In Search for Independence and Self-Fulfillment.
In the last half of the nineteenth century, Victorian ideals still held sway in American society, at least among members of the middle and upper classes. Thus the cult of True Womanhood was still promoted which preached four cardinal virtues for women: piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity. Women were considered far more religious than men and, therefore, they had to be pure in heart, mind, and, of course, body. Not engaging in sex until marriage, and even then not finding any pleasure in it. They were also supposed to be passive responders to men's decisions, actions, and needs. The true women's place was her home; "females were uniquely suited to raise children, care for the needs for their men-folk, and devote their lives to creating a nurturing home environment" (Norton 108). However, the tensions between old and new, traditional and untraditional, were great during the last years of the nineteenth century and there was a debate among male and female writers and social thinkers as to what the role of women should be. Among the female writers who devoted their work to defying their views about the woman's place in society were Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Kate Chopin.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) was a social activist and theorist of the women's movement at the turn of the twentieth century. She developed her feminist ideals in her novels, short stories and nonfiction books such as Women and Economics. Charlotte Perkins Gilman is best known for her short story The Yellow Wallpaper, (1892) which is based on her own experience.
As the story begins, the woman-whose name we never learn tells of her depression and how it is being treated by her husband and brother who are both doctors. These two men are unable to see that there is more to her condition than just a stress and depression and prescribe for her rest as a cure.