An American Family: The Beecher Tradition
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CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN

Profile of face and shoulders.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Portrait courtesy of The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Hartford, Connecticut.
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Charlotte Perkins Gilman was the daughter of Mary Finch Perkins and Frederick Beecher Perkins, the grandson of Lyman and nephew of Harriet. Charlotte was born in 1860 in Hartford, Connecticut. Her early years were spent in poverty due to the abandonment by her father of the family, and she consequently had a limited education, although she did attend the Rhode Island School of Design. She married and had one daughter, but the marriage failed and her husband married her best friend. This did not seem to bother her, and she sent her daughter to live with the couple, which was unfavorably commented upon by the press. In order to earn money she began writing short stories and poetry and lecturing. Her lectures centered on the themes of women, labor and social organization. In 1898 she published Women and Economics which argues for the socialization of housework through the establishment of communal kitchens and day nurseries in order for women to work outside their homes. In 1900 Charlotte married her first cousin, George Houghton Gilman. She continued her lecturing and writing and helped found with Jane Addams and others the Woman's Peace Party. She died in 1935, and is considered by many as one of the greatest American women.

In Milton Rugoff's biography of the Beecher family he presents an overview of the nineteenth century Beecher women. "The progress from Catherine Beecher's early campaign for women's education and financial independence to Isabella's work for women's rights, and thence to Charlotte's efforts to live as a liberated woman in the 1890s, is perhaps the most striking example of the persistence in the Beecher family of committment to a social ideal." (p.593)

Cover to the New England Magazine.   Title page from hearing.
New England Magazine. An illustrated monthly. (March 1891, August 1891). Charlotte's essay, The Giant Wisteria first appeared in this issue.
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  Hearing of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. (Washington, D.C., January 28, 1896).
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Charlotte Perkins Gilman Stetson traveled from California to address the committee on the Judiciary, the United States House of Representatives.

Newspaper clipping

Cleveland Journal (7/15/1905), p.2.
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A short biographical sketch appeared in the Cleveland Journal.


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