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Working Women in America and Herland

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Essay title: Working Women in America and Herland

Since the early ages, people have been dreaming of creating a perfect place, a place where everyone is going to be satisfied. Charlotte Perkins Gilman was one of the many authors who developed these utopian ideas in their works. In 1915 she wrote a short novel Herland about an utopian maternal community. This novel is quite unique because the society depicted in the book wasn’t simply utopian. It was an ideal state created by women. This very idea was considered radical in the early 1900’s. But no matter how unusual and strange it is, people can’t help but recognize that it makes a great sense. Gilman’s Herland was quite successful and functional as a state. It seems that such state could exist, but without some completely fictional aspects such as parthenogenesis (asexual form of reproduction). Besides describing the differences between the feminine society and ours, the author raises lots of very controversial social questions concerning equality and social order. We can certainly see some signs of the socialist ideas in the description of the utopian Herland.

Chapter 6 of this book starts with a discussion about “women wage earners.” In this imaginary feminine society this phrase could be applied to every single woman of the working age, whereas in early 20th century America most of the women didn’t have any job, but housekeeping. Only the lower class one-third of the female population had to work for living, and it probably wasn’t their choice, they had to do it to be able to feed their family. Why is this so? Historically, societies in almost all parts’ of the world were patriarchal. Men had leading roles in all aspects of the social life, they were the ones who worked to feed their families and they also had more independence and power. Women weren’t obliged to work, but they had to care about the family and do domestic work. There were exceptions: higher class families hired servants to do the work, while women didn’t have to do anything, besides fulfilling their social duties. “We do not allow our women to work. Women are loved, idolized, honored and kept in the home to care for the children” (62), said Terry, referring to the women of the middle and upper classes. In my opinion, this statement indicates that most of the men don’t consider poor women as their equals, they don’t even consider them as women. These women in lower class families had to do work in addition to their home duties to increase the family income, more than that, these families often had underage children earning money. It was completely different in Herland. There had been no men for the last twenty centuries. Back then these women started working to be able to survive. And every single generation of women continued this tradition, so naturally the inhabitants of Herland are quite surprised with the fact that some women in the US have to work, but most of them would prefer not to. In Herland no one was obliged to work, but they all wanted to, this desire for work was passed on to them by their ancestors.

One of the women of Herland, Zava, asked a really uncommon question: “What is poor, exactly?” By this question she instantly indicates the downside of the capitalist society. There were no poor

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