Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A Nonfiction Reader

I grabbed this from the shelves of the library after searching for something in the same Dewey range, happily thinking I’d struck gold with a collection of all of Gilman’s nonfiction. In actuality, the book turned out to be of a different ilk, but I enjoyed it all the more – the book weaves biographical information alongside snippets from Gilman’s extensive essays/books. We’ve all been schooled on Gilman’s greatest hit – The Yellow Wallpaper, but far from being a one-hit wonder, Gilman churned out massive amounts of reasoned lectures/position papers/books on all aspects of the Woman’s Movement/Feminism. She was a widely respected lecturer, speaking to groups throughout California (SF, Oakland, Pasadena) and then in Chicago, NYC and beyond. Naturally any women’s movement would be lacking without opposition from those who benefit but who are socialized not to see their oppression. She gets into a tiff with Ida Tarbell’s contention that women should get back into the business of raising children. Charlotte counters, “Woman’s main business is being human, a phase of her life of which Miss Tarbell in this series of ineffectual papers takes no cognizance whatever.” Conclusion: CPG is a bad-ass neglected by history. Read her.
From The Home: Its Work and Influence (1903)

The cowardice of women is a distinctly home product. It is born of weakness and ignorance; a weakness and an ignorance by no means essentially feminine attributes, but strictly domestic attributes. Keep a man from birth wrapped in much cloth, shut away from sky and sun, wind and rain, continually exhausting his nervous energy by incessant activity in monotonous little things, and never developing his muscular strength and skill by suitable exercise of a large and varied nature, and he would be weak. Savage women are not weak. Peasant women are not weak. Fishwives are not weak. The home-bound woman is weak, as would be a home-bound man.