Members of the Einstein community who recently have visited the D. Samuel Gottesman Library have been treated to a special exhibit – "The Literature of Prescription: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and 'The Yellow Wall-Paper'" – provided to the library by the National Library of Medicine (NLM). The exhibit delves into the late nineteenth century, a time when women were excluded from political and intellectual life and medical experts drew on notions of female weakness to justify inequality between the sexes.
More specifically, the exhibit focuses on Charlotte Perkins Gilman, an influential advocate for women's rights and a prolific author who, at one time, sought out medical advice after experiencing profound unhappiness as a wife and mother. Through the exhibit, one can explore Gilman's family life, as well as her career as an author and her time spent as a patient.
Ms. Gilman's doctor, nerve specialist, Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, who proposed a "rest cure" for her discontentedness, is also featured in the exhibit. His prescribed "rest cure" for nervous exhaustion – which prohibited Ms. Gilman from reading, writing or even speaking to others – served as the inspiration for her story, "The Yellow Wall-Paper," a classic piece of feminist literature about a young woman driven mad by similar circumstances.
"It's been great to see visitors to the library stop and enjoy the exhibit," said Racheline Habousha, director of the D. Samuel Gottesman Library and Knowledge Services. "They often leave discussing how interesting it was." An attending physician from Jacobi was particularly pleased when she saw the exhibit because her senior thesis as an undergraduate at Williams College was about Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
Founded in 1836, the NLM is the world's largest biomedical library and, through its exhibition program, strives to promote public awareness and a greater understanding of how the past informs the present and can shape the future with regard to medicine, science and history. The NLM exhibits are made available free of charge to both the public and participating institutions, and the current exhibit is the third from the NLM that Einstein's library staff has installed. Previous exhibits offered at Einstein have focused on contemporary African American academic surgeons, and on the science, magic and medicine of Harry Potter novels.
"In years to come, we plan to host other NLM exhibits," noted Aurelia Minuti, head of reference & educational services at the library. "We hope the Einstein community will find these future offerings as interesting and informative as ‘The Literature of Prescription.'"
Such exhibits will include the contributions of African Americans to medical care during the Civil War; stories of the community groups that are currently making a difference in global health; and the role played by the four humors in several plays by William Shakespeare. "The Literature of Prescription: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and 'The Yellow Wall-Paper'" will remain on display on the main floor of the library through Wednesday, July 12, 2013.
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