On July 3, 1860, Charlotte Anna Perkins (Charlotte Perkins Gilman) was born in Hartford, Connecticut. Gilman became a prolific writer whose subject matter ranged from the differences between women and men to gum chewing in public. She was also a lecturer and supporter of women’s suffrage and women’s economic independence in the early 20th century. Gilman’s paternal great-grandfather was Dr. Lyman Beecher, the renowned Calvinist preacher, and Gilman revered her famous great-aunts, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Catharine Beecher, and Isabella Beecher Hooker.
Gilman is best known for her semi-autobiographical story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” which was loosely based on the rest cure she received under medical supervision. The story depicts a woman sent to “rest” in the bedroom of a rented summer home where she ultimately descends into madness.
In 1932, Gilman discovered that she had inoperable breast cancer and moved to California to be near her daughter. An advocate of euthanasia, Gilman ended her life at the age of 75 with an overdose of chloroform; she stated in both her diary and suicide note that she “preferred chloroform to cancer.”
Although Gilman’s literary reputation had declined in the years before her death, the advent of the women’s movement in the 1960s brought about a revival of attention to her work. In 1993, a poll commissioned by the Sienna Research Institute named Gilman the sixth most influential woman of the 20th century, and in 1994 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.