Consider Her Ways by John Wyndham
First published 1956 in collection Consider Her Ways and Others. It was adapted for an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1964.
A woman wakes up with no memories. The people she meets call her Mother Orchis. She soon finds out that she is a member of the Mother caste of a future society composed entirely of women. This feels wrong to her and she discovers that unlike other mothers, she can read and write, and they don’t know what men are.
She slowly begins to remember who she is, and that her name is Jane Waterleigh. Once it becomes clear to the doctors that something odd has occurred, it is arranged for Jane to meet an elderly historian. Laura, the historian, explains to her how many years ago all the men died. A disease that had been engineered to kill off brown rats mutated and killed off the entire male population.
Jane is now considered disruptive, and it is decided that she will have her memory wiped. Before this happens, Jane requests that she be given the drug chuinjuatin, which caused her to mentally time travel in the first place. This is done, and she finds herself back in her own time.
In an effort to prevent the future she has foreseen, Jane hunts down the scientist responsible for the disease that kills off all the men, but in a twist it transpires that she has failed to do the research, and that the scientist had a son who works in the same field, and who has vowed to carry on the research.
Gynotopia Watch: Everything is pink and pastel.
The society is specifically modelled on that of the ant, with four physically different castes: the Doctors (normal shape), Mothers (grotesquely fat), Servitors (very small), and Workers (large and strong). There’s no effort to show any reason for this in the story beyond it fitting the metaphor. The author doesn’t seem to have much of a clue about what is physically required to carry a baby to term, characterising the mothers as great lumps who are so fat they can barely walk, and just lie around all day on couches, when they would surely be far better at their job of baby ovens if they were physically fit.
Similarly, what is the point of the servitors being tiny? How does that make them better at their work? In the story it just seems to mean that it requires half a dozen of them to do a job, and they need specialised, small versions of everything.
Rereading it, I find it even odder that the Mothers don’t read and write. Okay, so they are great lumps that have no use other than to produce babies, but what do they do with their time? I’m assuming Wyndham was going for some kind of lazy housewife caricature, but they don’t appear to have TV to watch, so allowing them to read would have given them something to do beyond staring at the ceiling. The only books mentioned in the story are those which have been banned for containing men or something. Apparently this future society doesn’t contain cheap romance novels. Which it couldn’t anyway because there are No Lesbians.
There’s no indication of how the society is run beyond the Doctor caste being in charge. There seems to be some hierarchical structure within that, but it’s never addressed.