Race, Reproduction, and the Failures of Feminism in Mary Bradley Lane’s Mizora

Katherine Broad, City University of New York Graduate Center

Mary Bradley Lane’s Mizora: A Prophecy is a nineteenth-century American utopian novel about a perfect society of blonde women at the center of the earth. Mizora predates the utopian frenzy set off by Edward Bellamy and offers its own set of technological and evolutionary tools to refashion women’s social and economic roles. But this utopia is made possible through a fundamentally racist fantasy that science can eliminate difference and its attendant social ills. This essay draws on nineteenth-century pseudoscientific discourses of eugenics, evolution, and polygeny to argue that Lane’s conceptualization of race in imagining the ideal matriarchy compromises what have been celebrated as Mizora’s radical and feminist promises. Mizora answers the racial and social anxieties of Reconstruction America by advocating racial purity through an oppressive regulation of female bodies. Despite its commitment to universal education, economic equality, and female leadership, the text is ultimately concerned not with liberation, but with the reproduction of an ideal white citizenry.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]