Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Tangled Legacy

April 3, 2019 | 2 books mentioned

How do we approach the tarnished legacy of a renowned writer? Charlotte Perkins Gilman, author of The Yellow Wall-Paper and Herland, is known for her feminist classics—but she was also a devotee of eugenics. In an excerpt from her introduction to a new Penguin Classics edition of Gilman’s writing, author Kate Bolick reflects on Gilman’s career, beliefs, and place in society. “It was not until the 1970s, amid the renewed interest of second-wave feminists, that scholars rediscovered this forgotten writer,” Bolick writes. “Yet their initial rush of excitement in doing so was often replaced, as her writings on race came to light, with a sense of confusion and disappointment. How could it be that this progressive feminist activist followed such an injurious line of thinking?”

Image credit: C.F. Lummis

is a writer and illustrator. She is the author of two illustrated books, Last Night's Reading (Penguin Books, 2015) and Sanpaku (Archaia 2018).

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