Called by Carrie Chapman Catt “the most original and challenging mind which the (women’s) movement produced,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a philosopher, theoretician, writer, educator and activist. She demanded equal treatment for women as the best means to advance society’s progress.
Gilman’s landmark work, Women and Economics, was written in 1898. In the book she makes clear that until women learn to be economically independent, true autonomy and equality could not be found. A bestseller, the book was translated into seven languages. Gilman’s denunciation of the romanticization of domesticity as a goal for women was revolutionary. Gilman was a much-sought after lecturer, and she continued to write, producing six nonfiction works, eight novels, nearly 200 short stories, hundreds of poems, plays and literally thousands of essays. Gilman was not often directly involved in the social movements of her time. From 1909 to 1916, she wrote much of and published The Forerunner, a monthly feminist magazine. At the end of her life, she wrote The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman: An Autobiography.