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Read by Christopher Ragland, Laurel Lefkow & Liza Ross (Unabridged: 3hrs 9mins)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born on 3rd July 1860 in Hartford, Connecticut, to an unaffectionate mother and a father who abandoned her and her older brother to a life of poverty.
Inevitably her schooling was limited and by 15 she had attended seven different schools but received only four years education. However Charlotte was resourceful and did spend time with her father’s aunts – the suffragist Isabella Beecher Hooker and the ‘Uncle Tom Cabin’s’ author, Harriet Beecher Stowe as well as many hours at the public library studying ancient civilisations.
In 1878, she enrolled in classes at the Rhode Island School of Design where she met Martha Luther and they developed a close relationship until Luther married in 1881. Charlotte was devastated and detested romance and love until she met and married the artist Charles Walter Stetson.
Their only child, Katharine Beecher Stetson, was born in 1885 but left Charlotte with post-natal depression, then often dismissed as a case of hysteria or nerves. Unsuited to domestic life she ruptured her life and moved to California with Katherine. She divorced in 1894 and then sent Katharine east to live with her father and his second wife confirming that his paternal rights be acknowledged and that Katherine establish a relationship with her father.
After her mother died in 1893, Charlotte moved back east and became involved with her first cousin, Wall Street attorney, Houghton Gilman who she married in 1900. After his death she moved back to California, where Katherine now lived.
Her most popular story is ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ which touched on her own post-partum depression and underlined the need for women to be responsible for their mental and physical well-being, as the narrator is ordered by her husband/doctor to take compete rest in her room where she is isolated and becomes obsessed with the revolting yellow wallpaper.
She wrote other notable short stories the best of which we also include.
Charlotte lectured widely for social reform, wrote important non-fiction works that questioned our patriarchal system and left a legacy as a leading and positive spokesperson for feminism.
She was diagnosed with incurable breast cancer in 1932 and, as she wrote in her suicide note and autobiography, she ‘chose chloroform over cancer’
Charlotte Perkins Gilman took her own life on 17th August 1935, aged 75, in Pasadena, California.