The Yellow Wallpaper

By: Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Introduction

We read The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born in Connecticut in 1860, she had a difficult childhood and her father left them and her mother had to raise her and her other sibling alone. Gilman married an artist and they had a daughter and Gilman became depressed which inspired the story The Yellow Wallpaper. She divorced her husband and wrote many books afterwards which dealt with women’s rights activism, and established a magazine which allowed her to express her ideas of women’s issues. She married her cousin George Gilman. She discovered that she had breast cancer and committed suicide on August 17, 1935.

Summary

The Yellow Wallpaper was written in 1890 in Gilman’s home in Pasadena, but it wasn’t printed until 1892 in a New England Magazine. It is about a lady who has postpartum depression which is a serious condition that can happen to women after giving birth, having a miscarriage, or still birth. Her husband is a doctor and tells her she can be cured by sitting in a room all day. They go to their Summerhouse and he sticks her in the upstairs room, which is covered in yellow wallpaper. She keeps a secret journal in which she starts to write about the yellow wallpaper and how it bothers her. She claims there is someone imprisoned in the wallpaper that only comes out when the moonlight strikes the wallpaper. She slowly becomes obsessed with the wallpaper and it drives her mad. Her husband walks into the room to find her crawling on the floor like an animal and he passes out and she crawls over him out of the room where she is no longer obsessed with the wallpaper and she feels free.

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Thesis

The 3 topics we will be talking about is Medicalization of women, women and production, and women and reproduction not only in the 1800’s but also it’s affects on today’s society.

Women and Reproduction

How common is Postpartum? According to the Centers for Disease Control, 11 to 20% of women who give birth each year have postpartum depression symptoms.

It is important that Women have control of their bodies and it is their choice to do what they please. As we know in the early 1900s men had power over pretty much everything..even women. With men being controling and also having a new born it causes stress and exhausted on a new mother. This stress and exhaustion may lead to pospartum depression. Also in the early 1900s men did all the labor, and the ladies cookied and cleaned around the house. I personally am glad that with time and events things have changed. But now that women are working and some even are single parents this leads to the question... does the mother's employment status affect outcomes for school-aged children?

A number of researchers have suggested that the childering which includes encouragement of independence, and maturity demands is important. Previous research has presented some evidence that employed mothers encourage independence in their children more than nonemployed mothers do. There are different results for boy and girls because of society. Men are born tough and are born bread winners while women are suppost to learn indepence with time and life experiences. The mothers employment does have an effect on the child but many dont view it has a negative one. Society is changing because women are working and now are being born as bread winners.

Women and Production Quotes from the Book

  • She is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession
  • John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.
  • The front pattern does move—and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it! Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over. Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard. And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern—it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads. They get through, and then the pattern strangles them off and turns them upside down, and makes their eyes white! If those heads were covered or taken off it would not be half so bad.
  • Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.
  • But what is one to do? I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal—having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition.

Women and Production

Whenever we discuss women's employment, we have the sense of being caught up in a circular, historically but also timeless, debate: is women's employment a good thing or a bad thing; should women/wives/mothers work, or not? What is the effect of employment on health, both physical and mental? What is gender inequality? During 1888 the National Council of Women was founded which, indeed would of started the feminist movement. The status of women within marriage, particularly their economic independence. According to that oft-quoted United Nations Report women perform two-thirds of the world's work hours, receive one-tenth of the world's income and own less than one hundredth of the world's property. So what are the economic realities for women? How does this effect women’s independence?

These economic gender gaps, which were salient issues during the women’s movement in the 1960s and 1970s, have been of interest to economists at least since the 1890s.

Medicalization of Women

  • According to the Western medical model, pre-menstrual syndrome is a disease, menstruation is a disease, pregnancy is a disease, childbirth is a disease, and menopause is a disease. Women are diagnosed with things easier than men. It has been proven that women get treated differently when it comes to medical diagnoses. Womens Health and Advocate stated that it's like women need treatment form menstruation to death while men don't usually enter the health care system until they reach middle age. Women are also prescribed more than 70% of medications. It is obvious from the book that women back in the 1800's where also treated differently than men in the health care system. The main character was basically in a prison in her own home because she had postpartum depression and if a man had depression he wouldn't have been put in a room. That is not the proper solution for postpartum depression and it just shows that doctors take advantage more or women than men.
  • Women’s mental states are so often pathologized and treated with medication that we must wonder both the reasons why we rush to medicate women so much more often than men and the effects of such treatments. Even when researchers study anxiety and depression they rely mainly on male animals although the diseases are much more prevalent in women. We are left to wonder not only “why women are being medicated for more illnesses far more often than men”, but also whether the treatment they are receiving takes their biology into account.(Shainwald)
  • Medications like Ambien are prescribed to women in a dose that is twice as high as the dose that men are prescribed.
  • Men have for a long time described women as being the weaker sex which has led to things in the past like women not being able to vote or work, but now that all those things are resolved, some male doctors still think women are the weaker sex so they diagnose them with many things and give them medicine they don't need.
  • Up until 1916 doctors told women who were menstruating that they needed to obtain from any heavy exercising and that they needed to stay out of school for 3 days to rest their body and minds, and all that did was make women look even weaker at the hands of a doctor.

Conclusion

Although many years have passed since The Yellow Wallpaper was written some things haven't changed. Women are still being taken advantage of in many ways. The Yellow Wallpaper helped us as a group to understand how major these things are and opened our eyes to problems that are not always publicized.

Annotated Bibliography