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Reflection on Herland, a feminist utopia, a novel by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Updated on February 2, 2012
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The premise

Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote a utopian novel Herland in 1915 as a response to the rising feminist movement in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. The plot of the story revolves around the experiences of the three young American men who accidentally discover a unique culture hidden from the rest of the world by natural barriers. This newly found country, Herland, is perfect in every way; its inhabitants never face illnesses, have no crime, jealousy or anger among them, and enjoy living in perfect harmony. However, it has another distinguishing feature: all of the people who live in Herland are women; after the region became separated and all men died, the women developed a gift of being able to give birth on their own.

The perfect art: education

This perfect society is based on love, feeling of motherhood and the greatest system of education ever created. Education is the most important and the most valued art of Herland; it is meant to promote not only intellectual but also personal growth. Education is a tool of helping children to grow compassionate and loving people, and most importantly help all women to develop strong individual will and independent judgment. The process of learning is never-ending, it starts when the child is born and is continuously reinforced all throughout one’s lifetime. Education is clearly presented as the key to the prosperity and overall quality of life in this country. It is important to note that the level of knowledge is evenly spread throughout the whole society.

Person's mind as valued as person's the body

Person’s mind is viewed as a person’s body. The women of Herland believe that mind should be exercised and kept active, however, it is not meant to be a forced exercise. Especially with young children education is offered without pressure and is simply an integrative part of life. Even children’s literature is while still colorful and imaginative, is directly tied to the life around them. The position of a teacher is greatly valued and is given a lot of respect. Not everyone can become a teacher, and even mothers give up their right to discipline or guide their own child, and entrust children’s education fully in the professional hands of the teachers.

Role of a teacher

When looking at what made learning process in Herland so successful, one may pay attention to the teachers. They are consistently mentioned as the most patient, calm and kind people, always ready to help and always friendly. The readiness to help on the part of the teacher makes it easy for the students to question. There is no shame, no fear to ask a wrong question, there is no hesitation. It is also clear that materials are an important part of education. When the three men began their studies in understanding this unique culture, the women of Herland provided them with numerous materials, including a journal to learn writing, pictures, small tools, and various objects. The materials, just as they should, were meant to encourage students to explore on their own and help the teachers to present the subject.

On the other hand, it is clear that while Herland has the best teachers it also has the best students. They take part in active learning, and eagerly get involved in the process of education. When Americans were giving a lecture about the outside world unknown to the inhabitants of Herland, the girls came in with prepared questions, listened carefully and actively participated in the discussion. The women have consistently proven that the process of education is interactive, and requires the most genuine effort not only on the part of the teacher, but also on the part of the student as well.


The highlights of the philosophy of education in Herland can be summarized in a number of key points. An open mind, a gentle and patient teacher and an eager to learn student form the basis of a successful system of education. And of course, making learning a continuous part of life and understanding that learning never stops.


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    • Bukarella profile image

      Lyudmyla Hoffman 6 years ago from United States

      I loved the premise, and the idea of creating a whole society with your rules seemed very appealing.

    • mvaivata profile image

      mvaivata 6 years ago

      I actually picked up this book at a book fair in town, but have not read it yet. I'm looking really forward to delving into now.