"Sexism and Feminism in the Late 1800's" in accordance with "The White Heron" by Sarah Orne Jewett and "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins-Gilman

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Everyone can agree that sexism had its talons deep in the flesh of the American mindset during the 1800's and although this is an obvious fact, few people understand just how hostile an environment it was for a woman. Among those few, were the women living in this malicious medium. From corsets to kitchens, housekeeping to health, life was not easy for even the most well-to-do woman. Although not all women decried their situation, a strong-minded minority dropped their oven mits, put their fists in the air, and called out for a change. Equal opportunity, equal right to vote, equal pay, and all around equality is what they demanded. But feminism was not only found at suffrage rallys or Grange meetings, it made its way in to every medium, including literature. A bit more subtle than rallys and protests, short stories were an effective tool for a feminist with the disposition for exposition.

Among these women wordsmiths were Charlotte Perkins Gilman, author of "The Yellow Wallpaper", and Sarah Orne Jewett who wrote "A White Heron". Both of these stories focus on the horrid state of women during the late 19th Century and subtley push for feminism.

Before examining the specifics of feminist literature, we must explore the situation these women lived in. In her article "Women's Roles in the Late 19th Century" Dorothy Hartman writes, "It is evident from the conflicting opinions offered in literature of the period that women's lives were fraught with tensions. How-to manuals, magazine and newspaper articles set high, if not impossible, standards for moral rectitude, cleanliness and cheerfulness. The realities posed by the sheer number of tasks to be completed daily, monthly and yearly stressed even the hardiest of women." Without going in to specifics, this quote shows the pressures put on...