Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of English

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, 71 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Ronald A Bosco


Sex role, Women, Feminist fiction, Sex role in literature

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


The American author Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) believed that women's economic independence from their husbands ultimately benefitted the entire family. In her short stories, Gilman reached out to women and empowered them to make choices in their lives that did not pertain solely to the domestic sphere. This thesis discloses that Gilman expertly and practically incorporated into her fictional writings an expanded version of the ideas she set forth in her non-fiction Women and Economics to instruct women on the alternative choices at their disposal for work and an independent life outside of the home and the means to effect those choices and thus free themselves from a patriarchal society's narrow expectations of them. By portraying in her fiction the drastic consequences that invariably befell young women who were unable to break free from conventional norms based on gender, Gilman demonstrated how women who thought and acted outside of the limitations enforced by domestic settings could improve not only their own lives, but also the lives of those who were members of their extended families. Believing that writing was her purpose in life, and with the confidence that her writing could change the world for the better, Gilman shared her personal struggles with playing the limited traditional role of wife and mother with her women readers; by doing so in stories that were drawn from her own life experience, she revealed unexpected domestic and professional paths available to women and provided them with the assurance that they were not alone in their quest for personal independence.