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The Herland Trilogy by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


The Herland Trilogy is not an obscure history, but a hopeful future. One in which all people work less and do the work they enjoy, the environment is thriving, and no one is "poor" or going without. It's a philosophical opus by one of America's great writers and thinkers, Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

I love a good utopia. The idealism and creativity and caring are inspiring. But more than that I love thinking about how we might get there. What steps does it take, what obstacles do we have to overcome, can so many disparate people agree?

Of course, to get to a utopia, we have to know where we're starting from and what we have to work with. As utopia's are often a reaction to the economics of the time, I can't help but think about the economics of our time.

In the early 2000's, when we first started to think Autism might be genetic and a spectrum, there was an article about how people who came to America voluntarily back in the beginning left their hometowns because they didn't fit in - perhaps neurologically. There is evidence now that ADHD is also genetic and tied to trauma. Europe back in the day (from forever until the 4O's?) was hard, violent (aka traumatic). So perhaps many who came voluntarily & were brought as slaves and indentured servants either had or developed ADHD and then passed on the genes.

But it was the British elite, who "fit in" and weren't ADHD, who built our economy on forced labor, in which being ADHD or Autistic or traumatized didn't matter because they weren't looking out for their labor's well being, and the work was largely physical. Then American aristocracy - men who had it easy and so likely weren't ADHD or other - built on that labor model with industrialism. But the labor model, given that the majority of workers - are "neurodivergent" doesn't work in a desk/office information & services economy. Thus a Herland ideal of being able to pick your job based on what you love to do and only work a small portion of your day is appealing. Ask people what they would do if they didn't have to make money and many would not continue in their jobs.

One of the (many, many) barriers to a utopia is our insistence on seeing the generation below us a doing it wrong. Boomers hated Gen Xers, calling us slackers and decrying the end of their way of life at our hands. And Gen Xers love to decry the Millennials as whiney and in need of constant petting. But this won't get us to a place where we can all be happy. Boomers were jealous that Gen Xers did what we wanted and didn't entirely respect the changes our parents made (when they were young and did what they wanted). And Gen Xers are jealous that Millennials are so well taken care of. And so we all complain about each other rather than working together.

In the post-pandemic age, many people are rethinking work: where we do it, how much of we do, and how much we should get paid for making other people rich. Millennials aren't wrong that the post-industrial society isn't working for them. They have the research and language to understand how their ADHD brains work in a way Gen Xers and Boomers didn't.

Perhaps if Gen X teaches Gen Z their independence, and Millennials teach them about mental health the neuronormalcy of being ADHD, etc. as well as boundaries and self-love, we will be once big step closer to a Moving the Mountain style utopia.


Back of the Book:

Moving the Mountain is the first book in Charlotte Perkins Stetson Gilman's well known trilogy. The second book in the trilogy is her landmark classic Herland. Moving the Mountain delivers Gilman's program for reforming society. She concentrates on measures of rationality and efficiency that could be instituted in her own time, largely with greater social cooperation—equal education and treatment for girls and boys, day-care centers for working women, and other issues still relevant a century later. Yet Gilman also allows for technological progress: electric power is the motive force in industry and urban society, power generated largely by the tides, wind-mills, water mills, and solar engines.


Herland is a utopian novel written by feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The book describes an isolated society composed entirely of women who reproduce via parthenogenesis. The result is an ideal social order, free of war, conflict and domination. The story is told from the perspective of Van Jennings, a student of sociology who, along with two friends, Terry O. Nicholson and Jeff Margrave, forms an expedition party to explore an area of uncharted land where it is rumored lives a society consisting entirely of women. The three friends do not really believe the rumors as they are unable to conceive of how human reproduction could occur without males. The men speculate about what a society of women would be like, each guessing differently based on the stereotype of women which he holds most dear.


With Her in Ourland is the third book in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's utopian trilogy which begins where Moving the Mountain and Herland left off. Gilman masterfully compares our real modern male-dominated world with an imaginary perfect society comprised of only woman. Gilman was a well known and deeply respected sociologist and this trilogy holds an important place in feminist fiction.