Mr Horse and Mrs Eohippus

Elaine Showalter

  • The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman: An Autobiography introduction by Ann Lane
    University of Wisconsin Press, 341 pp, £10.45, April 1991, ISBN 0 299 12740 0
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A Non-Fiction Reader edited by Larry Ceplair
    Columbia, 345 pp, £20.50, December 1991, ISBN 0 231 07617 7

In 1934, knowing that she had inoperable breast cancer, the American feminist intellectual Charlotte Perkins Gilman decided to finish the autobiography she had begun a decade before. Her fame as a writer and speaker had faded; she was no longer in demand on the lecture circuit, and all of her six books were out of print. In keeping with her stoic philosophy, Gilman had made the decision to end her life with chloroform. ‘Human life consists in mutual service,’ she wrote in her final chapter. ‘When all usefulness is over, when one is assured of 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.’ She read her proofs, chose the photographs, and approved the cover; then, on 17 August 1935, three months before the date of publication, she carried out her plan.

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