In the world of feminist science fiction the question “Do we really need men in our society?” is raised by many authors in the context of novels or short stories. In practice, few seriously wanted this as a reality, seeing men as both necessary and important to the life of a community. A noted exception to this is Sally Miller Gearhart.
In both her personal and public life Sally Gearhart advocates for a separation of the genders. So far, reading through her correspondence collected in the UO archives, I’ve seen her plead her case to her alma mater, Sweet Briar College, to remain a women’s college, for the sake of quality of education. Similar threads emerge in her letters to other individuals and organizations, as she makes side or major remarks on the nature of women, sisterhood, and community.
To me, this idea is incredibly interesting. The request for a female-only world through the lens of Sally Gearhart is not an unreasonable, or radical thing. Through her words, the reader gets the sense that she is a reasonable person with a well-thought-out suggestion, based not on a reactionary mindset, but rather one that has contemplated the world as it is. Sally is a woman who holds a doctorate in theater, she has lived and interacted with men all her life. And yet, she continues to point out the differences between men and women, and the benefits to women by living in a community of their own. For my final project, I want to explore this view. What precisely, is Sally Gearhart’s philosophy of separatism? To what extent should the genders be separated? What does this look like in practical application?
The bulk of my research will be in special collections, in Sally Gearhart’s correspondence, papers, and speeches. She also co-wrote a Tarot Card book that is in another collection in the Archives that I’ve found interesting and potentially insightful to her views. For more insight on her separatist vision, I will also draw on the ideas she expresses in her novel, The Wanderground (1978). Currently, the plan is to present my findings in a paper, but I’m open to other methods of expression as the research unfolds.
Gearhart, Sally Miller. The Wanderground: Stories of the Hill Women. Watertown, Mass: Persephone,1978. Print.
Sally Miller Gearhart Papers, Coll 305, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.
The Feminist Tarot; A View from the Dykes, SO-CLAP! Collection, Coll 266, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon.