cover image The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman: An Autobiography

The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman: An Autobiography

Charlotte Perkins Gilman. University of Wisconsin Press, $22.95 (394pp) ISBN 978-0-299-12744-2

Gilman (1869-1935), a leader of the women's movement, is best known for her autobiographical short story ``The Yellow Wallpaper,'' about a trapped housewife who goes mad, and her treatise ``Women and Economics.'' This autobiography was completed in 1935, when Gilman's reputation was waning and she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her last chapter is both a farewell and an argument for euthanasia; shortly after completing it she committed suicide. Long out of print, this volume documents Gilman's unhappy childhood with a mother who could not show affection, then her failed attempt at marriage and motherhood, which drove her to a breakdown and, subsequently, divorce. Gilman describes her long career as a social activist, writer and lecturer, during which she suffered continuing bouts of depression. Although one wishes for a more candid insight into her remarkable life, Gilman's pk views on women's equality, marriage, birth control and sex education are provocative and contemporary. This is a valuable contribution to understanding an important feminist thinker. Lane is the author of the biography Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Photos. (Mar.)