Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Herland: An Unfeminine Feminist and A Female World Without Women
Parsons, Leslie M.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born in 1860 in New England, lived a long and productive life, and died in 1935. During her lifetime she was described by her peers as one of the most influential women in the United States. She also wrote a book, Women and Economics, that was read all over the world in several different languages by thousands of people. Yet, traditional history books do not recognize her. As with many women writers in history, Charlotte was forgotten as soon as she was no longer in the world to make sure her voice was heard. With the revival of the feminist movement in the 1960s and 1970s, many ideas and authors were rescued from obscurity. One night I read the utopian novel Herland, and noticed many familiar concepts from current feminist theory. In doing this paper, I gained a greater knowledge of feminist theory. I also realized that, like much of the current feminist theory, Charlotte Perkins Gilman's ideas come from the same white, middle class setting in which she was raised. In order to give a perspective to Charlotte's thoughts on feminism, this paper begins with a section on Charlotte's life and influences. An important aspect of feminist theory is the concept of gender, and Charlotte began to conceive of it as socially constructed while most thinkers of her day believed that gender characteristics are inherent. From her views on gender and politics, aspects of the novel Herland can be compared to current feminist issues.