The Oppression of Women in the 19th Century as seen in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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The oppression of woman is evident in the everyday life of a women living in the 19th century. This oppression was not only localized to their duties at home, but it made its way into women’s health issues as well. Women of the 19th century, and even still at the turn of the century, were suffering from postpartum depression, and they were misdiagnosed because postpartum, like almost any woman's illness, was treated as illness of the womb. “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, affirms that the oppression of women resulted in their injurious medical treatment, which, in the end, was the equivalent to life in prison.

From the beginning of time woman were looked at as inferior and treacherous. Inferior, because women were thought to have had smaller brains therefore incapable of making decisions. Most decisions were made for her and women found themselves where “the world of public affairs was nowhere open to woman.” (Friedman 9); leaving women’s duties to fall solely under the household. The treachery (8) of course was because of her actions in the Garden of Eden. The decision Eve made in the garden was proof for the male that “Some basic taint of corruption was thought to be inherent in the feminine constitution” (Friedmen 10) therefore women cannot make qualified decisions.

In addition, religious figures also contributed to oppression by lecturing new brides in the 19th century about their submissive roles. Priests and pastors would lecture new brides on how their duty was to be submissive (5) and that “Your husband is, by the laws of God and of man, your superior; do not ever give him cause to remind you of it” (Ehrenreich 9-10). If a pastor or priest gives this kind of guidance to a woman of this time, she would tend to listen and assume that he would not steer her wrong.

The oppressive attitude towards woman interfered with women’s health care in the 19th century, and caused horrific medical issues to go untreated. When woman were sick with any kind of illness the doctors would basically classify the illness under one umbrella diagnosis “as a disease of the womb.”

Works Cited
Coleman, Emily H. The Shutter of Snow. New York: Penguin Books, 1986. Print.

Ehrenreich, Barbara, and English Deirdre. For Her Own Good. New York: Anchor Books, 1978, 2005.
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