TO ""HERLAND"" AND BEYOND: The Life and Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman by Ann J. Lane

TO ""HERLAND"" AND BEYOND: The Life and Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A well-documented biography of the once internationally famous American social critic Gilman--author of Herland--who was rediscovered by feminism as ""a major theorist of gender."" Born in 1860 into the prominent Beecher family, Gilman gained fame in 1898 with Women and Economics, which called for women to gain financial independence. She followed this with Concerning Children (1900), The Home: Its Work and Influence (1903), Human Work (1904), ""dozens of books and hundreds of articles,"" and countless lectures (through which she earned a meager living). In this painstakingly fair account, Lane (Women's Studies/Colgate)--who ""rediscovered"" the serialized (in 1915) prefeminist Utopian novel Herland (republished in 1979)--builds a psychological portrait around the major figures in Gilman's story: her father (who abandoned the family), her mother (who deliberately denied her affection), three female friends, two husbands, and her daughter. The most dramatic, compelling moment of this ""inner life"" and of the book comes after her child is born, and Gilman suffers a deep depression. She was treated by the well-known neurologist Silar Weir Mitchell, who ordered her to ""never touch pen, brush or pencil as long as you live."" But Gilman kept her depression at bay and continued to work (""without which one is a pauper and a parasite""), eventually leaving both husband and daughter. Meanwhile, Lane diligently and objectively reviews Gilman's extensive writings to explain her contribution to feminism and social theory, and lets us hear her candid, even passionate, voice through her letters. A dry, thoughtful, and occasionally moving account of a woman's courageous--and defiant--public and private life.

Pub Date: April 16th, 1990
Publisher: Pantheon