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Gilman, Charlotte Perkins (1860–1935)

Michael R. Hill

Subject Gender Studies
Sociology » Sociology of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality

Place Northern America » United States of America

Key-Topics feminism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Charlotte Perkins Gilman was an influential and sometimes controversial contributor to early American sociology. Her Women and Economics (1898) launched a searching feminist sociological critique of the economic position of women in patriarchal societies. The primary site for Gilman's continuing sociological work was the Forerunner (1909–16), a monthly journal that Gilman wrote and self-published. The socially problematic issues that Gilman explored in her works echo theoretical proposals of Lester F. Ward (1841–1913), a founding American sociologist who admired Gilman and vice versa. Ward's concept of gynecocentric (i.e., woman-centered) social theory reinforced Gilman's strong belief in the fundamental rationality of women's values and social contributions. Gilman developed this perspective at length in her non-fiction works. Gilman was an early member of the American Sociological Society, published in the American Journal of Sociology , was respected by contemporary sociologists, and was widely known by lay readers in the public generally. Gilman shared the feminist pragmatist tenet, that women's values make for better societies, in common with American sociologist Jane Addams (1860–1935). Antecedent to Gilman's sprightly Herland saga is Addams's witty and biting essay, “If Men Were Seeking the Franchise” (1913). Addams, a friend and colleague of Gilman, described a hypothetical ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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