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"Herland" notes

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 5 months ago

Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a prominent social critic and feminist writer in the United States of the period from the 1890s through the 1930s. In Herland, originally published in 1915, Gilman creates a utopian society made up entirely of women, creating around this homosocial (or one-sex) society a culture, political system, and familial arrangement that grew out of the society of women, rather than simply the absence of men. While other American utopian novels, such as Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward, were prominently read for years after their publication, Herland was largely forgotten until it was republished in the 1970s. Gilman's readers in the 1970s found in Herland a fresh and funny satire, full of insights that still speak to the condition of American women even after eighty years. (http://www.library.csi.cuny.edu/dept/history/lavender/herland.html)


"Herland" 1915

Time of place: Early twentieth century

Locale: An isolated mountain plateau, possibly in Asia or Africa, flanked by mountains and tropical forests

First published: 1915 (serial), 1979 (book)


Principal characters:

  • Vandyck Jennings: narrator, sociologist
  • Terry O. Nicholson: an independently wealthy explorer
  • Jeff Margrave: a doctor who is interested in botany
  • Ellador,
  • Celis, and
  • Alima: three young women in Herland
  • Somel,
  • Lava, and
  • Moadine: three older women in Herland, assigned to tutor the young men



  • Utopian novel of matriarchal society
  • Women produce by parthogenesis--mother love the basis for religion, mother goddess
  • Peaceful, harmonious, vegetarian, physically strong, competent
  • child rearing is a profession, waste recycled--"help" templates where people may drop in for loving care and attention
  • No males in Herland--have not been any for 2,000 years
  • No experiences of courtship
  • No experiences of romantic love
  • Women are free to fulfill their own expectations
  • Three young American men (Vandyke, Terry, and Jeff) explore this land
  • They are characterized almost exclusively in terms of their views of women
  • Terry: womanizer--all females as sex objects who want to be mastered by a man
  • Jeff: chivalristic romantic--women on pedastal
  • Vandyke: most moderate, most open to new ideas (narrator)
  • Readers leawrn about explorers beliefs and expectations


In Herland:

  • There is no sickness, no poverty, no surnames (children belong to all), no jealousy
  • All are mothers--children are center and focus
  • Know little of outside world, except sciences
  • Mostly vegetarian
  • Most trees bore edible fruit
  • Social inventiveness and social consceince
  • Sisterly affection
  • Health and vigor, calmness of things
  • Museum, play ground, workshop
  • Mother spirit--temples where you could get counseling
  • they are interested in the ideas of fatherhood and brotherhood


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