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‘ (“The Yellow Wallpaper” Cover)

(A Wagner Matinee Cover) (Herman Cover)

(The House of Mirth Cover)

(Wharton Cover)

(The Collected Poems Cover)

A Million  Faces,  A  Million   Problems       Kathy  Wu  


A Note to the Reader: You are about to embark on a short journey of not so epic proportions – literally – because the average woman’s height from ages 20-29 from 1900-1908 was only 62.4 inches (Hathaway). These petite women went on to inspire others in later generations to organize successful women rights’ movements. However, before there were any successes, there were groups of women with complaints and problems that might seem funny or stupid nowadays. The earliest women activists, such as African American woman Sojourner Truth, searched for ways to liberate these distressed women in as early as 1848. Yet, we don’t see the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that declared “the equality of men and women” until 1948. The reason for this gap in events can be found in patterns in history. Looking back in history, specifically, to the Populist movement, we would see that the National Labor Union disintegrated after the Panic of 1873 because of lack of central leadership and common purpose. That was the exact same problem in the early women rights’ movement. The women rights’ movement failed to make consistent progress, because the problems women had were too diversified, and there wass not enough people supporting a single solution to make a panacea that would benefit women as a whole. The following genres may seem entertaining, sorrowful or even creepy. They are meant to allow you, the reader, to glimpse at the struggles of women in the late 19 th and early 20 th century and the some of the feeble attempts to cure them. Please enjoy, Kathy Wu 2

A Summary of a Love Story Never Told

The following story contains plot lines from stories by popular Naturalist authors, such as Kate Chopin. A key is placed on the bottom, which indicates what book/story each designated part of the summary comes from. This is the tale of Lily Frome, a woman undecided on whether to choose a life of luxury with a sickly husband, or a relationship based on mutual respect and love. Lily is a woman in good social standing who has received multiple offers of marriage to wealthy men, but she refuses all of them. Her father, (Hopper named Ethan, a wealthy ) magistrate, has decided that she is almost past her prime and must a commit into a viable marriage soon.

awakened her sexuality. Lily, at the end of the night, settles for a man named Brently Mallard, and goes off to live in his Massachusetts home. For a month or so, they live comfortably and have three children. However, when the Panic of 1893 hits, Lily’s family moves to Starkfield, Massachusetts where they spend most of their lives living in a shack, dreaming about traveling out West. This dream never occurs as Mr. Mallard becomes gravely ill and depressed from his lost fortune. Depressed Lily joins the NAWSA, hoping to invigorate her life by fighting for a cause she truly cares about. As if by some sort of miracle, there is one man in the association that she recognizes – Alcee.

He brings her to the Cadian Ball, a party for Creole sophisticates to find spouses. All the men seem barbaric and unattractive to her, until she spots one man named Alcee, whom is courting her best friend, Clarisse. Alcee, also finding Lily attractive, sneaks off with her to kiss, as Clarisse refuses to have sex with him.

Rekindling old feelings, Lily brings him back to their home in Starkfield, Massachusetts when Brently Mallard is out for a doctor’s visit. While Mr. Mallard is away, a storm forms in the horizon, keeping Mr. Mallard out for even a longer period of time. As the storm’s intensity increases, so does the passion of the two lovers, climaxing However, a storm passes, when the storm climaxes, and Clarisse comes back and dying off when the to say that “something terrible has happened”, storm abides. symbolically implying that the cyclone has 3

Alcee and Lily must face the horrible truth that they must part, but they can’t seem to wrap their heads around the thought. So they decide to commit suicide together – death by a tree, to be exact. Starkfield, Massachusetts, like the cursed town it is, doesn’t even allow them to share their love together in heaven, as both suffer only minor paralysis and Alcee is left with a severe limp after they hit the tree on a sled. When Brently comes back, he sees that Alcee and Lily are severely injured and accuses her of cheating on him. But the truth is that Brently has also been cheating on her while away on his doctor visits. Alcee moves away with a reputation plagued by scandal and becomes a minister. He never sees Lily again.

Lily falls into a severe depression and stays at home for the rest of life in her dark room, only to write poetry, send fruit and baked goods to children by her window, and go out for her monthly NAWSA meetings. After a few years, she receives word that her husband has been killed in a carriage accident on the way back from his doctor visit. At first, Lily is depressed that she is alone, but then realizes that she has achieved the freedom she has always sought. Her excitement ends with her death, as the message she received was mistaken and her husband comes home safely. She dies of heart disease in the end – “of joy that kills” (Chopin 785).

KEY The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton – A tragic tale about a protagonist named Lily Bart,who starts off the story living a privileged life, only to have it all disappear through sabotages, scandals and friends who turn against her. Ethan Frome “At the Cadian Ball” by Kate Chopin – A prequel short story to “The Storm” that is about a woman named Calixta and her experience of choosing a husband. “A Story of an Hour” “The Storm” by Kate Chopin – A short story where Calixta momentarily revives her love with Alcee. “A Life of Insight and Isolation” – A short biography about Emily Dickinson found in The Language of Literature textbook.


(Ulmann 691) (Woman in the Yellow 777)

(Dale et al.)

