Herland HTML version

Chapter 8. The Girls of Herland
At last Terry's ambition was realized. We were invited, always courteously and with free
choice on our part, to address general audiences and classes of girls.
I remember the first time--and how careful we were about our clothes, and our
amateur barbering. Terry, in particular, was fussy to a degree about the cut of his beard,
and so critical of our combined efforts, that we handed him the shears and told him to
please himself. We began to rather prize those beards of ours; they were almost our sole
distinction among those tall and sturdy women, with their cropped hair and sexless
costume. Being offered a wide selection of garments, we had chosen according to our
personal taste, and were surprised to find, on meeting large audiences, that we were the
most highly decorated, especially Terry.
He was a very impressive figure, his strong features softened by the somewhat longer
hair--though he made me trim it as closely as I knew how; and he wore his richly
embroidered tunic with its broad, loose girdle with quite a Henry V air. Jeff looked more
like--well, like a Huguenot Lover; and I don't know what I looked like, only that I felt
very comfortable. When I got back to our own padded armor and its starched borders I
realized with acute regret how comfortable were those Herland clothes.
We scanned that audience, looking for the three bright faces we knew; but they were
not to be seen. Just a multitude of girls: quiet, eager, watchful, all eyes and ears to listen
and learn.
We had been urged to give, as fully as we cared to, a sort of synopsis of world history,
in brief, and to answer questions.
"We are so utterly ignorant, you see," Moadine had explained to us. "We know
nothing but such science as we have worked out for ourselves, just the brain work of one
small half- country; and you, we gather, have helped one another all over the globe,
sharing your discoveries, pooling your progress. How wonderful, how supremely
beautiful your civilization must be!"
Somel gave a further suggestion.
"You do not have to begin all over again, as you did with us. We have made a sort of
digest of what we have learned from you, and it has been eagerly absorbed, all over the
country. Perhaps you would like to see our outline?"
We were eager to see it, and deeply impressed. To us, at first, these women,
unavoidably ignorant of what to us was the basic commonplace of knowledge, had
seemed on the plane of children, or of savages. What we had been forced to admit, with
growing acquaintance, was that they were ignorant as Plato and Aristotle were, but with a
highly developed mentality quite comparable to that of Ancient Greece.