Charlotte Perkins Gilman (18601935), a major American feminist and prolific writer, published a dozen books of social analysis, almost two hundred poems and close to two hundred short stories and novels. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, a grandniece of Harriet Beecher Stowe, she attended the Rhode Island School of Design before marrying her first husband, Charles Walter Stetson. Her mental breakdown after the birth of her daughter led to the writing of her now classic short story The Yellow Wallpaper.” She left her husband in 1888 and supported herself by lecturing, editing, writing, and teaching. After she obtained a divorce, she created a public scandal by allowing her daughter to live with her ex-husband and his new wife. In 1900, she married George Houghton Gilman. Her writings include Women and Economics (1898), hailed as the Bible” of the women’s movement, Concerning Children (1900), Human Work (1904), Man-Made World (1911), and The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman: An Autobiography (1935). After being diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, she committed suicide in Pasadena, California.
Barbara H. Solomon is professor emeritus of English and Women’s Studies at Iona College. Her major academic interests are twentieth-century American and world literature. Among the anthologies she has edited are The Awakening and Selected Stories of Kate Chopin; Other Voices, Other Vistas; and The Haves and Have-Nots. With Eileen Panetta, she has coedited Once upon a Childhood; Passages: 24 Modern Indian Stories; and Vampires, Zombies, Werewolves, and Ghosts: 25 Classic Stories of the Supernatural.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a celebrityacclaimed as a leader in the feminist movement and castigated for her divorce, her relinquishment of custody of her daughter, and her unconventional second marriage. She was also widely read, with stories in popular magazines and with dozens of books in print. Her most famous short story, the intensely personal The Yellow Wallpaper,” was read as a horror story when first published in 1892 and then lapsed into obscurity before being rediscovered and reinterpreted by feminist scholars in the 1970s.
Noted anthologist Barbara Solomon has put together a remarkable collection of Gilman’s fiction, which includes twenty short stories and the complete text of Herland, the landmark utopian novel that remained unavailable for more than sixty years. From The Unexpected,” printed in Kate Field’s Washington in 1890, to such later tales as Mrs. Elder’s Idea,” published in Gilman’s own periodical, The Forerunner, readers can again encounter this witty, original, and audacious woman who dared to challenge the status quo and who created fiction that continues to be fresh and timeless.
Edited and with an Introduction by Barbara H. Solomon