Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Herland Cover

Herland: and Selected Stories


In Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland, three early 20th century men discover a land of only women and female children. For 2000 years they have built up a fair and rational society, reproducing by parthogenesis. Starts off fun, with lots of humour as the hapless men, one a predatory womaniser, one a Sir Galahad type who sets women on pedestals to pamper and worship, because after all they are the weaker sex, and the narrator who is a sociologist and comes nearest to seeing the women as people, have a difficult time coming to terms with a high quality female only society.The humour leavens some of the stodgy explanations of society, but not fully.

Gilman's ideas on what women can achieve are interesting, as are her ideas on the education and upbringing of children so as to bring out their full potential. The whole book is imbued with the idea of the perfectability of women and society, that we can progress and improve. Gilman is therefore a product of her times. A half century of improvements in health, education, technology and so on, had led to a sense that progress was inevitable.Sadly the horrific history of the 20th century where the seemingly most advanced nations could lapse into insane barbarity and cruelty has made that utopian dream a complete non starter. Utopias as a whole are not really popular, unless they are mainly technological etc. We want to see their destruction, since that is more dramatic.

All in all, an interesting read, but Utopias, by their very perfection, can be rather boring to read about.