Recollecting Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Archival Labor and Women’s Literary Recovery

Jennifer S. Tuttle, University of New England
Vol. 40, No. 2 (Fall 2021), 215-239

This essay analyzes the acquisition of the Charlotte Perkins Gilman Papers by the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America. Drawing on institutional records and using the Gilman papers as a case study, the essay challenges the prevailing conception of women’s literary recovery as originating in discoveries by scholars conducting archival research. Instead, honoring yet decentering that work, the essay recognizes the labor of archivists as recovery and not merely a precondition for it. Extending J. Samaine Lockwood’s notion of “recollection” (the collective action of writers and activists to reframe historical narratives), the essay argues for a more capacious and inclusive definition of recovery. Beyond broadening our assessment of Gilman’s influence and impact, the essay demands that we consider archivists’ contributions to the field of American women’s literary history, the recovery that has been the engine of the field’s growth, and the cultural work that that recovery has performed. The essay thus envisions recovery as a recollective process in which archivists play a formative role as equals and partners of scholars in the reconstruction of historical memory.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]