CPG: our fingers stained with ink and yellow dye

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Oh Charlotte

our fingers stained

with ink and yellow dye

our psyches scarred

our life hopeless

we hid in closets

to protect what was left

of our sanity

you bloomed

wrote your way past

locked rooms and endless hours

but not before you ripped out

nails bloody, tearing down

the yellow wall paper

to save yourself

I sat on the bed

still, inactive

watching as you

freed yourself inch by inch

I look at the woman you became

feminist, author, activist, journalist

but why you are remembered most is

for our story, our peril, our sanity

glad you saved yourself, dear Charlotte

Oh, but if you could have saved me, too.

 

As a result of post-partum depression, in 1886, Charlotte Perkins Stetson was sent for a “resting cure,” a period of total inactivity. It’s proponent, Dr. Mitchell, felt women’s depression was caused by too much mental activity, and thus a period of complete “rest” would rebalance the mind. In the case of Gilman, and the narrator of her phenomenal short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the women become much more unstable due to forced isolation and non-stimulation. Gilman, once removed from the rest cure program improves, and writing her horrors helps, but never removes all the scars. Despite this, Gilman (she leaves her husband and child, and eventually remarries) goes on to be an activist, author, and publisher.

Reading “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the first time in my early 20s, literarily blew me away. Then, I had no idea or intention to teach just such issues faced by women in the 19th century. But I wanted to write. To be so exquisite as Charlotte. To be able to fashion with such skill, a story that takes place through the narrator’s journal/voice as she slowly goes insane in a room with yellow wallpaper. 

After my own breakdown, I was drawn to it again. The narrator’s journal, albeit a 19th century one, so carefully describes the descent into madness with familiar detail. No yellow wallpaper, but walls that closed around me. A sense of real or not real; revelations that didn’t always free me. Not then. I no longer teach about women in the nineteenth century, nor study the intersect of society, women, and religion in that time period, but I still want to be an authentic writer, to write my “Yellow Wallpaper.”

Since I helped with the prompt (ssshhhh) and Friday soirees are pretty loose and easy, some poetry, some fact, some lecture. But if you haven’t read “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gillman, you must. It might test your sanity, and you will never see a bedroom, especially one with wallpaper, the same way again. Once you know what lurks there and in the human mind.

For Friday Music Prompt #52: Virginia Woolf (Indigo Girls)

 

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18 thoughts on “CPG: our fingers stained with ink and yellow dye

  1. Shadeau July 22, 2016 / 9:11 pm

    WOW, powerful and fabulous all the way through, Phylor. I detest yellow–wallpaper or paint, and wouldn’t wear yellow for love or money.

    Like

    • taleweavering July 23, 2016 / 12:01 pm

      I don’t own anything yellow — and I’m not sure why. Might be from reading this story years ago. No, wait, I have a yellow pair of cords I got for $5.

      Like

      • Shadeau July 23, 2016 / 4:42 pm

        Oooh a bargain!! Though even so, I’d have to pass up yellow… :) Hope your weekend is going well, Phylor :)

        Like

        • taleweavering July 24, 2016 / 10:15 am

          Not so good, but that’s how it is. Another round of steroids, can’t sleep, grumpy — can’t ya tell :).
          Hope you are having a strong spiritual Sunday. God be with you and bless you today and always.

          Like

          • Shadeau July 24, 2016 / 7:44 pm

            You can be grumpy–we love you anyway!!<3 Thanks for your thoughts–I'm having a very blessed church weekend, strong encouragement to keep fighting and never give up :) (Have to clutch these days close, as we know they tend to evaporate :) )

            Like

  2. Sheri July 22, 2016 / 9:08 am

    I’ve never heard of this woman, and just placed a hold on the book at my library. Thank you for introducing me in such a stirring way.

    Like

    • taleweavering July 22, 2016 / 3:57 pm

      The Yellow Wallpaper is a fascinating study of how women were driven mad in the 19th century. I think of all the women trapped who wanted to tear down the barriers around them.
      I hope you like the story and her style of writing. Another good 19th century writer is Kate Chopin.
      So glad you got in touch with your library. I’d hate to see the story go out of circulation.

      Liked by 1 person

      • taleweavering July 25, 2016 / 12:01 pm

        Oh, and let me know what you think of the story/Gilman.

        Like

  3. kim881 July 22, 2016 / 4:11 am

    A lovely tribute. ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and ‘Turned’ are both favourite stories of mine. Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a great feminist writer, whose life was turbulent, scandalous and tragic: she saved herself from depression but in the end committed suicide while dying from cancer.

    Like

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