(Background picture to Much 754)

(Emily Dickinson 743) (She lingered on the broad Frontispiece)

Who Am I? Who has “shoulders…bent over together over… [a] sunken chest,…skin…as yellow as a Mongolian’s from constant exposure to pitiless wind” (Cather 691) and “had not been further than fifty miles from the homestead” (690)? Who longs for “the city where she had spent her youth, the place longed for hungrily half a lifetime”? (690) Yet who says “the land there [homestead] and pioneers…gave…distinctive voice” (Stewart 700)? Who “feel[s] like urging every one [of the Denver poor] to get out and file on the land” (700) and is “very enthusiastic about women homesteading” (700)? Whose world “judge[s] tenderly” (Dickinson 751) of her? And yet she is “handled with a Chain” (Dickinson 754) when she demurs. Who has a husband that “takes all care from me” (Gilman 768) and “feel[s] basely ungrateful not to value it more” (768)? But all while feeling, “‘Free! Body and soul free!’” (Chopin 785) when he is gone?



(Emily Dickinson 743)

(Woman in the Yellow 777)

(She lingered on the broad Frontispiece)

The question to ask is really not “Who am I?”, but “Who are we?”. We are the oppressed American women of the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Who has the cure?

(Dale et al.) (Ulmann 691)

(Background picture to Much 754)


Ain’t I A Woman?: A Rendition of a Speech by Sojourner Truth “Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?” (Sojourner Truth 744) “That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mudpuddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?”

“Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.” Then this little man right here, he yells that women don’t need suffrage because we can do our best when in the comfort of our little homes and wooden soup ladles! Well good sir! Look at that hat you’re wearing! I toil at the haberdashery, doing a job just as difficult as a man’s, sticking me until calluses cover the same fingers I use to roll bread with! I work inside and outside the house. And ain’t I a woman? “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!” They don’t need care for some folly that never occurred! They ask for rights and true democracy in America before we give it to the rest of the world! “And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.” “Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.”

(A suffragist struggles 742)


Dear Mum and Dad, Thanks for allowing me to travel to America to study with Dr. Weir Mitchell – his amenities are very comfortable and I am well-fed. Aside from that, I hardly have time to breathe. We are always making house visits, especially to rich men and their ill wives. They are part of the normal client caste (Ehrenreich and Enlish 782). I asked why we are always making visits to women and he says (S. Weir Mitchell 782) that sickness is the very key to femininity. “The man who does not know sick women does not know women.” These women are a lot easier to morally comfort and are usually submissive to “doctor’s orders”. (782) His ailments to make his invalids become well again are high dosages of “phosphates…tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and… [to be] absolutely forbidden to ‘work’” (Gilman 766). I asked him why these women were victims of such sickness, and he said that they were fatigued under the stress of maternal duties, as women were naturally weaker. However, when I asked about the women on the homesteads that were doing vigorous plowing and weeding, he neglected my question. Later he told me that they were not real women. Real women develop physically and mentally healthier under rest. He told me about a woman named Mrs. Mallard who died of heart disease – of joy that kills (Chopin 785), and that she might still be alive if they had been gentler with her. Mum and Dad, America is a funny place. Women come here from all different places and have different problems, some die of joy, and I’ve heard of one in Starkfield, Massachusetts where the wife has to take care of her husband and his mistress (Wharton). Yet, it seems that for their totally different problems, the best solution for both of them is isolation. There are simply not enough solutions for all these poor women’s problems. I hope I haven’t made you worried that I am frustrated. For the most part, America is a diverse and interesting place, but I look forward to seeing you soon. Best Wishes, Clark Parsons


The Tunnel Not Taken I had a dream one night Where I was like every other woman. Dejected, tired, depressed, Obsolete, angry, fidgety. Words that I could fill an entire book with, But I won’t. Because that would make me feel even more depressed. Then everything goes blacks, And tunnels appear, Tunnels with no apparent end. Next to each tunnel’s entrance, There’s a woman. Mattie Silver with silver locks Covering her frown lines, Beckons me to her tunnel, Just like Emily Dickinson begs me to hers. And Zeena begs me to her hers, And Ms., or should I say Mrs., Mallard Begs me to hers. They all cry. Their shrieks travel up and down pitches Like a violinist travels up and down scales— Only the violinists do it well. The volume suddenly increases, And the sounds become unbearable. Glass that seems to line the wall out of nowhere Comes crashing down. A glass can be heard cracking in the distance. A baby cries. The cries of the women Still get louder. Then I feel a sharp pull, And out of nowhere, The floor becomes molten. Dr. Weir Mitchell pops his heard out And tries to pull me under. Sojourner Truth tries to pulls In the opposite direction. And I’m stretched like taffy.


But the deepest pull comes from the inside It’s in unexplainable feeling It’s been building up from frustration From family, to dashed dreams, From loss of life, to loss of love, From the feeling of being lost, To the fear of being found, From friends who don’t seem real, To the thought that maybe It’s me, myself and I who isn’t the real one. So I go limp and cry. I cry for the things I can’t do. I cry for the decisions I can’t make. I cry for the side I can’t choose. But then I look at the crying women Who just close their eyes and scream. Their faces turn different shades of purple, Red, yellow, green like a stoplight. I think, never mind then, And I hush up. I think it’s better to stay depressed, Then to be insane.


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