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A Feminist Mystery Finally Gets Published
Francine Stephens -- 9/8/97
Early feminist and intellectual Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) certainly had her share of publishing w s. The Yellow Wallpaper, her shattering story of a woman's mental breakdown that is now a feminist staple, was turned down by Atlantic Monthly editor Horace Scudder before it was finally published in New England magazine in January 1892. "I could not forgive myself if I made others as miserable as I have made myself [by reading this]," Scudder wrote in his rejection letter.
Scudder was, of course, short-sighted, and The Yellow Wallpaper has gone on to become a classic, currently in print from six publishers. Now one of those publishers, The Feminist Press, which has sold more than 258,000 copies of its 1973 edition of Wallpaper, is hoping for another Gilman renaissance: this month, it releases Gilman's first and only detective novel, Unpunished, which has never before been published.

Then 69-year-old Gilman had written the detective story in 1929 on the advice of Theodore Dreiser, who made the timeless suggestion that if she wanted to sell her work, she should tailor her writing to more popular tastes. Gilman couldn't resist using the genre format for her own aims, however, and thus her husband-and-wife detective team uncovers domestic violence as well as murder.

Because of this, Unpunished went unpublished. "Editors found it disconcerting that Unpunished spoke out on such dark subjects in those post-suffrage times," said Denise D. Knight, associate professor of English at the State University of New York at Cortland. Knight and Catherine J. Golden, associate professor of English at Skidmore College, serve as c ditors on the book. They found the manuscript in the Schlesinger Library of Radcliffe College, which acquired the bulk of Gilman's personal papers from her estates.
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