Death mask of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1935
In 1932, Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860–1935), one of the intellectual leaders of the women’s movement from the 1890s through the 1920s, was diagnosed with incurable breast cancer. Long an advocate of euthanasia, Gilman committed suicide on August 17, 1935, choosing, she wrote, “chloroform over cancer.” Before her body was cremated, this plaster death mask was made.
Internationally known during her lifetime as a feminist, a socialist, and the author of Women and Economics (1898), she was less recognized for her prodigious literary output. When discovered by feminists in the 1970s, they read her fiction more than her nonfiction, especially her short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” about a woman descending into madness, and her utopian novel Herland (1915), about a country of women freed from domestic servitude. Contemporary scholars taking another look at Gilman can see her in the context of all of her writings thanks to the Library’s project to fully digitize the Charlotte Perkins Gilman Papers.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman Papers, Schlesinger Library
Explore the Library’s Charlotte Perkins Gilman collection, which has been fully digitized.
See the Schlesinger Library's research guide to Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
Read about the Schlesinger Library's exhibit From Woman to Human: The Life and Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman.