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Charlotte Perkins Gilman

  • I was climbing up a mountain-path / With many things to do, / Important business of my own, / And other people's too, / When I ran against a Prejudice / That quite cut off the view.

    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
    • "An Obstacle," In This Our World ()
  • To work is not only a right, it is a duty. To work to the full capacity of one's powers is necessary for human development — the full use of one's best faculties — this is the health and happiness for both man and woman.

  • The labor of women in the house certainly, enables men to produce more wealth than they otherwise could; and in this way women are economic factors in society. But so are horses. The labor of horses enables men to produce more wealth than they otherwise could. The horse is an economic factor in society. But the horse is not economically independent, nor is the woman.

  • The women who do the most work get the least money, and the women who have the most money do the least work.

  • To speak broadly, the troubles of life as we find them are mainly traceable to the heart or the purse.

  • In our steady insistence on proclaiming sex-distinction we have grown to consider most human attributes as masculine attributes, for the simple reason that they were allowed to men and forbidden to women.

  • What we do modifies us more than what is done to us.

  • Where young boys plan for what they will achieve and attain, young girls plan for whom they will achieve and attain.

  • There should be an end to the bitterness of feeling which has arisen between the sexes in this century.

  • There is no female mind. The brain is not an organ of sex. As well speak of a female liver.

  • Not woman, but the condition of woman, has always been a doorway of evil.

  • The home is the centre and circumference, the start and the finish, of most of our lives.

    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
    • The Home
    • ()
  • The home is a human institution. All human institutions are open to improvement.

    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
    • The Home
    • ()
  • The softest, freest, most pliable and changeful living substance is the brain — the hardest and most iron-bound as well.

    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
    • The Home
    • ()
  • The original necessity for the ceaseless presence of the woman to maintain that altar fire — and it was an altar fire in very truth at one period — has passed with the means of prompt ignition; the matchbox has freed the housewife from that incessant service, but the feeling that women should stay at home is with us yet.

    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
    • The Home
    • ()
  • It will be a great thing for the human soul when it finally stops worshipping backwards.

    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
    • The Home
    • ()
  • We are pushed forward by the social forces, reluctant and stumbling, our faces over our shoulders, clutching at every relic of the past as we are forced along; still adoring whatever is behind us. We insist upon worshipping 'the God of our fathers.' Why not the God of our children? Does eternity only stretch one way?

    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
    • The Home
    • ()
  • A house does not need a wife any more than it does a husband.

    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
    • The Home
    • ()
  • The best proof of man's dissatisfaction with the home is found in his universal absence from it.

    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
    • The Home
    • ()
  • The most familiar facts are often hardest to understand.

  • In business life, that is, in its material processes, we eagerly accept the new. In social life, in all our social processes, we piously, valiantly, obdurately, maintain the old.

  • ... all social relations exist and grow in the human mind. That one despot can rule over a million other men rests absolutely on their state of mind. They believe that he does; let them change their minds, and he does not.

  • In the field of economics we maintain to this day some of the most primitive ideas, some of the most radically false ideas, some of the most absurd ideas a brain can hold. ... but all this give no uneasiness to the average brain. That long-suffering organ has been trained for more thousands of years than history can uncover to hold in unquestioning patience great blocks of irrelevant idiocy and large active lies.

  • Life is a verb, not a noun.

  • Concepts antedate facts.

  • At any given period in history the ideas of the common mind are found to antedate the facts. The facts of the twentieth century are approached with the ideas, feelings, prejudices of the tenth.

  • A concept is stronger than a fact.

  • There was a time when Patience ceased to be a virtue. It was long ago.

    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
    • in The Forerunner ()
  • Eternity is not something that begins after you are dead. It is going on all the time. We are in it now.

    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
    • in The Forerunner ()
  • [Warfare is] maleness in its absurdest extremes. Here is to be studied the whole gamut of basic masculinity, from the initial instinct of combat, through every form of glorious ostentation, with the loudest accompaniment of noise.

  • If fifty men did all the work, / And gave the price to five, / And let those five make all the rules — / You'd say the fifty men were fools, / Unfit to be alive.

    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
    • "Five and Fifty," The Forerunner ()
  • A man does not have to stay at home all day, in order to love it; why should a woman?

  • No matter what the belief, if it had modestly said, 'This is our best thought, go on, think farther!' then we could have smoothly outgrown our early errors and long since have developed a religion such as would have kept pace with an advancing world. But we were made to believe and not allowed to think. We were told to obey, rather than to experiment and investigate.

