March is Women’s History Month and to celebrate over the next four weeks I’m going to highlight women who have, well, made history and had a great impact on my life.
Today I’ll begin with Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
Not sure who that is? Think back, way back, to your high school American literature class. Remember the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” and how you never looked at your walls the same after reading it?
As a young woman Gilman earned a living as a governess (that’s a fancy word for nanny) art teacher and greeting-card designer. In 1884 Gilman married an artist named Charles Stetson and shortly after gave birth to their daughter Katharine. Suffering from what was most likely postpartum depression, Gilman followed her husband’s suggestion and consulted the famous physician S. Weir Mitchell. Dr. Mitchell prescribed his renowned Rest Cure, which essentially advised Gilman and women like her to live “as domestic a life as far possible, to “have but two hours intellectual life a day,” and “never to touch a pen, brush, or pencil again” as long as she lives, according to Gilman’s essay Why I Wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Gilman followed this advice and came near “mental ruin,” she said. It wasn’t until she began to work again that she started to get well. “The Yellow Wallpaper,” published in 1892, is Gilman’s semi-autobiographical account of the disastrous effects of Mitchell’s “cure.”