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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As relevant now as it was when it was written
I strongly disagree with earlier reviews which imply that this book is only of historical interest. The issues Gilman address are as topical now as when they were first written. I've read this book at least seven times, and I admit that the first few times I was distracted by the blatant bias, the sometimes clumsy style and the clunky plot, but with each subsequent...
Published on 28 Aug 2008 by Janet Raynor

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Land of Her
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935), American feminist and writer, best known for her seminal work Women and Economics (1898) and The Yellow Wallpaper (1892), based on her own experience of being treated for depression.

Herland was originally published as a serial in The Forerunner during 1945. It did not see book form until 1979. In the novel, Gilman...
Published on 27 Oct 2008 by Princess Spider


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Land of Her, 27 Oct 2008
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Princess Spider (Lancaster, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Herland (Dover Thrift Editions) (Paperback)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935), American feminist and writer, best known for her seminal work Women and Economics (1898) and The Yellow Wallpaper (1892), based on her own experience of being treated for depression.

Herland was originally published as a serial in The Forerunner during 1945. It did not see book form until 1979. In the novel, Gilman envisages a utopian society comprised entirely of women who reproduce through parthenogenesis. Gilman was emphatic in constructing Herland's social structure as having grown out of the presence of women only, rather than simply the absence of men. Unlike her other works, Herland was largely forgotten until its book publication in 1979, when it was then acclaimed as a fresh and funny satire with insights that still speak to the condition of American women, even in now more emancipated times.

Herland was written against the background of campaigns for equal rights for women that were going on during the early years of the 20th century and is a call for social equality. The utopian nation of Herland demonstrates the capabilities, greatness, and potential of womanhood, and not simply as inferior to masculinity. The three male protagonists are, at first, suspicious of Herland, and assume a society run by women would be chaotic and disorganised, believing that women cannot survive without their male-halves.

Jeff, Van, and Terry represent the achievements of male constructed civilisation, which is full of suffering, war, disease, and other imperfections. The fact that the female inhabitants of Herland can reproduce asexually, and that their utopia far surpasses anything men have built, implies that women do not need men and can surpass them. In the end, Jeff and Van do not want to leave this perfect utopia for their own male-constructed civilization, which they are now disillusioned with, further reinforcing womanhood is greater than manhood ... or, at least, be accepted as equal.

This is further explored in the relationship three men have with their chosen wives in Herland. There is conflict between the partners regarding sexual discourse; the women see it as solely for procreation, while the men promote sex as also being a purely recreational engagement. Jeff and Van do overcome these disagreements, with Jeff conceiving a child with his chosen wife. However, Terry's attempted rape of his partner leads to him being banished. Van and his wife, Ellador, leave with Terry on their seaplane, because the vehicle needs two to operate, and because Ellador wants to experience the outside world. She flies off with them into the unknown.

The narrative structure of Herland portrays Jeff and Terry at different ends of the male spectrum. Jeff appears in touch with his female side and is unafraid to show his emotions. Terry's instinct is to dominate, which results in his unacceptable behaviour. Gilman signals this character trait in Terry when the three first meet inhabitants of Herland. Terry's instinct is to lure one nearer by dangling a necklace, before trying to make a grab for her. Gilman probably saw this as the act of a predatory, possessive male attempting a sexual conquest. Luring the female with trinkets, then claiming her as personal property.

In contrast, Van appears more neutral in his sexual traits and functions more as an observer of what is developing around him. This puts him in a position where he can accept and evaluate new ideas that may not initially conform his own experiences. In that sense, he functions as Gilman's male voice in the narrative. Through Van, the writer promotes the ideals of Herland and its positive function as a Utopian society, where the influence of womanhood eliminates the strife of male aggression and its manifestations in such things as war or greed.

