Postpartum depression is still taboo somewhat today, almost 100 years later. This is a great online exhibition on the U.S. Library of Medicine website, titled The Literature of Prescription – Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “The Yellow Wallpaper.”
Gilman was a catalyst for inspiring the Community Kitchen. The three chairwomen of the War Relief Committee and co-founders of the Community Kitchen (Mrs. James Odell – my great-grandmother, Mrs. Homer Kingsley, and Mrs. Rufas Dawes — and I refer to them by their married names because that is how they were referred to publicly by society, but you should know them as Elizabeth Odell, Nellie Kingsley, and Helen Dawes) traveled to the East Coast after Gilman’s talk to visit successful established cooperative kitchens. The women were inspired, encouraged, and excited after hearing Charlotte talk. Who wouldn’t be?
This is going to be a juicy chapter to write for the Community Kitchen book! I love researching Charlotte Perkins Gilman. What a woman! I had postpartum depression after the birth of my son. I didn’t experience postpartum psychosis which the character in “The Yellow Wallpaper” suffered from, but I did have intrusive thoughts for the first three months after his birth. I remember going to Virginia Beach on vacation when my son was three months old. I couldn’t stand anywhere near the balcony for fear of him falling. And we had a nice balcony view of the beach, but I stayed far from the balcony. I treated myself to a cranial sacral massage at the Edgar Cayce Center. I met a kind woman there named Annie, who is a very close friend now. Annie was my masseuse and did the cranial sacral massage. Our conversation during my treatment revolved around motherhood and our own mothers. At the time, I was dealing with the anticipation of losing my mother (at the time my mother was in a nursing home and very ill) and it weighed heavy on my heart. Annie’s mother died in childbirth giving birth to her.
Women hold their hearts in the womb, whether is be physically present or not. Women give birth, even when they do not.
The Sixth International Charlotte Perkins Gilman Conference
Gilman and the Archive
June 12-14, 2015
Schlesinger Library, Cambridge, MA
You can find more information on the Charlotte Perkins Gilman Society here. I am hoping to find a copy of her speech, The Waste of Women’s Labor for my book. Better yet, I’d love to find her journals and specific reflections from her visit to Evanston in 1919.