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Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Kansas suffrage

Posted by Michael Church (Senior Archivist for Collections) on Feb 10, 2020

Between 1896 and 1900, the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association (KESA) published four poems and one article by writer and women’s rights advocate Charlotte Perkins Stetson (later Gilman) in their official paper, the Kansas Suffrage Reveille. While Gilman has achieved an exalted position in the cannon of American literature, many of her poems and articles survive today only because libraries and archives preserved copies of obscure little papers like the Reveille. The Kansas Suffrage Reveille is now available on Kansas Memory.  

Born in New England in 1860 and descended from the influential Beecher family, Charlotte Perkins married Charles Stetson in 1884. In 1888, after a nervous breakdown, Charlotte took her daughter and moved to California. She published “The Yellow Wall-Paper” in 1892 and a book of poems a year later. In 1900, she married Houghton Gilman.

 

Gilman’s visit to Kansas in 1896 coincided with the publication of KESAs new monthly paper, which promoted Gilman regularly. Gilman spent most of June in Kansas speaking in Kansas City, Topeka, Holton, Madison, Eureka, Howard, Winfield, Concordia, and Yates Center. From Kansas she traveled to Montreal where she sailed for Liverpool.

 

In the January 1897 issue of the Reveille, editor Katie Addison noted “Every suffrage club in the state should have Charlotte Perkins Stetson’s book of poems. They are constantly kept at headquarters. 50 cents per copy.” Indeed, the new organ for the KESA regularly featured reports on Gilman (as Charlotte Perkins Stetson) and promoted her publications which could be purchased from the KESA headquarters.

 

In 1897, the Kansas Agricultural College in Manhattan (now Kansas State University), offered Gilman a position as a teacher in economics. In her autobiography, Gilman recounts how flattered she was to receive the offer since she had never been to college herself. But she declined the position due to poor health.

 

A list of Gilman’s writings published in the Kansas Suffrage Reveille under the name Charlotte Perkins Stetson follows:

 

A woman – in so far as she beholdeth , Vol. I, No. 6, August 1896

 

Woman Suffrage and the West , Vol. II, No. 4, June 1897

 

A Prejudice , Vol. III, No. 10, October 1898

 

Feminine vanity! O ye gods! , Vol. IV, No. 8, August 1899

 

O, sister woman! You were created man’s equal , Vol. IV, No. 10, September 1899


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