Working Women in America and Herland

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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...
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