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Within the last decade or so Charlotte Perkins Gilman has been experiencing something of a renaissance While this prominent turn-of-the-century intellectual leader languished in obscurity until Carl Degler resurrected her in the mid-1950s today there are two biographies two collections of her writings numerous literary criticisms and The Yellow Wallpaper proclaims her feminist manifesto not only in print but as adapted for Masterpiece Theater the opera and the balletl Why all the renewed interest in Gilman According to Mary Hill and Ann Lane the answers lie in the life experiences of a rather extraordinary woman who waged a lifelong battle against the restrictive patriarchal social codes for women in late nineteenth-century America From this battle Gilman developed a controversial conception of womanhoodBorn in 1860 Gilman a self-educated intellectual dedicated her life to serving humanity When her lover unexpectedly proposed she was suddenly torn between work and marriage After years of debating whether to marry or not to marry she consented and to the best of her abilities assumed the traditional roles of wife and mother only to suffer a debilitating nervous breakdown When her treatment of total rest drove her close to insanity she was cured by removing herself physically from her home husband and finally her child and by engaging in and writing about the social movements of the dayUsing her extraordinary life experiences as a female within a patriarchal system Gilman redefined womanhood declaring women the equal of men in all spheres of life This new woman was to be an intelligent well-informed and well-educated free thinker the creator and expresser of her own ideas She was to be economically self-sufficient socially independent and politically active She would share the opportunities duties and responsibilities of the workplace with men and together they would share the solitude of the hearth Finally the new woman was to be as informed assertive confident and influential as she was compassionate nurturing loving sensitive--a woman of the world
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