Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Remembering one of the Earliest Voices of Feminism

"This is the woman's century, the first chance for the mother of the world to rise to her full place... and the world waits while she powders her nose."

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (July 3, 1860 – August 17, 1935) was a prominent American sociologist, novelist, writer of short stories, poetry, and non fiction, and a lecturer for social reform. She was a utopian feminist during a time when her accomplishments were exceptional for women, and she served as a role model for future generations of feminists because of her unorthodox concepts and lifestyle. Her best remembered work today is her semi-autobiographical short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper", which she wrote after a severe bout of post-partum depression. (More of the Wiki Article)

What I like most about Gilman is her avocation for EQUALITY between the sexes. This is the goal and the true way to a better way of life for all. I am currently reading her prophetic ;) novel Herland (1915). In Herland, three male explorers stumble into a 2,000 year old Utopian society made up entirely of women. They find it to be a peaceful, progressive environmentally conscious place, but no men allowed. They are captured and held as prisoners. Its a must read for men and women alike. :)


Gilman was very much a diamond formed in the rough ways of late 19th century life. Her writings reflect this and give us the opportunity to see that world through her strong female eyes. She fought oppression and the painful shackles of conventional female life with the strength and grace only a woman can posses throughout her very interesting life. And we are all grateful indeed.

The Artist

Here one of us is born, made as a lens,
Or else to lens-shape cruelly smooth-ground,
To gather light, the light that shines on all,
In concentrated flame it glows, pure fire,
With light a hundredfold, more light for all.

Come and receive, take with the eye or ear,
Take and be filled, illumined, overflowed;
Then go and shine again, your whole work lit,
Your whole heart warm and luminous and glad;
Go shine again-and spread the gladness wide;

Happy the lens! To gather skies of light
And focus it, making the splendor there!
Happy all we who are enriched therewith,
And redistribute ever, swift and far.

The artist is the intermediate lens
Of God, an so best give Him to the world,
Intensified, interpreted, to us.

Locked Inside

She beats upon her bolted door,
She beats upon her bolted door,
With faint weak hands;
Drearily walks the narrow floor;
Sullenly sits, blank walls before;
Despairing stands.

Life calls her, Duty, Pleasure, Gain–
Her dreams respond;
But the blank daylights wax and wane,
Dull peace, sharp agony, slow pain–
No hope beyond.

Till she comes a thought! She lifts her head,
The world grows wide!
A voice–as if clear words were said–
"Your door, O long imprisoned,
Is locked inside!"


Small is thought of "Fatherland,"
With all its pride and worth;
With all its history of death;
Of fire and sword and wasted breath-
By the great new thought which quickeneth-
The thought of "Mother Earth."
Man fights for wealth and rule and price,
For the "name" that is his alone;
Comes woman, wakening to her power,
Comes woman, opening the hour
That see life as one growing flower,
All children as her own.

Fathers have fought for their Fatherland
With slaughter and death and dearth,
But mothers, in service and love's increase,
Will labor together for our release,
From a war-stained past to a world at peace,
Our fair, sweet Mother Earth.

Read More about Charlotte Perkins Gilman

(Blog dedicated to Meganne Rosen O'Neil who first introduced me to Gilman's work, the beautiful poet Lauryl Wagoner, and to the always inspiring Jessica Brothers.)

In closing, I would like to say- Women everywhere must reconnect to themselves and each other. They must remember the goddesses they are and must never forget the most sacred bond of all- Sisterhood. :)

With Love and Respect

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Although I feel lukewarm toward the poetry, I love and agree with everything that you wrote. Thanks for educating us about such an important figure in our cultural history and reminding us women to stay connected to each other.