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The Literature of Prescription presents the following instructional resources for educators in high schools and higher education institutions. The resources provide examples of how the rich content and primary-source readings in the exhibition can be used in a classroom. They are developed as instructional suggestions that an educator may adapt in whole or in part as she or he deems most appropriate for the students’ interest and academic goals.

Lesson Plans

Making Sense of Mental Health: Past and Present

  • grade level: 9–12 | subject: health education

Students first examine the depictions of symptoms, treatments, and causes of a mental illness in “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. They move from this fictional case of mental illness from late 1800s, to research and gather current mental health information. This lesson plan has been developed in collaboration with Christy Osterbeck, who teaches Health Education classes at Lakeview High School in St. Clair Shores, Michigan.

The Rest Cure: Gender in Medicine and Literature

  • grade level: 11–12 | subject: history and social studies

Students use primary and secondary sources and examine how a writer may voice social criticism in their fictional work. They read Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” and evaluate the author’s social criticism, alongside the writings about women’s nervousness of two physicians of her time. The lesson plan has been developed in collaboration with William Jones, an English teacher at Lakeview High School in St. Clair Shores, Michigan.

Higher Education

The Troubled Mind in Medicine and Society is a module developed for undergraduate and graduate courses to accompany the National Library of Medicine exhibition, The Literature of Prescription: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and The Yellow Wall-Paper. The module offers to college and university students and their professors a means to explore the interactions between science and society in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s time with particular attention to gender, the medical profession, and mental illness. It takes the exhibition itself as the starting point and builds on it with additional readings and discussion points, in the hope of enabling students to broaden and enrich the learning experience of the exhibition.

This module is authored by Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, Ph.D., the Sydenham Clark Parsons Professor of History and American Studies at Smith College.

Online Activities

Curious about the rest treatment recommended by S. Weir Mitchell, MD? Read the “Rest” chapter in his book, Fat and Blood: And How to Make Them. Then, move on to explore his other books in the digital gallery.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence to study art in 1878. While in Providence, Gilman created and sold art works for advertising trade cards. Here are several cards with Gilman’s illustrations that feature figures with different flowers encircling their heads. Take a closer look at each illustration, and consider different meanings that flowers represented in her time.

Other Resources

Explore and learn more about the life and works of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and other topics featured in The Literature of Prescription. You can start with a sampling of resources in the curator’s bibliography, suggested readings for high school students, and online resources inclusive of information on mental health careers and issues.

Continue to Other Resources
Last Updated: 25 March 2024