This is written from memory, unfortunately. If I could have brought with me the material I so carefully prepared, this would be a very different story.This is a good hook to drag the reader into the story of Herland, in my opinion. Not that I needed it. I've been reading and re-reading the novel Herland about once a decade since the 1970s, and I've written about it several times on this blog, as in this example. Here's a summary of the story:
The book describes an isolated society composed entirely of women. They reproduce by parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction) and have an ideal society free of war, conflict, and domination. The men who find this isolated culture think they've found heaven, assuming the women will treat them royally.This version, edited by Barbara Solomon, includes her own introduction and twenty stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, including the well-known "The Yellow Wallpaper" from 1892 that is often read in women's studies classes. Here are the opening paragraphs of the Introduction:
In the spring of 1887, a depressed and desperate young woman from Providence, Rhode Island, traveled to Philadelphia to consult Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell, the famous physician and specialist in nervous disorders. She had been ill for about three years, experiencing symptoms which today might well lead to a medical diagnosis of clinical depression. Moreover, her situation and misery were perfect examples of the condition which would be described so accurately three-quarters of a century later by Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique as "The Problem That Has No Name."
After a month of treatment at S. Weir Mitchell's sanitarium, the young woman was discharged with the following prescription: "Live as domestic a life as possible. ... Have but two hours' intellectual life a day. And never touch pen, brush, or pencil as long as you live."
Fortunately for posterity, the patient, who was Charlotte Perkins Gilman (though at the time she was Charlotte Perkins Stetson), found it impossible to live according to the doctor's instructions. She later wrote in her autobiography that those directions caused her to come very close to losing her mind.
Thus, in the fall of 1888, still in poor health and with little money, Charlotte Perkins Stetson did the unthinkable. She left Walter Stetson, her husband of four years, and traveled with her three-year-old daughter, Katharine, to Pasadena, California. There she began a life characterized by the independence, determination, and hard work which were to be her salvation.
Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays. Click here for today's Mister Linky.