Date of this Version
Hill, Michael R. 2007. “Gilman, Charlotte Perkins.” Pp. 1941-1942 in The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, edited by George Ritzer. Vol. IV. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was an influential and sometimes controversial contributor to early American sociology. Her Women and Economics (1898) launched a searching feminist sociological critique of the economic position of women in patriarchal societies. The primary site for Gilman's continuing sociological work was the Forerunner (1909-16), a monthly journal that Gilman wrote and self-published. The socially problematic issues that Gilman explored in her works echo theoretical proposals of Lester F. Ward (1841-1913), a founding American sociologist who admired Gilman and vice versa. Ward's concept of gynecocentric (i.e., womancentered) social theory reinforced Gilman's strong belief in the fundamental rationality of women's values and social contributions. Gilman developed this perspective at length in her non-fiction works. Gilman was an early member of the American Sociological Society, published in the American Journal of Sociology, was respected by contemporary sociologists, and was widely known by lay readers in the public generally.