Author: Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Comment and Review

Mr. H. G. Wells is an author whose work I have followed with delight, interest and respect for years—since first I read that sinister vision of dead worlds, "The Time Machine." He is a successful craftsman, an artist of power; and has that requisite so often missing in our literary craftsmen and artists—something to say. In his mighty work of electrifying the world’s slow mind to the splendid possibilities of life as it might be, may be, will be, as soon as we wake up, he has my admiring sympathy.

But alas! and alas! Like many another great man, Mr. Wells loses his perspective and clear vision when he considers women. He sees women as females—and does not see that they are human; the universal mistake of the world behind us; but one unworthy of a mind that sees the world before us so vividly.

He has knowledge, the scientific habit of mind, an enormous imagination and the courage to use it; he is not, usually, afraid of facts, even when an admission carries reproach. But in this field he shows simply the old race-mind, that attitude which considers women as mothers, potential, active, and in retrospect; and as nothing else. He likes them as mothers. He honors them as mothers. He wants to have them salaried, as mothers. But he thinks it quite beyond reason that they should appear as regular members of the working world; their motherhood, to his mind, would prevent it.

In this attitude he has produced a vivid novel called Ann Veronica; a book of keen analysis and delicate observation, full of amusing darts and flashes; seeing and showing much that is absurd in our modern uneasiness and wavering discussion; and thus explained by himself in The Spectator (which had denounced the work as "poisonous").

"My book was written primarily to express the resentment and distress which many women feel nowadays at their unavoidable practical dependence upon some individual man not of their deliberate choice"; and he further says he sympathizes with the woman who lives with a man she does not love; and respects her natural desire to prefer some one man as her husband and father of her children—a harmless position surely.

To carry out these feelings he has described a girl, vigorous and handsome, a nice, normal girl, who is crushed and stultified in her home life and wants to get out of it; as is the case with so many girls today. She wants freedom—room to grow—more knowledge and power—again as is so common nowadays. We read with sympathy, admiring his keen sure touch, hoping much for this brave woman in her dash for freedom.

Then he makes this girl, so strong and intelligent, deliberately refuse various kinds of work she might have done because they did not please her; and borrow money from a man in preference to earning her living. She exposes herself to insult and even danger with an idiocy that even a novel-reared child of sixteen would have scorned. She falls in love, healthfully enough, with a fine strong man; and sees no reason for avoiding him when she learns he is married. She cheerfully elopes with him—quite forgetting the money she had borrowed, and when she remembers about that abhorrent debt, expects her companion to pay it, without a qualm apparently.

The ex-wife must have conveniently died after a while; and the man develops a sudden new talent as a playwright; for they wind up very respectably in a nice flat, having Ann Veronica’s father and aunt to dinner, and regarding them as a pair of walking mummies. Nothing more is said of any desire on the part of the heroine for freedom, knowledge, independence; having attained her man she has attained all; indeed Mr. Wells goes to the pains to fully express his idea of the case, by describing her early struggle and outburst as like "the nuptial flight of an ant."

It is hard to see why Mr. Wells, in seeking "to express the resentment and distress which many women feel nowadays" at their dependence; and in showing sympathy with their natural right of choice, should have burdened himself with all this unnecessary complication of special foolishness on the part of his heroine which alienates our sympathy; and special illegality on the man’s position. Perhaps this is to add heroism to her effort to secure the right mate, to indicate how small are any other considerations in comparison to this primary demand of life.

Waiving all objections to this framework of the story, there remains the painful exhibition of Mr. Wells’s misapprehension of the larger causes of the present unrest among women. What later historians will point out as the most distinguishing feature of our time, its importance shared only by the movement towards economic democracy, is the sudden and irresistible outburst of human powers, human feeling, human activities, and in that half the world hitherto denied such experiences.

Ann Veronica, as at first portrayed, shared in this world impulse. She wanted to be human, and tried to be. Her masculine interpreter, seeing no possible interests in the woman’s life except those of sex, dismisses all that passionate outgoing as comparable to the mating impulse of insects. He overestimates the weight of this department of life, a mistake common to most men and some women.

When opposed, the protagonists of this position cry that their opponent wishes to unsex women; to repudiate motherhood; and see in all the natural development of the modern woman only a threat of decreased population.

Cannot Mr. Wells, as one acquainted with zoology, see that both male and female of a species are alike in the special qualities of that species, although differing in sex? Can he not see that the area of human life, the social development of humanity, is one quite common to both men and women; and that a woman, however amply occupied in wife and mother-hood, suffers from lack of human relation, if denied it, even as a man would, whose activities were absolutely limited to husbandand father-hood?


If you are a believer in women’s voting why don’t you take the best equal suffrage paper in the country? Not the Forerunner—which is only a suffrage paper because of its interest in women, and only a woman’s paper because of its interest in humanity, but this one:

Vol. XL. The Woman’s Journal


A weekly newspaper published every Saturday in Boston, devoted to the interests of women—to their educational, industrial, legal and political equality, and especially to their right of suffrage

Entered at the Post Office, Boston, Mass., as second-class mail matter




The love and faith, the hope and courage, the steady unflinching devotion of forty years of solid work, and the quality of brain power, which have fed this lamp of liberty, make a Iight that is worth following.

Two noble lives have been given to it, and the daughter of one of those two is carrying it on superbly. It is a paper that will broaden, live and grow, and carry on its larger work long after this one political question is rightly settled.

It carries news—the kind of news progressive women want. It is broad and bright, and interesting; full of short and memorable bits that prick the mind to understanding.

I have read this paper, myself, many years, and know its merits well.

Try it.


The Sea of Matrimony. By Jessie H. Childs. Broadway Pub. Co., New York and Baltimore.

Here is quite another kind of a novel. Earnest, thoughtful, sincere, lacking in humor and in technical finish, yet holding one’s attention by the complete preoccupation of the author in her theme, and by the common interests of the discussion.

It reminds one vaguely of "Together," giving pair after pair of ill-mated persons, but one happy marriage in the lot, and that a childless one, and offering no solution to the problem raised save in that searching philosophy we seek to cover by the term New Thought.

There is much keen observation in this book; and so intimate an analysis of character that one wonders who this person and that may be; and the courage shown in giving spades their names is worthy of respect

The author shows a power of keen appreciation of the daily problems of life. The description of the woman who tried to change even her husband’s cigars to the brand her father used to smoke is particularly good.

Many men and women may see their troubles reflected in this study of the intricate difficulties of married life; and some will find strength and hope in its conclusions.


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Chicago: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "Comment and Review," Forerunner, ed. Symons, Arthur, 1865-1945 and trans. Elwes, R. H. M. (Robert Harvey Monro), 1853- in Forerunner (London: Smith, Elder & Co., November 1909 - December 1910 (14 issues)), Original Sources, accessed May 30, 2023,

MLA: Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "Comment and Review." Forerunner, edited by Symons, Arthur, 1865-1945, and translated by Elwes, R. H. M. (Robert Harvey Monro), 1853-, in Forerunner, Vol. Volume One, London, Smith, Elder & Co., November 1909 - December 1910 (14 issues), Original Sources. 30 May. 2023.

Harvard: Gilman, CP, 'Comment and Review' in Forerunner, ed. and trans. . cited in November 1909 - December 1910 (14 issues), Forerunner, Smith, Elder & Co., London. Original Sources, retrieved 30 May 2023, from