Gender and its definition is the central dynamic of Herland, Gilman's argument being that gender is socially constructed rather than fixed and unchangeable. The women of Herland may conform to the role of motherhood, but they are also strong and independent. Some even display masculine qualities, such as short hair. Interestingly, which would have been considered abnormal at the time that the story was written. It should also be noted that, when the three men are incarcerated by the women of Herland, their hair grows long, which is one of a number of gender reversals that occur throughout the story; the women teach, the men learn; the women prove physically stronger than the men, which undermines their definition of womanhood even further. By It is through these challenges to the perceptions of the male protagonists that the definitions of gender are shown to be problematic and not as clear cut as male patriarchy would have us believe.

As a feminist and what would have been viewed at the time as radical, Gilman believed the domestic environment was constructed to oppress women. This is very apparent in The Yellow Wallpaper in which the female protagonist, who happens to be a writer, is prescribed a rest cure for a nervous condition by her physician husband. This "cure" not only involves confinement and electric impulse treatments, but forbids all creative activity - including writing - as he professes that this would only add to her distress. What he actually fears is that creative activity for a wife is a distraction from domestic duties, and also represents a form of female independence that is a threat to his patriarchal authority. Therefore, female creativity and the independence this brings must be suppressed by convincing the woman that it is bad for her, thus maintaining the social order.

The story was based on Gilman's own personal experience of a "rest cure", prescribed when suffering depression following the birth of her daughter, Katherine. This was during an age when women were seen as hysterical and claims of post natal depression sometimes viewed as invalid. Gilman was told to keep intellectual engagement minimal and never to pick up a pen and write again. The experience proved devastating and Gilman nearly ended up going into complete emotional collapse. It ended her first marriage to Walter Stetson and it was only after leaving him that the depression lifted. The Yellow Wallpaper amplifies her resentment to the way she was treated, and Gilman even sent a copy to the physician who had put her through the experience in the first place.

In Herland, Gilman expands this theme of repression with a larger scale story that articulates the concern that male aggression and prescribed maternal roles for women were not only artificial, but no longer necessary for society's continuation. Gilman believed that only economic independence could really achieve freedom for women and ensure equality with men. In Herland and Beyond (1980) Ann J. Lane asserts "Gilman offered perspectives on major issues of gender with which we still grapple; the origins of women's subjugation, the struggle to achieve both autonomy and intimacy in human relationships; the central role of work as a definition of self; new strategies for rearing and educating future generations to create a humane and nurturing environment." While The Yellow Wallpaper exposed these concerns, Herland offered a model for a possible solution. Or, at least, an ideal.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As relevant now as it was when it was written, 28 Aug 2008
By 
Janet Raynor (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I strongly disagree with earlier reviews which imply that this book is only of historical interest. The issues Gilman address are as topical now as when they were first written. I've read this book at least seven times, and I admit that the first few times I was distracted by the blatant bias, the sometimes clumsy style and the clunky plot, but with each subsequent reading I have been more gripped by the ideas that Gilman explores. Yes, it's simplistic. Yes, it's a bit 'obvious' in places. Yes, the characters are sterotyped and wooden. And the role of women-as-mothers is frustratingly restricted. But I can ignore all that and just marvel at the observations on human nature in this improbable - but in many ways admirable - feminist utopia. She addresses issues that are still very much alive today: feminism (of course), the environment / conservation, violence, socialisation, love, life, death and the universe...

And to top it all, it's funny.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Short, simple, womans Utopian fiction, 8 April 2009
By 
Lark (North Coast of Ireland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Herland (Dover Thrift Editions) (Paperback)
This an affordable edition of a short piece of womans utopian fiction. As a vehicle of ideas it has only one which it presents clearly, ie that women and men have different values or natures, and as a novel it is not altogether bad either.

The story follows a group of men who embark upon a journey to a secret valley where a society has emerged composed entirely of women capable of reproducing without men by virtue of some obscure environmental factor not entirely understood by them themselves. The world the women have created from nurturing first principles appears devoid of the evils of competition, violence, conquest, capitalism and waste which typify the world beyond the valley. Although it is a travelogue and any tourist treated to a five star short stay could arrive at similar conclusions anywhere in the world today if they where willing to suspend disbelief long enough.

