chapter  13
17 Pages

Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Women, Animals, and Oppression

ByERIN MCKENNA

American Pragmatism is still largely ignored in feminist discourse. In teaching my Women and Philosophy class I use Mary Briody Mahowald’s Philosophy of Woman and Rosemarie Putnam Tong’s Feminist Thought. The second edition of Tong’s work has chapters on a variety of schools of feminist thought: liberal, radical, psychoanalytic, postmodern, Marxist, socialist, existentialist, multicultural, global, and ecofeminism. There is nothing on pragmatism (nor does it appear in the third edition). Nonetheless, in her conclusion Tong asks her readers to be fl exible feminists who see growth, change, and pluralism as strengths rather than something to be avoided. This is a pragmatist stance, but it gets no development and the reader is left unaware that there is a school of thought that could be a valuable resource in developing her notion of a “fl exible feminism.” The Mahowald book does have a section on pragmatism in the third edition. She has excerpts from Jane Addams and Jessie Taft. I consistently fi nd that students like the Addams reading and I build on this. I link it to the book’s reading on Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who instead of being placed with the other pragmatists appears in the socialist section. I also connect it to Charlene Haddock Seigfried’s piece in that book, “Where Are All the Pragmatist Feminists,” in order to develop a conversation about pragmatism and feminism. This is important to add to this course because pragmatism has much to say that is useful for contemporary feminism. The invisibility of pragmatist feminists must be actively combated in order to highlight this important voice and its contributions to feminist conversation. Here I will specifi cally explore how Gilman can be useful for understanding and applying contemporary ecofeminist philosophers.