Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Review of 1893 feminist and utopian Mars novel Unveiling a Parallel: A Romance

I just found a neat old book review of Unveiling a Parallel: A Romance (1893), a feminist science fiction and utopian Mars novel. Initially attributed to “Two Women of the West,” the novel was actually written by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Here’s the entire review from the The Review of Reviews, Vol. VIII, No. 1, July 1893:
Unveiling a Parallel is one of those numerous books turned out by the press of our day, which are fiction in form and sociology in matter. The unknown authors conduct the reader to “the red planet Mars,” and introduce him there to two widely different social communities. In the one the women occupy very much such a position in the business, social and moral realms as the men upon our own sphere. They give evidence of “parallel” follies; they persist in “parallel” prejudices. They have, for instance, what corresponds to our masculine habits of smoking and club life, and they have simply reversed our distinction between the sexes as to reprehensibility on score of “the social evil.” This slight fictional device gives opportunity for some sharp and persistent satire upon various institutions of American life, including the ecclesiastical. In the other Marsian community mentioned we find portrayed a state in which men as well as women attain very nearly ideal social standards. The book, therefore, is both a denouncement of existing evils, in pretty plain words, too, and an outlining of higher possibilities. There are passages which are brilliant, and none, so far as we note, which are not as clear as language can make thought.
According to A Literary History of Iowa (1972), Alice Ilgenfritz, who sometimes wrote under the pseudonym Ferris Jerome, was born in Shanesville, Ohio, on January 9, 1846, to Henry and Ann Ilgenfritz. She married Hiram Edward Jones, a longtime furniture merchant from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1884. Her obituary was published in the March 5, 1906, issue of the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

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