Author: Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Personal Problems

Problem 1st. A woman of thirty, single and intending so to remain, owning a tiny cottage in the woods near a large city; exhausted by ten years’ overwork and having spent her savings on doctor’s bills, asks two questions:

(a) Why cannot she stay at home and enjoy it?

(b) Can one love a man too much? (There was a man, but he went away.)

To (a) the answer is: one cannot live at home, and earn one’s living without practicing some domestic industry. Of these two obvious and common ones are:

Take in washing:—not strong enough.

Take in sewing?—How about that?

A large city ought to furnish sewing and mending enough to keep one woman who owns a cottage. Five dollars a week ought to do it, including carfare.

Then comes the more various tasks; to make some one thing excellently well, and sell it: taking orders: making a little business of one’s own.

The age of domestic industry is really past; but a lone woman with no rent to pay ought to make good, unless too ill to work at all.

If there is any ground with the cottage she could raise some food perhaps.

Third possibility: take another woman to board: or a child, if competent to care for children.

As to the second question: Yes, one can; one often does. If by "loving" one means "wanting." Love, pure love, strong giving love, does not exhaust nor injure. One can love a lifetime, without return—if it’s that kind. But to hopelessly wish for what one cannot have is an illness. If that is the case it is time for a decided change of heart.

The world is full of people to love and serve; and a brave rational attitude of living ought to cure and strengthen.

Sister—sit quiet in the door of the little cottage: say "I am here to serve; to work for the world. I am willing. My own life is desolate—well? So are the lives of many. That I must bear. There are many years before me to be lived through—bravely and lovingly. If I die—that’s no hardship; if I live I will do the work I’m here for."

Then study out your case with dispassionate interest; ; and do what is wise. When you are strong enough, if you are willing to do housework (a job always waiting) for six months, it should give you a clear $150.00, to live another six months without care, and to practice the art you like best. Plan bear what you have now in the determined hope of what you like better in five years—ten years—for the rest of life.

And so enlarge your range of consciousness, thinking, talking, reading about big human interests, that your own trouble shrinks in proportion.

Problem 2d. "Several of my professors in the University have such a condescending attitude toward women that most of us girls find it very hard to do our best. In some classes, we are actually, as a sex, marked lower than the men of the class. We have found in every instance that the wives of these professors are of the lowest tabby-cat variety, gossipy, infantile, at times malicious.

(a) Can you believe that these trained men would be as illogical as to judge us all by their wives?

(b) Is there any way even to make a start to root out this idea that all women are cast from the same mold,"—Studiosa.

(a) "Trained" men are not necessarily logical men. Logic in some fields does not imply logic in all. No matter how logical or how much trained, most men are illogical about women. (As are most women also.)

(b) Yes. The way to start,—and finish—this idea that "all women are cast from the same mold" is to prove that they are not by being different. The likeness men see in women is the likeness of sex. Show them the difference in human personality.

Problem 3d. "It is almost impossible for married women to go on teaching. Just as I am at my best, my usefulness is nullified because I am married. Would you please outline a plan of organization among married women who wish to continue practicing their profession, thru which they may arouse other women, and also reach the authorities who have control over their work?"—

The most suitable organization among married women, and single ones as well, whereby to "arouse other women and reach the authorities" is political organization. That question is easily answered—by securing equal suffrage.

Problem 4th. "Several of us girls wish to associate with our men friends as real comrades, paying our half of theatre tickets, suppers and the like, as we have as much money, or as little, as they. They are fine young men, decidedly worth while. Yet they make the most astonishingly stupid objections, as do most of the other girls. It is not ’polite’ or ’customary,’ it is a man’s ’privilege,’ etc., etc. Could you not give us suggestions, perhaps in story form, of how to win the young men, and other girls too, without being too sharp-angled, over to our side?"—

I knew of a good arrangement between a man and a woman on this basis. If he invited her, he paid for both. If she invited him, she paid for both. If both went on their several initiatives each paid for him or herself.

As to how to "win over" the most conservative of beings, young men and young women, one can only recommend the trump card in any hand,—a sweet and winning personality;—not "feminine influence," but personal influence. If one’s company is much desired, one can dictate terms.

Further; don’t be stubborn about it. Ultimate principles are one thing,—personal application are quite another. Vary your attitude according to the degree of intelligence and prejudice you have to deal with.

Problem 5th. "A person is condemned to die for a crime he did not commit. Should he as a good citizen submit peaceably to his own murder (legal) or fight for his life, killing jailors perhaps, till overpowered?"

"As a good citizen" he should submit. See Socrates.

"In answer to question under ’Personal Problems’ in June Forerunner, ’Why don’t people wake up and World size?’ Will submit:

(a) Laziness. If people knew that thirty minutes of a healthful regimen practiced daily would double the daily pleasure of living and add ten years to the span of life, nine out of ten would neglect it. And (b) thoughtlessness through faulty education; the primary function of mental culture being to teach people to think, analyze, and solve the problems of life, and cultivate the memory; but memory is too often given first place to the exclusion of the others."—

This is an excellent answer. There are others.—C. P. G.


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Chicago: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "Personal Problems," Forerunner, ed. Symons, Arthur, 1865-1945 and trans. Elwes, R. H. M. (Robert Harvey Monro), 1853- in Forerunner (London: Smith, Elder & Co., November 1909 - December 1910 (14 issues)), Original Sources, accessed January 27, 2023,

MLA: Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "Personal Problems." Forerunner, edited by Symons, Arthur, 1865-1945, and translated by Elwes, R. H. M. (Robert Harvey Monro), 1853-, in Forerunner, Vol. Volume One, London, Smith, Elder & Co., November 1909 - December 1910 (14 issues), Original Sources. 27 Jan. 2023.

Harvard: Gilman, CP, 'Personal Problems' in Forerunner, ed. and trans. . cited in November 1909 - December 1910 (14 issues), Forerunner, Smith, Elder & Co., London. Original Sources, retrieved 27 January 2023, from