Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860–1935)
From American Christmas Stories
Our Christmas selection for Story of the Week may very well surprise readers whose only exposure to Charlotte Perkins Gilman has been her early story “The Yellow Wall Paper.”
In 1909, after she had been publishing fiction, journalism, and essays (including the influential “Women and Economics”) for two decades, Gilman established The Forerunner, a 32-page monthly magazine that she wrote, edited, and published entirely by herself. For seven years, Gilman wrote stories and novels alongside essays and social commentary. Of her fiction, literary critic Shelley Fisher Fishkin writes, “she had only herself to please in the choices she made. . . . Gilman had deplored the omnipresence of one plot and one plot only in literature: the love story.”
So her short stories feature spouses working through their shortcomings and dissatisfactions, people striving toward alternative models of social organization, and other plots and themes readers would not readily find in national magazines. Gilman often used wit and fantasy to cast women—and not a few men—in different and often unconventional roles. Only in recent decades have readers come to appreciate her inventiveness in such novels as the utopian fantasy Herland and in many of her stories—including the humorous holiday tale “According to Solomon,” which has been rescued from oblivion and included in Library of America’s new collection American Christmas Stories.
You can read it on our Story of the Week site, along with an introduction summarizing Gilman’s thoughts on gift giving—and her rather blunt feelings about Santa Claus.