The role of women has been changeable throughout the centuries, but their crucial importance stays to be unconditional. In the article Catharine Beecher and Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Architects of Female Power, Valerie Gill discussed pretty different views on women’s role of Catharine Beecher and Charlotte Gilman, who yet shared some similar concepts. While Charlotte Gilman stated that women deserved to have both private and public life, her great-aunt affirmed that a home was a center of women’s business. Nonetheless, Valerie Gill reasonably compared and contrasted opinions of Charlotte Gilman and Catharine Beecher. Therefore, Beecher and Gilman interpreted the concept of women’s role and position within society in completely different ways, but they shared similar basis of the argument of crucial female importance that laid in the foundation of their concepts.
The literary pieces of Charlotte Gilman and writings of Catharine Beecher completely differ in opinion about lives American women have to lead. For instance, Beecher was convinced that the environment of home should be the center of exchanging of good for every woman. Therefore, Beecher’s thoughts represented the idea that women were responsible for both their own lives and lives of their families because what started at home continued to extend there. In addition, Beecher defined the role of women that corresponded only with the concept of their private life that included home and family. Valerie Gill used several supporting evidences to defend Beecher’s argumentation of her ideology not only from her books, numerous lectures and articles, but also from “the apportionment of “out-door labor” to man and domestic labor to women” that served as the basis for her Christian house (21). Moreover, in American Woman’s Home, Catharine Beecher and her sister stated that masculine public activity differed from feminine private sphere, in which home was regarded as a synthesis of heaven (n. p.).
Gilman, by contrast, tried to undo Beecher’s domestic ideology, and thus she sharply criticised the nineteenth century’s view of private space as women’s ownership. Moreover, the industrial and social changes greatly affected American society, and Gilman attempted to remind people about the need of change of the women’s status as housekeepers. For instance, Gilman’s short story Beewise portrayed the community of men and women who equally assumed the responsibilities of child-care (Grill 18). In addition, Gilman in her autobiographical book The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman stated, “As to women, the basic need of economic independence seemed to me of far more importance than the ballot” (113). Thus, the need of independence and socialization had a primary importance to women. It should be noted that Gilman minded about isolated life of the farm woman who worked hard incessantly, and thus did not come into contact with other people like her husband. Therefore, Gilman wondered about the place where women could have social life and relaxation, and the Community House became such place. In addition to this, the supportive argument of Gilman’s ideology could be found in her novel Herland, where home managed by American women was a new expression of domesticity (Gilman & Solomon).
Nevertheless, despite different interpretations of women’s status within the society, Beecher and Gilman put the same meaning of women’s crucial importance to “the general health of the social system” in the foundation of their ideologies (Gill 17). Furthermore, both Gilman and Beecher were disturbed about the question of design for home life, but at the same time they looked differently on that issue – Beecher took into account the mode of economizing, while Gilman singled out collective housekeeping facilities, mechanical laundries and state-owned cleaning establishments. It should be gained in mind that Beecher and Gilman provided an important meaning to home and women’s place in it. Although women were regarded as a crucial part of domesticity, Gilman accented female need of independence, communication, and social life, while Beecher regarded those things inherent in men.
In my opinion, Gill’s article is a thoughtful and argumentative view on Beecher and Gilman’s ideologies of women’s place within the home and society. The strong aspects of the article are supportive evidences given by Gill to depend on either Beecher’s or Gilman’s views. Moreover, the author of the article reinforced her critical overview of writers’ concepts of women by providing arguments from Beecher’s American Woman’s Home, A Treaties on Domestic Economy, as well as Gilman’s Applepieville, Moving the Mountain, Beewise, Herland, and autobiography. Comparison and contrast of Beecher’s conception of Christian house and Gilman’s portrayal of the Community House with precise architectural description and design can also be regarded as one of the strengths of the article because it demonstrably represents the difference of writers’ opinions. Grill also used clear and precise writing style in comparison to writings of both writers.
Nevertheless, Grill’s article also had several weaknesses. Firstly, Valerie Grill resorted to judgements of the reputation of Charlotte Gilman instead of quality of her works for the support of noted writer’s ideology, “…a woman, who in her own life, stretched the limits of propriety by divorcing her husband and living apart of her daughter...” (18). Secondly, despite Gill’s argumentative observation, her personal perspective from time to time influenced my vision of the posed issue that created an opposition to the theme covered. Thirdly, the article purposed to distinguish between Beecher’s and Gilman’s views on women’s roles and places, but it had not found the cause-and-effect of two ideologies.
To conclude with, Valerie Gill critically compared and contrasted ideologies of women’s role and place established by two outstanding women – Catharine Beecher and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Although, society of the nineteenth century viewed women as the holders of homeliness, the changes in social and political realms expanded their rights and responsibilities. Therefore, women became to be regarded not only as home overseers, but as independent, thinking, and self-supporting personalities who had need in socialisation and communication. Nevertheless, despite differences in Beecher and Gilman’s interpretations of the concept of women’s role and position within society, the crucial meaning of women was laid in the foundation of their ideologies.
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