Monday, March 30, 2020
Charlotte Perkins Gilman Essays - Beecher Family,
Charlotte Perkins Gilman Good 1 Charlotte Perkins Gilman experienced astonishing success during her life. When she died in 1935, she left behind a legacy of ingenious writing. ?Charlotte Perkins Gilman was one of the leading intellectuals of the American women's movement in the first two decades of the 20th century? (Gilman, The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman). Her literary works explore the minds of remarkable and courageous women. Charlotte Perkins Gilman left an impression on society not only through her brilliant writings and social reforms, but also in her own perseverance in overcoming personal hardships. Charlotte was born into the prominent Beecher family (Gilman 3). In fact, the illustrious Harriet Beecher Stowe was a great-aunt (3). Charlotte grew up with pride in her family. She recalls ?When about fifteen years old I was told of our extremely remote connection with English royalty and I wrote eagerly to my learned father to inquire as to the facts- was I related to Queen Victoria (1). However, her father solemnly replied, ?It is quite true that you are related to Queen Victoria, but there are a great many persons between you and the throne and I should not advise you to look forward to it? (1). Despite her legendary family ties, Charlotte's childhood was filled with pain, uncertainty, and rejection. Her father abandoned his family shortly after her birth (Lane 3). While a young woman, she suffered through a bad marriage that caused her to endure a nervous breakdown (3). It was during this time that Charlotte encountered her first bout with depression; there were many battles to follow (3). Thus, within the formative years of her young life, Charlotte suffered immeasurable pain and agony at the hands of males. This may possible be a motive behind her works based around strong female characters. Throughout her early life, it was apparent that Charlotte was an extremely strong-willed girl. ?At the age of sixteen or seventeen she perceived herself as having ?no character to be especially proud of: impressionable, vacillating, sensitive, uncontrolled, often loafing and lazy? (Lane 57). However, she was determined to change herself into a disciplined, controlled person. Charlotte, an extremely intelligent child, was not able to consistently attend school until the age of thirteen. Living in poverty for most of her life, Charlotte was only able to attend school after the death of a great-aunt who left her an inheritance. Although her teachers were impressed with her aptitude, they soon became frustrated with her resistance to routines that restricted her imagination (59). Charlotte longed to be different. She was driven to defy conditional notions of what young girls ?should be.? Dr. Studley, a teacher who instructed Charlotte in hygiene, became particularly influential (59). Cha rlotte instantly converted to ?a regime of cold baths, exercise, fresh air, and dress reform (59). She became caught up in the physical culture movement of the late nineteenth century. ?In a culture that valued frailty in women, Charlotte took delight and pleasure in her robust health and her strong body? (59). Much of Charlotte's late adolescence was spent nursing her ill mother. She describes her mother as being the ?disciplinarian? and this caused problems between the two of them (Gilman 12). Charlotte complained that her mother was so ?rigorous in refusing all manner of invitations for me? I was denied so often (Lane 60-61). Her mother's denials protected her from entering the adult world of men, relationships, and love. Charlotte soon, however, entered this world when she was married to Charles Walter Stetson (Gilman 82). In her autobiography, she discusses her mixed emotions regarding Mr. Stetson and marriage. She says, ?my mind was not fully clear as to whether I should marry. On the one hand I knew it was normal and right in general, and held that a woman should be able to have marriage and motherhood and do her work in the world? (83). However, there were more cynical times when Charlotte expresses ?I felt strongly that for me it was not right, that the nature of the life before me forbade it, that I ought to forego the more intimate personal happiness for complete devotion to my work? (83). Despite her doubts, the two were married in May of 1884.