Translated from the English by A. Kamenskii.
Publisher F. Pavlenkov
Press of R. Schwartz
The author of this book is, without a doubt, one of the most remarkable women of contemporary America. She is well known not only as an outstanding community activist and writer on social questions, but as a gifted poet and orator.
Charlotte Perkins Stetson, of 100% American heritage, was born in 1860 in Hartford, Connecticut. On her mother's side, she is descended from the gifted Stowe family of orators and preachers--she is the granddaughter of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the world famous Uncle Tom's Cabin.
On her father's side, she is a descendant of the well-known in New England Perkins family, which has given America quite a few political and social figures from the time of Cromwell in England and the American Revolution to the present. She spent her childhood and adolescence with her family in New England, completing her primary schooling in a public school with wide-ranging reading in a systematic curriculum. Even as a child, she impressed everyone with her exceptional talent and adult feeling for fairness. She began to write early, when she was not even 18 years old, and with all the passion of[A] her gifted, energetic nature she devoted herself to public life, trying to study it in all its manifestations and passionately participating in all the contemporary reform movements in America, in connection with the women's and workers' questions.
However, her written work remained almost unknown until her move to California in 1888. There in 1890 a book of her collected poetry on contemporary social themes, entitled In This Our World, was published, characterized by her inimitable humor and satirical style. This little book had great success all over America and quickly had several printings. The well-known American writer and critic William Howells called it "the best social satire in America," after Lowell's famous book The Bigelow Papers, already a classic. Two years later, Charlotte Stetson was awarded a gold medal from the Alameda Federation of Labor Unions (in California) for her memoir, About the Workers' Movement.
As a speaker and writer, Charlotte Stetson, even before this current book, already had achieved great success. From a long line of ancestors--orators and preachers--she inherited an exceptional gift for words. She speaks and writes exceptionally simply, clearly and logically, but in that simple style is hidden something original, irresistibly fascinating her listeners and immediately gaining their attention. These lectures, as all the activities of Charlotte Stetson, concern contemporary social questions. We list here as examples several of them: Mother, Daughter, and Child.--What is Work?--Our Brain and Its Illnesses--Social Ethics--The Significance of Women's Clubs--America and Her Place in Our Time, and others.
I am using facts from an essay published in the American magazine Time & Hour, describing several traits which characterize the author's personality, since the following is not the product of abstract learning, but is a full expression of her life and aspirations.
Charlotte Stetson is still a relatively young and good looking woman. In addition to her literary gifts and enormous erudition, she has other, more modest talents. She draws well; she is an excellent dressmaker and in addition, an excellent cook and in a pinch, can substitute for the domestic help. She--is a universal lover of children, who she draws in with her stories and for whom she creates different games. Through her exceptional humor and empathy, her total good nature, and her manner she draws to her all--both young and old.
The present work, published in June 1898, immediately placed Charlotte Stetson in the top ranks of writers focusing on social questions. This book was met with an almost unanimous welcome from critics both in America and England and has already been translated into several European languages. In the opinion of several of the critics, it represents the best work on the woman question since John Stuart Mill's On the Subjection of Women.
The reader herself must judge the worthiness of this book. But one thing is without doubt clear, that this book will be read with great interest by each thinking person−woman as well as man−and that it provides a practically inexhaustible topic for discussion because it touches on the most urgent questions of human life, expounding on these questions with inimitable simplicity and clarity, with amazing logical force. Strictly speaking, there is nothing new aside from the point of view of the author, and that is the main worth and originality of this book. The author examines the abnormal economic situation of women with all of its negative consequences, not as a woman's question but above all from the point of view of social evolution--as a human question. Further, this abnormal situation of half of humankind and the mothers of all humans, destructive from generation to generation, is in her opinion the chief source of all evil, against which humans fight unsuccessfully to this very day.
This book is permeated by the most genuine love for humans and the recognition of the great significance of women, as mothers and those who bring up children. If the author exposes to criticism the modern American family, then essentially her critique is in many ways fair. For it is based on the awareness of its great social significance and the aspiration to raise it to those high ideals which the family could realize and which might make us people in the true sense of the word.
Translated by Rochelle G. Ruthchild
A. The main points of this biographical information were confirmed by the author, with whom the translator was in communication in the fall of last year, in connection with the first Russian translation of her book.
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