Sally Miller Gearhart, The Wanderground


Sally Miller Gearhart. Illustrations by Elizabeth Ross. 

The Wanderground: Stories of the Hill Women.

Watertown, Massachusetts: Persephone Press, 1978.

First edition, first printing. [x] 196 pp. Paperback. A scratch to the lower spine, otherwise in good condition with map on free end paper.


The Wanderground was a pioneering work for lesbian separatists, but perhaps more lastingly and usefully, eco-feminists. Gearheart’s dystopian world looks a lot like the present but is made futuristic by her characters’ abilities: they are able to reach the centre of the world, to fly and make objects levitate, to bear children without men through ovular merging, and to psychically communicate among themselves, with other animals and plants, and in some instances, with ancestors and dead lovers.

Sally Miller Gearheart (b. 1931) is a feminist activist, educator, and science-fiction writer, known for co-founding one of the first gender studies departments in the USA (at San Francisco State University) and for her campaign in 1978 alongside Harvey Milk against the Briggs Initiative, which sought to ban homosexuals from teaching in schools. Her writing helped to found her publisher here, Persephone Press: in 1977 she co-authored A Feminist Tarot, the first work Persephone published, with proceeds donated to the press in order to support the publication of future works, as well as to defray the costs of the National Women’s Spirituality conference where it was sold in 1981.The Wanderground did well too, selling seventeen thousand copies between its release in February 1979 and January 1981. In 1982 Gearheart controversially argued for the reduction in the population of men in "The Future—If There Is One—Is Female” in a three-step program:

          1. Every culture must begin to affirm a female future.

          2. Species responsibility must be returned to women in every culture.

          3. The proportion of men must be reduced to and maintained at approximately 10% of the human race.

It is a provocative idea that still haunts reddit threads and Men’s Rights organizations today—as well as the ubiquitous slogan “The Future is Female”—and one that sounds violent without the further context that it appears in a collection of essays called Re- weaving the Web of Life: Feminism and Nonviolence and bases its argument on the idea of restructuring society around collective female leadership, and granting females full reproductive rights. Gearheart's militancy and separatist ideals—two failed notions from the more radical wing of Second Wave Feminism—can be scaled back and recovered for their valuable parts: a demand for overturning systems of violence and oppression against women. One way of doing that is through a reading of The Wanderground, where Gearheart tests her own ideas through the discussions of her characters, both women and men, and ultimately justifies both the anger behind revolutionary ideas, and also their kinder, more practical and collectively-driven alternatives.


Kayann Short, “Coming to the Table: The Differential Politics of This Bridge Called My Back,” in Carol Siegel, Ann M. Kibbey, eds. Eroticism and Containment: Notes from the Flood Plain (New York and London: NYU Press, 1994) 3-44.

Brooke Palmieri