Written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” was first published in 1892. It is a story about a woman battling with postpartum depression that has just been prescribed the “Rest Cure”.
The “Rest Cure” in those days was mostly prescribed to treat mental illnesses. It wasn’t just permission to relax, which might sound great in this day and age. It was considerably more restrictive.
Patients; typically women, would be told to lay in bed for a prescribed number of weeks. They were isolated from their family as part of the treatment and a nurse fed, clothed and bathed them. Reading, talking or even the act of sitting up were all discouraged.
Imagine lying in bed; already suffering from depression; being told to not get out of bed for over a month(flat on your back, unless given permission to turn); not to see your family. I think it would drive me further into misery.
The rest cure was created by Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell. His patients were usually wealthy and I can’t help but think about the average woman living at that time. She wouldn’t have had access to a doctor like Dr. Mitchell or his cure. How did she cope with postpartum depression?Embed from Getty Images
“The Yellow Wallpaper” might read like a horror story at first, but it is considered feminist literature. It has a style similar to Edgar Allan Poe’s writings, where you think you’re reading about a creepy bird(The Raven) but the bird represents a much deeper meaning.
The main character in this story goes from a cooperative patient to someone who readies to defy orders and escape her confinement. Like Poe’s raven, the wallpaper plays a huge role in her evolution.Embed from Getty Images
Aside from this short story’s impact on women’s rights, it is a well written, and a great read. It is considered public domain, therefore you can read it for free online or below is a link for an audio reading. (I’m not affiliated with the channel. Just enjoyed the reading.)