Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > Literature > 205. Charlotte Perkins Gilman

205.  Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935).  The Yellow Wall Paper. Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1899. Barnard College, Overbury Collection

Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote "The Yellow Wall-Paper" as an article that first appeared in the New England Magazine in January, 1892, and was reprinted in this separate edition seven years later. It tells a largely autobiographical story of a woman who has a nervous breakdown after childbirth, is confined by her physician and husband in order that she have complete rest, is driven mad by hallucinations of a woman imprisoned behind the wallpaper in her room, and who frees herself by tearing down the paper.

After attending the International Socialist and Labor Congress in England in 1896 as one of the few female speakers, Gilman returned to the United States and published Women and Economics, reviewed by the Nation as "the most significant utterance on the subject since Mill's Subjection of Women." Her argument did not blame men, but pointed to a gradual change in society from a time when the sexes were equal to a time when women had become economic slaves. Despite recognition of her theories in the early years of the 20th century, she was largely forgotten until Women and Economics was republished in 1966, placing her in the line of important people in the history of women's rights.

Bequest of Bertha Van Riper Overbury, 1963

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