While best known for “The Yellow-Wallpaper”, Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote many other short stories that are worth checking out. Perhaps, like me, you weren’t in a hurry to read any of her other short stories, thinking that “The Yellow-Wallpaper” might be the only good one due to the attention it gets. I was pleasantly surprised by some of her other short stories, and I hope you find something enjoyable here too.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman Short Stories
“The Yellow Wallpaper”
A woman’s husband, a doctor, confines her to the upstairs bedroom of their summer house. He diagnoses her with a “hysterical tendency” and “nervous depression”. She chronicles her confinement in her journal; the treatment doesn’t have a positive effect on her condition.
This story can be read in the preview of The Yellow Wall-Paper and Other Stories.
Mrs. Morrison is a fifty-year-old widow in a difficult financial situation. Her children want her to sell her house, while Mr. Butts, who holds the mortgage on her house, wants her to marry him. She tries to come up with a way to live independently.
“An Extinct Angel”
The narrator relates information about a species of angel that used to inhabit earth. Almost every household had one. They were virtuous and well-behaved, and their presence improved every facet of life. They handled numerous daily tasks and made things more comfortable. Despite this, humans didn’t always treat the angels that well.
“A Day’s Berryin'”
Two sisters, Dothea and Almira, are out picking berries. It’s hot out and there are mosquitos. Almira is a widow; she hasn’t remarried although she’s had opportunities. They talk about an acquaintance’s potential marriage and her strong-willed mother.
“An Unnatural Mother”
A few village women make a negative judgment on Esther Greenwood who recently died. They claim she deserted her child and, as a result, the child is now under the care of the town. One of the women points out how the village benefitted from Esther’s actions, but she’s quickly contradicted. A boarder from the city overhears the gossip about this unnatural mother and wants the full story.
“The Widow’s Might”
Three grown siblings—James, Ellen and Adelaide—gather at their mother’s home in Denver. They’ve just attended the funeral of their father, who died after a long illness. His will is to be read, and they all hope to settle matters quickly and return home. They discuss what is to be done with their mother, including where she will live and who will pay for her expenses. They hope there will be enough from the sale of the estate to cover most of it.
“According to Solomon”
Mr. and Mrs. Bankside, Solomon and Mary, are generally happy with each other. Solomon loves the Proverbs of his Biblical namesake and always looks for opportunities to quote them. Mary is smart and competent, but a little irreverent for Solomon’s taste. One point of difficulty between them is Solomon’s method of selecting gifts. He buys Mary expensive and carefully selected things, but doesn’t really consider what she would like. One Christmas, she receives a loom from her friend Mrs. MacAvelly, who also teaches her how to use it. Mary picks it up quickly and learns to make high quality items.
Lois and Malda move into a cottagette that feels sufficiently secluded, but is only a two minute walk away from a boarding house where they can take their meals. They get visits from Ford Matthews, a writer. They sit on the porch and take long walks. Lois and Malda both like his company. Malda does embroidery and makes designs. Lois broaches the subject of Malda’s interest in Matthews. She offers advice and suggests a way to get closer to him.
The narrator drops in to see Emma, hoping that Mirabella wouldn’t be home, but she was. Mirabella was unhappy staying with her own sister, Arabella, and Emma took her in. That was five years ago. Emma was happy and engaged with her interests, but Mirabella’s presence interferes, preventing her from taking trips and doing other things. Emma’s health isn’t as good now, and her doctor has advised a better climate, but she won’t put Mirabella out.
Martha lives in a tiny room. She’s tries not to think of it as a cell, but rather as a large stateroom. She’s a stenographer and typewriter and earns $12/week, which is sufficient to live on. She keeps busy as best as she can, but the evenings can be terribly dull. One of her employers, Mr. Basset, calls on her but she tries to avoid him. Meanwhile, Martha’s mother, Mrs. Joyce, lives in a rural home with her widowed sister. Mrs. Joyce is alert and lively but can’t do a lot—she was injured by a horse and needs crutches to get around. Both Martha and her mother are discontented in their own ways.
“A Middle-Sized Artist”
As a little girl, Rosamond loves reading picture books, particularly when the illustrations bring the story to life perfectly. She’s disappointed when they under-represent the text or are inaccurate. Her father, a publisher, explains that there aren’t many good artists for that kind of work. Rosamond is determined to become such an artist when she grows up. At twenty-one, when she’s close to achieving her goal, she falls in love with a reader for her father’s publishing house, Allen Goddard.
“Making a Change”
Julia is a new mother and her baby cries often. Her husband, Frank, is annoyed with the situation, as is his mother, who also lives with them. She claims she knows how to stop the crying, but Julia wants to do her duty as a mother herself. Julia used to be a musician but doesn’t play anymore. The strain of her new routine and her mother-in-law’s interference are wearing her down. Everyone agrees that there has to be a change. Julia’s thoughts start to get desperate.
“The Jumping-Off Place”
Miss Shortridge runs the Jumping-Off Place, a boarding house that is too full at the moment. Still, she’s allowing two more visitors due to a previous relationship. The Revered Joseph Whitcomb was her minister for about thirty years and she wanted to marry him. Mrs. Weatherby knew Miss Shortridge since girlhood, and Miss Shortridge saw her get married twice—occasions she will never forget. She’s interested in seeing these two significant people again.
“A Council of War”
A group of women are gathered in a London drawing room discussing the progress of the last seven years. They’re holding strong but they want more. They know who their friends and enemies are now. They talk about going on strike, and how to do it successfully.
Mrs. Marroner and Gerta Petersen are sobbing in their respective rooms in the Marroner house. Gerta, a naive young woman, is a servant to the Marroners and they both like her attitude. Mr. Marroner had to go away on business for about a month, but he was delayed; it’s been seven months now. He writes to his wife frequently and often asks about Gerta. After a while, Mrs. Marroner notices a change in Gerta—she seems worried and on edge. Eventually, it becomes clear what’s wrong.
I’ll keep adding Charlotte Perkins Gilman short stories as I find more.