In 1890 a poem entitled "Similar Cases" appeared in the USA in "The Nationalist". In it, one of that country's best-known utopian writers, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, propounded the over-arching theme that was to concern her until she died in 1935: that mankind and the world can be changed for the better. The poem earned her much praise in nationalist circles and marked the beginning of a reformist career which was to last for 45 years, during which time Gilman established a national reputation as a speaker on women's issues and socialism, writing extensively in these areas while at the same time continuing to write poetry, short stories and novels. In 1909 she began to produce her own monthly magazine, "The Forerunner", with each volume typically containing one or more short stories, a chapter of a serialized novel, poetry, articles and book reviews. Almost all of her work asserts optimistically the possibility for utopian change, yet ironically she is probably most widely celebrated for her darkly tragic story "The Yellow Wrapper". The focus of this essay collection is Gilman's utopianism.
Several contributors examine the novel "Herland", the lesser-known "Moving the Mountain" is the subject of a full essay, and others explore utopian ideas in Gilman's short stories. Not all of the contributions are concerned directly with the novels and short stories: Mary Hill, for instance, concentrates on Gilman's letters to her second husband in the four years immediately before their marriage; and there are examinations of Gilman and issues of women's health, and of domestic labour in her work.