A science fiction novel written in 1915 has become a blue-print for a real-life feminist Utopian paradise movement that is in the process of possibly becoming a reality. Herland, a science-fiction novel written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1915, illustrates Gilman’s views of feminism that are still prevalent today. An article by Global Post reported that the feminist novel has become a “blue-print” for a real-life feminist Utopian paradise that is in the works for Herland, a Facebook group that has plans to create an eco-commune in South America inspired by the book written by Gilman. The group plans to build the feminist Utopia in South America, just like in the book.
Gilman has been touted as a feminist ahead of her time because of her views on women’s rights and how a patriarchal society was oppressive to women. Gilman had a daughter, Katherine, and suffered from post-partum depression, a condition that not much was known about in her time period. Gilman also wrote the short story The Yellow Wallpaper, which was a semi-autobiography that Gilman wrote after a severe case of postpartum psychosis. The story is about a woman who goes mad after giving birth.
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Women were often “prescribed” bed rest or “rest cures” by doctors when they were suffering from depression. Women were told not to do any work, and to not do anything stimulating such as writing or painting. The Yellow Wallpaper describes the descent into madness when a woman suffering from depression has no stimulation, and the wallpaper becomes an obsession with the woman in the story, who starts to see shapes and figures in the wallpaper. Essentially, the woman in the story was Gilman, and she sent a copy of the story to her own doctor, Dr. Silas Mitchell, who had prescribed the same “treatment” to Gilman. The story was printed in the January 1892 edition of The New England Magazine and later became a best-seller of the Feminist Press.
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Herland was the second of a trilogy of books written by Gilman about Utopian societies. The first book was Moving the Mountain, and the third book was a sequel to Herland entitled With Her in Ourland. All three novels were initially published in Gilman’s own periodical, The Forerunner, as monthly chapter installments. The novels were mostly forgotten about until 1979, when the Feminist Press re-published Herland, and in 1997 Ourland was reprinted by Greenwood Press.
The Facebook group Herland is making it their mission to recreate the feminist Utopian paradise society that Gilman wrote about in real-life. The Global Post article says that Kate White, the founder of the Facebook group, is dedicated to bringing the Utopian paradise to real-life fruition somewhere in South America. “It wasn’t just ‘Oh, here’s a book. Let’s pretend we’re in the book.’ It’s using the book as sort of a design document,” White says.
Apparently, White is giving up her apartment in Fresno, California, this month and heading south in a truck and camper. White says she will be traveling by road and ferry and plans on meeting a handful of European Herland “pioneers” somewhere in South America in the jungle on the border of Guyana and Venezuela.
“It is an area that is uninhabited so we’re not pushing anyone out. And it’s warm enough that we don’t have to worry about freezing and those sorts of things. So it’s a very friendly area for living.”
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White and her group aren’t giving the exact location of their new real-life Utopian paradise, but they have said that they have “secured an agreement with the relevant government.” White says the group intends to build and make room for more than a hundred “second-wave Herlanders” that will join the group from around the world. White says they will set an example for the world in general that people can live in harmony with each other.”
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