  • If only religion could be brought to take an interest in this earthly future, what a help it would be! ... Think of the appeal to the less spiritual of us, to those who never did get enthusiastic about eternity, or care so tenderly about their own souls, yet who could rise to the thought of improving this world for the children they love, and their children after them.

  • The peculiarity of all death-based religions is that their subject-matter is entirely outside of facts. Men could think and think, talk and argue, advance, deny, assert, and controvert, and write innumerable books, without being hampered at any time by any fact. ... with this arbitrary basis, the minds of men soared happily in unbridled conjecture, and built up colossal systems of thought ... which were imposed upon the world.

  • It cannot be too strongly asserted that the insistence on blind, unreasoning faith is due mainly to the maintenance of a subject-matter upon which there was no knowledge, namely the 'other world'; and that this basis was assumed because of early man's preoccupation with death. It is, unfortunately, quite possible to believe a thing which is contradicted by facts, especially if the facts are not generally known; but if the whole position on which we rested our religions had been visibly opposed by what we did know, even the unthinking masses would, in time, have noticed it.

  • New York ... that unnatural city where every one is an exile, none more so than the American.

  • ... one cannot put a quart in a pint cup.

  • ... love grows by service.

  • Death? Why this fuss about death. Use your imagination, try to visualize a world without death! ... Death is the essential condition of life, not an evil.

  • The time is approaching when we shall consider it abhorrent to our civilization to allow a human being to die in prolonged agony which we should mercifully end in any other creature.

  • Exciting literature after supper is not the best digestive.

  • Fine blunderers in ethics we are, so generally conveying to children the basic impression that pleasantness must be wrong, and right doing unpleasant!

  • California is a state peculiarly addicted to swift enthusiasms. It is a seed-bed of all manner of cults and theories, taken up, and dropped, with equal speed.

  • The difference is great between one's outside 'life,' the things which happen to one, incidents, pains and pleasures, and one's 'living.'

  • The religious need of the human mind remains alive, never more so, but it demands a teaching which can be understood. Slowly an apprehension of the intimate, usable power of God is growing among us, and a growing recognition of the only worth-while application of that power — in the improvement of the world.

  • As to ethics, unfortunately, we are still at sea. We never did have any popular base for what little ethics we knew, except the religious theories, and now that our faith is shaken in those theories we cannot account for ethics at all. It is no wonder we behave badly, we are literally ignorant of the laws of ethics, which is the simplest of sciences, the most necessary, the most continuously needed. The childish misconduct of our 'revolted youth' is quite equaled by that of older people, and neither young nor old seem to have any understanding of the reasons why conduct is 'good' or 'bad.'

  • Audiences are always better pleased with a smart retort, some joke or epigram, than with any amount of reasoning.

  • In great cities where people of ability abound, there is always a feverish urge to keep ahead, to set the pace, to adopt each new fashion in thought and theory as well as in dress — or undress.

  • The first duty of a human is to assume the right functional relationship to society — more briefly, to find your real job, and do it.

  • It would have saved trouble had I remained Perkins from the first, this changing of women's names is a nuisance we are now happily outgrowing.

  • [From her suicide note:] Human life consists in mutual service. No grief, pain, misfortune, or 'broken heart' is excuse for cutting off one's life while any power of service remains. But when all usefulness is over, when one is assured of an unavoidable and imminent death, it is the simplest of human rights to choose a quick and easy death in place of a slow and horrible one.

  • Until we see what we are, we cannot take steps to become what we should be.

    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
    • in Ann J. Lane, To Herland and Beyond: The Life and World of Charlotte Perkins Gilman ()
  • The people people choose for friends / Your common sense appall, / But the people people marry / Are the queerest folk of all.

    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
    • "Queer People" (1899), in Denise D. Knight, ed., The Later Poetry of Charlotte Perkins Gilman ()
  • For men obsessed with women's underwear, a course in washing, ironing and mending is recommended.

    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • To attain happiness in another world we need only to believe something; to secure it in this world, we must do something.

    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • It is the duty of youth to bring its fresh new powers to bear on social progress. Each generation of young people should be to the world like a vast reserve force to a tired army. They should lift the world forward. That is what they are for.

    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • Until 'mothers' earn their livings, 'women' will not.

    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
    • 1916, in Louise Bernikow, The American Women's Almanac ()

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, U.S. writer, lecturer, social critic, poet

(1860 - 1935)

Full name: Charlotte Anna Perkins Stetson Gilman.