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Commission on Civil Rights. In , Dr. Hartmann was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship Award for her work in the field of women and economics. She is an economist with a B. Phil and Ph. She is the recipient of two honorary degrees. Originally, Gilman suggests, women were the leaders of race development, having the initiative in sexual selection the choosing of mates , while men were individualistic and opportunistic beings useful mainly for fathering offspring.

Evolution then took a temporary detour: women became subordinate to and dependent upon men so that men could develop social, rather than individualistic, traits, which they would acquire through providing food and shelter for those now-dependent women. This detour was a temporary necessity that would bring men into line with the evolutionary plan, but by Gilman's time, it had gone too far for too long, causing excessive sexual differentiation.

Gilman's treatise was intended to convince people to cease resisting this natural, evolutionary change toward women's equality and instead to help it along. Gilman began developing the theories that would become famous in Women and Economics as a poet and lecturer during the s, and she would return to the same ideas in both fiction and nonfiction for the remainder of her career.

Fittingly, this sociological treatise reenvisioning the home was written during a period of Gilman's life in which she had no fixed address. Moving among the households of friends as she traveled on the lecture circuit in , she reportedly drafted the volume in an outpouring that took less than three weeks. Women and Economics met with immediate and wide acclaim both at home and abroad. Reviews were wide-ranging and often enthusiastic. The Nation called the book "the most significant utterance on the subject since Mill's Subjection of Woman " Degler, p.

As such reviews suggest, the book was welcomed among social reformers and activists, rendering Gilman an international celebrity and the American women's movement's "leading intellectual" for the next two decades Degler, p. Carrie Chapman Catt , leader of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, pronounced Gilman "the most original and challenging mind which the movement produced" Hill, p. The reformer Jane Addams , founder of Chicago's Hull-House, called it "a Masterpiece," and Florence Kelley , a lawyer and factory inspector whom Gilman met at Hull-House, wrote that it was "the first real, substantial contribution made by a woman to the science of economics" Kessler, p.

The volume was even assigned as a textbook at Vassar College. Women and Economics cemented Gilman's place in the intellectual vanguard of feminists, socialists, and economic theorists at the dawn of the new century.

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Central to Women and Economics is the idea that women's economic dependence upon men has made them excessively feminine and insufficiently human. Women were, in Gilman's terms, "over-sexed"—overly feminine and thus abnormally weak, passive, and concerned with physical appearance—at the expense of developing their strength, talents, and intellect.

In this excerpt, Gilman uses the analogy of the wild cow and the milk cow to illustrate the process whereby the distinction between the sexes has been overdeveloped. Though Women and Economics is a work about human evolution , Gilman frequently uses examples from the animal kingdom in order to ground her arguments in the firm language of nature and science.

Women and Economics | work by Gilman |

This excerpt illustrates why the book appealed to both academic and popular audiences, showcasing Gilman's straightforward language and trademark wit. To make clear by an instance the difference between normal and abnormal sex-distinction, look at the relative condition of a wild cow and a "milch cow," such as we have made. The wild cow is female. She has healthy calves, and milk enough for them; and that is all the femininity she needs.

Otherwise than that she is bovine rather than feminine.


She is a light, strong, swift, sinewy creature, able to run, jump, and fight, if necessary. We, for economic uses, have artificially developed the cow's capacity for producing milk. She has become a walking milk-machine, bred and tended to that express end, her value measured in quarts. The secretion of milk is a maternal function,—a sex-function. The cow is over-sexed. Turn her loose in natural conditions, and, if she survive the change, she would revert in a very few generations to the plain cow, with her energies used in the general activities of her race, and not all running to milk.

Gilman's sociological treatise was formulated in the s, when the worst excesses of Gilded Age capitalism were sparking impulses for reform that would come to characterize the Progressive Era, in which Gilman reached the height of her fame. Like many of her associates, Gilman deplored the self-serving doctrine of Social Darwinism propounded by Herbert Spencer and the economic elite, which used the Darwinian theory of "survival of the fittest" to justify social inequalities and industrial exploitation of the working class. Others, such as the educator G.

Stanley Hall, were alarmed at the growing trend among women of the higher classes to seek "male" prerogatives such as higher education, sexual and reproductive self-determination, and economic independence ; they used the theory of evolution to criticize these developments, arguing that increased sexual differentiation was a mark of evolutionary progress.

Women and Economics

Gilman put her own spin on the same Darwinian theory of evolution in order to counter these impulses, drawing upon the work of many thinkers in formulating her ideas. She was a follower of Reform Darwinism, which incorporated the commonly held Lamarckian theory that acquired characteristics could be inherited by the next generation and therefore maintained that human beings could intervene in the process of evolution to change the course of their development.

In this, she was greatly influenced by the sociologist Lester Frank Ward — , who theorized that human evolution would progress only through cooperative, self-directed action. Central to Ward's work was his "gynaecocentric theory," proposing that women were the original sex and had the prerogative to choose their mates, with men evolving later and secondarily. Arthur Thomson's biological tract The Evolution of Sex , which explored theories of sexual differentiation in the human and animal kingdoms, were the only works Gilman acknowledged publicly as bases for Women and Economics Living, p.

The volume drew, however, upon many other works, theories, and traditions from Gilman's time and before. Edward Bellamy 's Utopian novel, Looking Backward: — , which Gilman greatly admired, was one such source, as was the Nationalist movement it inspired—a movement Gilman joined in the late s under the mentorship of her uncle, Edward Everett Hale.

Gilman's work also intersected with that of Thorstein Veblen , whose The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions critiqued what he called "conspicuous consumption," in which women functioned as idle consumers in order to display men's wealth.

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Similarly, Gilman's work followed Fabian socialism: while she agreed with the socialist Karl Marx that economic relationships were the root of all other inequalities, she preferred the Fabians' nonconfrontational philosophy of gradual change within capitalism, with the ultimate goal of a nationalized industry led by enlightened politicians, benevolent capitalists, and progressive intellectuals.

Most of Gilman's future writings, fiction and nonfiction, would touch on ideas and concepts introduced in Women and Economics. Many of the reforms proposed by Gilman, such as professionalization of child raising and housework, were considered radical at the time of her writing. Gilman states in the book that she opposes corporal punishment, believing instead that parents should explain their reasoning to their children. Gilman also advised having an open discussion about sex despite her uneasiness regarding the subject and her near denouncement of sexual pleasures in general.

Scholars have pointed out that Gilman drew upon several different sources to create her synthesis.

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She borrowed the concept that the realm of production is central to human life and that the workplace is the area of both oppression and liberation from Karl Marx , while applying it to gender, rather than solely class. From Charles Darwin , she used the theory of evolution, and ultimately Social Darwinism , that permeates much of the book. She took the idea that women are object of exchange between men from Thorstein Veblen ; and from sociologist Lester Ward , she borrowed the idea that women, rather than men, originated evolution and species.

While Gilman drew upon these thinkers for concepts, she did not become part of the movements they inspired.

Gilman was also very influenced by Edward Bellamy and his work Looking Backward , as seen in her kitchenless home and the other technical advances she advocated to help with housework. In Women and Economics , Gilman looks at the intersection between gender and class, but almost completely ignores race. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Berkeley: University of California Press, Philadelphia: Temple University Press,