She was the daughter of Mary Perkins (formerly Mary Fitch Westcott) and Frederic Beecher Perkins, a writer and nephew to the famous Harriet Beecher Stowe.
She was married twice during her life time. The first time, from 1884 to 1894 (although she left him in 1888), she was married to Charles Walter Stetson, an aspiring local artist, with whom she had her first child, Katherine Beecher Stetson. During this time, she suffered from depression, from which lead to her writing. The second marriage, from 1902 to his death in 1934, was to her first cousin, George Gilman, a lawyer in New York.
Her first work In This Our World was published in 1890. Following that in 1898, she published her more well-known Women and Economics. In 1899, her most well-known work was published, The Yellow Wallpaper. From 1902 to 1922, she gained fame from her lectures and articles, much of which was published in her monthly journal, the Forerunner, in circulation from 1909 to 1916. In 1915, she also published her famous novel Herland.
In 1922, she moved from New York to Norwich, Connecticut, where she wrote Her Religion and Hers. Ten years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After her husband died in 1934, she moved to California to be closer to her daughter.
She committed suicide on August 17, 1935, by inhaling chloroform.