Author: Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Little White Animals

Reprinted from "The Conservator," by courtesy of Mr. Horace Traubel.

We who have grown Human—house-bodied, cloth-skinned, Wire-nerved and steam-heated—alas! we forget The poor little beasts we have bandaged and pinned And hid in our carpet-lined prisons!—and yet Though our great social body be brickwork and steel, The little white animals in it, can feel!

Humanity needs them. We cannot disclaim The laws of the bodies we lived in before We grew to be Human. In spite of our frame Of time-scorning metals, the life at its core, Controlling its action and guarding its ease, Is the little white animal out of the trees!

It is true that our soul is far higher than theirs; We look farther, live longer, love wider—we They only can feel for themselves—and their heirs; We, the life of humanity. Yet, even so, We must always remember that soul at its base Looks out through the little white animal’s face.

If they die we are dead. If they live we can grow, They ply in our streets as blood corpuscles ply In their own little veins. If you cut off the flow Of these beasts in a city, that city will die. Yet we heighten our buildings and harden our souls Till the little white animals perish in shoals.

Their innocent instincts we turn to a curse, Their bodies we torture, their powers we abuse, The beast that humanity lives in fares worse Than the beasts of the forest with nothing to lose. Free creatures, sub-human—they never have known The sins and diseases we force on our own.

And yet ’tis a beautiful creature!—tall—fair— With features full pleasant and hand-wooing hair; Kind, docile, intelligent, eager to learn; And the longing we read in its eyes when they burn Is to beg us to use it more freely to show To each other the love that our new soul can know.

Our engines drive fast in earth, water and air; Our resistless, smooth-running machines still unroll, With brain-work unceasing and handiwork fair, New material forms for each step on the soul; But that soul, for the contact without which it dies, Comes closest of all through that animal’s eyes.


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Chicago: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "The Little White Animals," 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 September 28, 2023,

MLA: Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "The Little White Animals." 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. 28 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: Gilman, CP, 'The Little White Animals' in Forerunner, ed. and trans. . cited in November 1909 - December 1910 (14 issues), Forerunner, Smith, Elder & Co., London. Original Sources, retrieved 28 September 2023, from