Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Two open white pages on an orange background.  A black background with a white W.  A black background with a white tentacled cat.

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Herland is a Utopian novel written by The Yellow Wallpaper author, Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Gilman, a notable feminist early on, published the book in 1915. It’s set on an Earth where there is a secluded utopia where women have thrived on their own for centuries. They reproduce via parthenogenesis, or asexual reproduction, and live mostly unawares of the world at large. The story is told from the point of view of Vandyck “Van” Jennings who, along with his friends Terry Nicholson and Jeff Margrave, go seeking out this land of women. They each have their notions of a woman’s place in society, all of which are thrown as they encounter the women of the land.

Gilman explores the stereotypes that either gender has ascribed to them. The women of Herland are far different from those that the three men have encountered in their lives. Gilman gives the women traits that are traditionally masculine – short hair, strength, self sufficiency – while one of the males, Jeff, has traits that are traditionally feminine.

Much like The Yellow Wallpaper, Herland was forgotten until its rediscovery in the 70s, after The Yellow Wallpaper became popular. Herland is the middle part of the Utopian trilogy of novels by Gilman, comprising Moving the Mountain in 1911, Herland in 1915, and With Her in Ourland, also in 1915.

The sequel takes a look at the reaction of one of the women from Herland who goes into the wider world. The novels bear a striking resemblance to Wonder Woman, who was first introduced 26 years after the publication of Herland and With Her in Ourland. Wonder Woman is also a character who lives in what amounts to a female utopia, who has her life interrupted a bit with the arrival of a man, Captain Steve Trevor, and who journeys into the wider world and sees the problems facing society – problems that she not only doesn’t know about, but which she never had to deal with as her home was a paradise.

You can buy a copy of the book here. You can also get the entire trilogy of books here. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman is a great example of a work influenced by Herland.