously that same year. Many of Gilman’s writings are studied today as important examples of early feminist theory. The 1991 collection Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A Nonfiction Reader, edited by Larry Ceplair, includes an excellent sampling of her nonfiction works. (Rebecca Lowney)

Essays by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

On advertising for marriage

It would if it became a general custom, teach both sexes to cultivate the mind and the power of expression in writing more than the beauty of the body and its sexual attraction.

Why women do not reform their dress

The true and reasonable dress means perfect ease and health and beauty of body, with the freedom of motion and increase of power and skill resultant therefrom.
Patrick Madden's New Book
Quotidiana by Patrick Madden

Quotidiana site founder Patrick Madden has just published a book of his own personal essays, including pieces formerly published in the Best American Spiritual Writing and Best Creative Nonfiction anthologies. If you enjoy the classical essays on this site, you'll enjoy these contemporary ruminations as well. Soon there'll be a web page here with further information, but for now, you can find out more (and perhaps purchase a copy) at

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2011 Symposium on the Essay
Welcome Table Press Symposium on the Essay

Friend of Quotidiana Kim Dana Kupperman's Welcome Table Press is hosting a one-day symposium at Fordham University on Saturday, October 15th, 2011. In Praise of the Essay: Practice & Form will feature talks and discussions by Phillip Lopate, Robin Hemley, Barbara Hurd, and more.


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