Saturday, August 29, 2009


This from my newfound favorite blog, the Errant Aesthete.

“Lie down an hour after each meal,” a famous Philadelphia neurologist advised writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who was suffering from marital malaise and a deep-seated desire not to clean the house. “Have but two hours intellectual life a day. And never touch pen, brush or pencil as long as you live.”

Unfortunately, that curious counsel was no anomaly in 1885; doctors routinely dispensed an admonition against activity to women afflicted with “nervous prostration,” a condition thought to stem from overstimulation of the fragile female nervous system. Rest and relaxation in the bosom of the family constituted the state-of-the-art cure. But Gilman, whose nerves were already “wilted,” and whose mind resembled a “piece of boiled spinach,” thought the physician’s suggestion sounded more like a recipe for month-old stew.

“Life is a a verb!” she would later write. “Life consists of action.”

Charlotte Perkins Gilmore, The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories, 1892

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