The group of male travellers are different characters but essentially all masculine stereotypes, ranging from the thinking/feeling archetype to a butch, brask man-child adventurer archtype and the story unfolds of how each fits or fails to fit in with their new matriarchal social order.

The narrative style is long on philosophising but short on detail, besides broad brush value statements which means it doesnt fall into the trap of an over detailed agglomeration of the authors pet peeves and/or pet issues.

The characterisation and pace was a little like Boys Own Fiction or any of the numerous examples of Forbidden Zone or Lost Tribe cinema which used to be broadcast on sunday mornings years ago. I found it an entertaining, undemanding short read without any stark polemic of the kind which mars some utopian fiction.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Sheri Tepper does it better, 31 Mar 2010
By 
Joyeuse (Devon) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Herland (Dover Thrift Editions) (Paperback)
That's not to say it's not worth reading but the writing style is definitely popular late Victorian (think Wells rather than Hardy or James) and I'm not quite convinced by the society of saintly women she draws. I'm not sure sisterhood can work like this but maybe it could if women didn't have to play men's games in order to get on in the world.

I'm also troubled by the fact that she wrote in a time when women had few civil rights but that there are probably proportionately more women alive today living in situations of gross poverty, violence and oppression than there were then.

I really do think some of the women SF writers of today probably have more to say to us about our situation now but it's interesting to read a forbear of modern feminism.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping utopia, 4 July 2001
This review is from: Herland (Paperback)
Narrated from a male perspective, this altenative utopia depicts a nation free from man-made harm. If the drive of feminism seems to be slowing down,this celebration of the ability of women will reignite the spark in any woman's mind. Read it and then make your male friends read it. Perkins-Gilman manages to subtly argue a point with no hint of preaching. Splendid.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great!, 30 April 2014
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This review is from: Herland (Dover Thrift Editions) (Paperback)
This is a well book at a really good price. I am very happy with this purchase. Very happy !
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, 24 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Herland (Dover Thrift Editions) (Paperback)
An early depiction of all female utopia, an interesting , fast and entertaining read.
Funny and mischievous too - Should be read by every one! highly recommended
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic, 24 Jan 2014
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Enlightening. A clear, paradoxical, view of how women are subjugated in our world. Highly recommended - the story might describe the impossible, but in doing so mirrors sad reality.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Utopian society, 5 Sep 2013
This review is from: Herland (Dover Thrift Editions) (Paperback)
I have to say normally when I read utopian fiction they come across as a horrible dystopia. But this one was okay. One of the things that impressed me the most about this, particularly considering that it was written in 1915 was how much of gender as a social construction she understood. While having read SO many other books written around the same time that discuss the "nature" of women this book for the most part was spot on. It was an interesting look at not only how gender gets constructed by why. In a society without sexual reproduction it not only made the men reconsider what it meant to be a woman but it also made them rethink what it meant to be a man.

The story was basically a description of the society and three different reactions to it. One of the best parts was when the women said that one of the men had to be expelled for "demanding his husbandly duty". In other words recognising rape in marriage and recognising this was not ok. The only problem with it was while it removed a lot of gender stereotypes the entire focus of the women's society was on being mothers and everything was based around a model of motherhood. Granted all the women didn't raise their children. But they did all have them, unless they were defective in some way.

Still it was interesting and it some amazing quotes and passages. Once again I found myself wanting to read more of this author's work
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5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book, 8 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Herland (Dover Thrift Editions) (Paperback)
I agree with Janet Raynor and Sniffynixon...this book is "as relevant today as when it was written".
Well worth a five star rating. But don't take my word for it!
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Herland (Dover Thrift Editions)
Herland (Dover Thrift Editions) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Paperback - 2 Jan 2000)
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