Charlotte Perkins Gilman was an American sociologist, novelist, writer of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction, and lecturer for social reform. She is best known for her short story The Yellow Wallpaper (1892), a classic of early feminist literature.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born in Hartford, Connecticut. She grew up in a prominent family. Gilman attended seven different schools for a total of only four years, graduating at the age of fifteen. However, her father abandoned the family when she was young, and her mother struggled financially. This experience had a lasting impact on Gilman and influenced her later work.
In 1878, the eighteen-year-old enrolled in classes at the Rhode Island School of Design with the monetary help of her absent father and subsequently supported herself as an artist of trade cards. Charlotte was a tutor and also a painter.
In the late 19th century, Gilman became involved in the women's rights movement. She believed in social reform and advocated for women's economic independence and equality. Her writing often explored issues such as women's oppression, the role of motherhood, and the need for women to have careers and personal fulfillment.
Her best-remembered work today is her semi-autobiographical short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, which she wrote after a severe bout of post-partum depression.
It addresses the restrictive gender roles and the damaging effects of the so-called "rest cure" for women suffering from mental health issues.
Apart from her fiction writing, Gilman wrote numerous essays and nonfiction works, including Women and Economics (1898), in which she argued for women's economic independence to achieve social equality. She also founded and edited a feminist magazine called The Forerunner, through which she expressed her ideas and engaged in discussions about women's rights.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman faced a tragic end to her life. In January 1932, she received the devastating diagnosis of incurable breast cancer. Known for her advocacy of euthanasia, Gilman ended her life with an overdose of chloroform.