ruthhershfeat

Ruth Herschberger

(1917-2014)
An early resident of Westbeth, the writer Ruth Herschberger lived here for more than three decades. She was a poet as well as the author of Adam’s Rib (1948), a book of feminist essays with such titles as “How to Tell a Woman from a Man” and “Society Writes Biology.” Apparently Adam’s Rib “had quite a splash when it came out, but was soon dropped”1—that’s a quote from Herschberger in Shira Tarrant’s When Sex Became Gender (2006). But by the seventies, Adam’s Rib had found new admirers. Susan Brownmiller, author of Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, sent this message about Herschberger’s book: “Ruth Herschberger’s Adam’s Rib, her brilliant book of feminist analysis published in 1948, was known to me while I was writing Against Our Will (1975). Her chapter ‘Is Rape a Myth?’ is amazing. She understood rape decades before our women’s movement rediscovered rape in 1970. I didn’t know that Ruth lived in Westbeth, a stone’s throw from where I was living in the West Village. As I recall, after my book was published she sent me a copy of her book. The entire book was amazing. It’s horrible that such a masterpiece had no feminist movement around to learn from it in her day. It seems that later generations of women always have to reinvent the wheel.”2

adam

Herschberger’s poetry collections are A Way of Happening (1948) and Nature & Love Poems (1969). Her work has also been published in numerous magazines and anthologies, including The Oxford Book of American Poetry (2006). The following poem is from Herschberger’s Nature & Love Poems.

She Sought but Did Not Find
And where were the woodland paths? I found myself
Always on the boulevard to humanity.
I wanted to tread and explore simply,
Instead I roved like a beast the tavernous crowd.
I imbibed fermented liquors and smoked
Bluely in the flame and expelled choking substance.
Alas, where were the roses, where were the fields?
I saw them only in the dark, when the earth was cold.
What an error I made, not falling in love with flowers.

From Nature & Love Poems, Eakins Press, 1969 © Ruth Herschberger.

Notes:
1. Quoted in Shira Tarrant, When Sex Became Gender (Routledge, 2006), page 197.
2. Susan Brownmiller, email message to Terry Stoller, September 14, 2016.

SHARE:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on Pinterest