Feminist Future: Time Travel in Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time

  • Kirsten Bussiere
Keywords: time travel, speculative fiction, utopian studies, feminist literary criticism, intersectional feminism


After H.G. Wells’ publication of The Time Machine, not as the first of its kind but as a seminal text, the popularity of time travel narratives saw a drastic increase during the twentieth century. Despite the prevalence of time travel in popular culture, it is a genre that Marge Piercy rightfully described as one that is hogged by “affluent white males” both as authors and characters — a group she termed as one that would not be “the sort of visitors” she would prefer if she were part of “a future good society” (2013, x). By contrast, Woman on the Edge of Time serves as an intersectional feminist intervention in a genre saturated with homogeneity. Countering this lack of diversity, Piercy provides readers with an alternative time traveler: Consuelo Ramos, a thirty-seven-year-old Mexican-American Woman incarcerated in a mental hospital, who journeys between the possibilities of futures both better and worse than the present. Unlike time travelers in many post-Wellsian time travel narratives written and propagated by white men, who relate to time travel purely as an entropic disruption of what they consider to be progress, Piercy’s feminist classic reverses the polarity of those discussions by framing time travelling as a politically mobilizing and agency-creating mechanism. Time travel often exposes the future’s grim determinism and reinforces pre-set structures of oppression. This paper argues that Piercy’s novel, instead, provides a scenario in which time traveling is productive, enabling, and inspiring because minoritized, underprivileged individuals are granted the power to change the future.