CBR12 BINGO: Yellow Square
I’m finding the random color square bingo row pretty delightful. Since I don’t have many titles on my TBR pile that fit the bill, I started Googling around to find titles that fit the colors. The yellow search yielded an interesting little bit of feminist short fiction published in 1891.
Perkins Gilman puts a fictional spin on her experiences with the “bed rest cure” that doctors of the time prescribed for women suffering from “nervous” conditions. In her introduction, she notes that isolation and the lack of stimulation or a creative outlet exacerbated rather than addressed her situation.
In her fictionalized account, a young mother is taken to a country estate by her husband, a doctor, to rest. He assures her that she just needs to calm down, take naps, breathe fresh air and stop thinking all of the time. What more occupation does she need? Her sister-in-law remains in the home to watch over the woman as well as take care of couple’s infant son while the husband is off doctoring in the city during the day.
The young woman is not confined to the house, but she is encouraged to relax and spend most of her time in the third floor of the home where she and her husband sleep during their stay. Left to her own devices and desperate for mental occupation, she becomes obsessed with the old peeling wall paper in the room. Patterns become watchful eyes, shadowy figures and pathways that lead to nowhere.
It’s a pretty overtly feminist piece of fiction. Reading it from a 21st century perspective, it’s likely that the young woman (and possibly the author herself) suffered from post partum depression. It is a testament to the author’s fortitude that she was able realize that this “bed rest cure” was counter productive and to fight against it. Her work here helped to illuminate the situation that other women were going through as well as to provide the author the therapeutic outlet of writing. An interesting little dive into turn of the century women’s mental health issues.