What Diantha Did

What Diantha Did

Book Pages: 200 Illustrations: Published: June 2005

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Fiction, Literary Criticism

This edition of What Diantha Did makes newly available Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s first novel, complete with an in-depth introduction. First published serially in Gilman’s magazine The Forerunner in 1909–10, the novel tells the story of Diantha Bell, a young woman who leaves her home and her fiancé to start a housecleaning business. A resourceful heroine, Diantha quickly expands her business into an enterprise that includes a maid service, cooked food delivery service, restaurant, and hotel. By assigning a cash value to women’s “invisible” work, providing a means for the well-being and moral uplift of working girls, and releasing middle-class and leisure-class women from the burden of conventional domestic chores, Diantha proves to her family and community the benefits of professionalized housekeeping.

In her introduction to the novel, Charlotte J. Rich highlights Gilman’s engagement with such hotly debated Progressive Era issues as the “servant question,” the rise of domestic science, and middle-class efforts to protect and aid the working girl. She illuminates the novel’s connections to Gilman’s other feminist works, including “The Yellow Wall-Paper” and Herland; to her personal life; and to her commitment to women’s social and economic freedom. Rich contends that the novel’s engagement with class and race makes it particularly significant to the newly complex understanding of Gilman that has emerged in recent scholarship. What Diantha Did provides essential insight into Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s important legacy of social thought.


“Charlotte J. Rich has brought to light the complex history of Gilman’s insistence that housework be professionalized. In this compelling edition, we see how Gilman addressed the ‘servant question’ in light of national anxieties about race and ethnicity, class mobility, and sexual harassment. Terrific for American studies courses, What Diantha Did demonstrates Gilman’s belief that middle-class women could be saved by the invention of ‘kitchenless houses’ and professional housekeeping.” — Dale Bauer, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

“Charlotte Perkins Gilman is an important figure in both literary and intellectual history, and it’s good to have this entertaining book back in print. It’s a fascinating example of the strengths and weaknesses of the lost tradition of ‘material feminism.’ Charlotte J. Rich frames the novel in its historical moment and makes it even more readable and valuable.” — June Howard, University of Michigan


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Price: $24.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860–1935) was the author of novels, short stories, poems, and works of nonfiction. She is best known for “The Yellow Wall-Paper” (1892), Women and Economics (1898), and the novel Herland (1915). Her novel The Crux (1910) is also published by Duke University Press.
Charlotte J. Rich is Associate Professor of English at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky. She is editor of The Charlotte Perkins Gilman Newsletter.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction / Charlotte J. Rich 1

Dedication to the Housewife 25

I. Handicapped 27

II. An Unnatural Daughter 37

III. Breakers 52

IV. A Crying Need 63

V. A Friend in Need 72

VI. The Cynosure 84

VII. Heresy and Schism 93

VIII. “Locked Inside” 104

IX. “Sleeping In 114

X. Union House 127

XI. The Power of the Screw 136

XII. Like a Banyan Tree 155

XIII. All This 169

XIV. And Heaven Beside 180
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3519-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3507-8
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