Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Her Contemporaries: Literary by Cynthia Davis

By Cynthia Davis

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Extra info for Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Her Contemporaries: Literary and Intellectual Contexts (Amer Lit Realism & Naturalism)

Sample text

Weir Mitchell, who had supervised Gilman’s disastrous rest cure, was a personal friend and artistic discovery of Howells, who published some of the doctor’s ¤ction in the Atlantic Monthly. Mitchell had also prescribed this treatment for Howells’s daughter Winifred, who gained physical strength but died of “a sudden failure of the heart” while under his care (Howells, Letters 3: 247). Even after Winifred’s death and despite his own successful experience with Mitchell’s rest cure, Howells continued to associate his daughter’s symptoms with a level of intellectual activity deemed excessive for a woman (Howells to S.

Despite his reservations, Howells kept faith with Gilman—in his fashion. Notes A longer version of this essay originally appeared in Patrons and Protegees: Gender, Friendship, and Writing in Nineteenth-Century America, edited by Shirley Gilman and William Dean Howells 31 Marchalonis (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1988), 212–34. Reprinted by permission. 1. The Howells biographies I consulted simply do not mention the Gilman connection, probably because the major ones were written before interest in her work was revived in the early 1960s.

The “apostle” was Edward Bellamy, whose novel Looking Backward was helped to prominence by Howells’s favorable review. Gilman was prepared by nature and education to embrace the Na- 22 Joanne B. Karpinski tionalist creed, which expounded the necessity of the government’s taking complete control of the means of production in order to eradicate the panoply of evils generated by laissez-faire economics. Nationalism and feminism worked together, in Gilman’s view. She believed nationalism to be “the most practical form of human development,” but equality of the sexes was “the most essential condition of that development” (qtd.

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