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