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The Literature of Prescription

Reading The Yellow Wall-Paper

Black and white photograph of a man with a mustache wearing suit and leaning on a chair arm.


William Dean Howells, 1875

William Dean Howells, a prominent
author and critic who became an
ardent fan of Charlotte's work,
sent the story to his friend,
Horace E. Scudder, for publication in
The Atlantic Monthly.




“It was not intended
to drive people crazy
but to save people
from being driven
crazy, and it worked.”

Gilman, The Forerunner 1913


Courtesy Special Collections, Fine
Arts Library, Harvard College Library

Letter of rejection from the editor of
The Atlantic Monthly
, 1890

Scudder rejected the piece outright. Instead,
“The Yellow Wall-Paper” was published more
than a year after it was written, in The New
England Magazine
, in January 1892. Readers
were intrigued and disturbed. In a letter to the
editor, a respondent signing off only as “M. D.”
described the piece as sensational and morbidly
fascinating, and questioned if such literature
should even be permitted in print.

Color photograph of a letter of rejection to Charlotte Gilman from the editor of The Atlantic Monthly.

Courtesy Schlesinger Library,
Radcliffe Institute,
Harvard University

Black and White photograph of a woman reading in a wicker chair, surrounded by shelves of books.


Charlotte reading in her library,
ca. 1900

Charlotte argued that the story was
beneficial, not dangerous, and suggested
the letter must have been written by a
physician, (an M.D.), who only criticized
the tale because of its negative
representation of the medical profession.

“Perilous Stuff”

Reader's response, 1892


Courtesy Schlesinger Library,
Radcliffe Institute,
Harvard University

Digital Documents

Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper

“Why I Wrote ‘The Yellow
Wallpaper’,” The Forerunner,
Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
October 1913

Courtesy Schlesinger Library,
Radcliffe Institute,
Harvard University

Perilous Stuff

“Perilous Stuff,”
Boston Evening Transcript
April 8, 1892

Courtesy Library of Congress