Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) was one of the loudest voices in the women’s movement in the United States. In contemporary women’s studies, she receives attention as an author, particularly for her short story “The Yellow Wallpaper”. During her lifetime, her book on the economic relationship between men and women as a factor in the social evolution, “Women and Economics”, was her greatest success. Only thirteen years after its publication in 1898, “Women and Economics” has already been translated into seven different languages and had as many editions.
Perkins Gilman emphasizes the importance of wage labor and addresses the problem of unpaid housework. “Labor is not merely a means of supporting human life – it is human life,” she wrote in “Our Androcentric Culture; Or the Man Made World” (1911). The exclusion of women from paid labor is one factor that prevents women from being able to develop as human beings.
Important theories of her time found their way into her reflections, for example Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and Lester F. Ward’s androcentrism. Perkins Gilman described gender as a historically and socially established construct.
After 1920, when the 19th amendment of the United States’ Constitution of Rights came into effect, and women thus received the right to vote, the women’s movement lost momentum. Perkins Gilman had aimed higher than that, she wanted “equal power.”