I recently treated myself to a copy of the stunning new Virago Modern Classics edition of The Yellow Wallpaper and Selected Writings by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I was already a firm fan of her writing, and as regular readers will know, I absolutely adore her most famous story The Yellow Wallpaper.
There are quite a few stories in this collection which I hadn’t read before, and they certainly don’t disappoint. Flitting between rage at the lives women were forced to live at the time and funny, clever tales of women getting their own back, this collection must surely be required reading for anyone interested in feminist writing. Charlotte Perkins Gilman is nothing less than one of our feminist foremothers.
I have been particularly taken with a story I hadn’t read before called ‘When I was a Witch’, from 1910. In it, a woman infuriated with life’s injustices finds that she can give out punishment for those cruelties (such as whipping horses) just by wishing for it. She also hates the falsehoods circulated by newspapers, and wishes for revenge to be taken on their proprietors. Oh, if only we could do this now:
Next morning I was down town early, watching the men open their papers. My abomination was shamefully popular, and never more so than this morning. Across the top was printing in gold letters:
All intentional lies, in adv., editorial, news, or any other column… Scarlet
All malicious matter… Crimson
All careless or ignorant mistakes… Pink
All for direct self-interest of owner… Dark green
All mere bait – to sell the paper… Bright green
All advertising, primary or secondary… Brown
All sensational and salacious matter… Yellow
All hired hypocrisy… Purple
Good fun, instruction and entertainment… Blue
True and necessary news and honest editorials… Ordinary print
You never saw such a crazy quilt of a paper. They were bought like hot cakes for some days; but the real business fell off very soon. They’d have stopped it all if they could; but the papers looked all right when they came off the press. The color scheme flamed out only to the bona-fide reader.
What a *brilliant* idea!