Today we bring you The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, first published 1892 in The New England Magazine.
One of the unspoken principles of my upbringing in Williamsburg Bluffs was that of rigid roles for women, especially for mothers, in contrast to the relative freedom of men. While in the late 20th century male children were being raised with an understanding that their roles were important but their responsibility to them relaxed, women were often as much or more the shoulders upon which every day practical life was placed, including the management of the household and any business, as well as the production and upbringing of children.
This rendered in the people of my town in our part of Appalachia a seemingly worshipful reverence of women, but the most obvious leaning of this view was in any individual’s natural failings… women were not merely encouraged to these roles, but they were increasingly pushed into them unless they embarked into the outside world. The Sexual Revolution, for the flawed turn of American society that it was, had not even seemed to touch us. And as much reverence as we provided, many of us lived in unnatural fear of any show of the irrational in women. Women, in fact, in illness mental or otherwise, were reviled or put away when they showed that they were human, often by those men and women better able to disguise or hide their own faults in the light of day.
In short, a kind of depthy unfairness that I, in my youth, was lucky enough to begin to turn away from with the help of thinkers and authors such as Gilman. We’d enjoy it if you had a listen.