Charlotte Perkins Gilman : The Dependence Of Women


  1. from Women and Economics (1898)
  2. 1860-1935
  3. feminist theorist, novelist, sometime sociologist
  4. Herland, Yellow Wallpaper


  1. Partnership of husband and wife not a business partnership
  2. She would seem to earn her keep through house service. Women DO engage in an economic activity.
  3. Women’s labor in home allows men to produce wealth outside home.
  4. Women’s labor is done as duty not employment
    • Whatever the economic value of women’s domestic work they do not get it.
    • done as “duty as woman”
    • if fairly paid ALL women would be peasants
  5. oh, so it is duty as mother
  6. But that doesn’t work either
    • "…if motherhood is an exchangeable commodity given by women in payment for clothes and food, then we must of course find some relation between the quantity and quality of the motherhood and the quantity and quality of the pay."
    • women are not maintained … in proportion to their motherhood
  7. The only other argument is that maternity makes women unfit for productive economic work.
    • NOTE: Argument gets a little hard to follow at 164a3 since the voice changes and the phrase “women are supported by men” seems to be used ambiguously. Is it what Gilman is arguing for or not?
  8. Bottom line, she says the contemporary (1900), American female is, in general, supported by the male. That’s the IS. How about the “oughts”? There are two oughts: the natural and the ethical. First, is it logically or naturally necessary? She says if this were the case we’d expect motherhood to be absolutely draining leaving nothing leftover. Not so. Women spend their energy not in child service but in men service.

Follow-up Questions

Why do we include this with Simmel and Dubois? Why say it’s about “difference”?

  1. one interpretation of “difference” is in terms of its impact : inequality
  2. another is that we are introducing dimensions that “cross” class, perhaps orthogonally, perhaps not. Just how these other dimensions (race and sex here) do so is a major task of late 20th and 21st century social science.

Gilman as an Intellectual Role Model
Doing Xism using the tools/logic that the “oppressor” understands

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