THE ARTIFICIAL MOTHER (1894) – This short story was written by George H. Putnam, who served in the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War and was also a Prisoner of War. He was part of the Putnam publishing empire and in 1901 authored the children’s story The Little Gingerbread Man.
With tongue obviously in cheek, Putnam dedicated the tale to “The oppressed husbands and fathers of the land and to the unknowing young men who may be contemplating matrimony.” George claimed he had actually written The Artificial Mother nearly twenty-five years earlier but did not publish it until 1894.
An upstart inventor, already feeling overwhelmed with his and his wife’s seven children, is shocked when she now gives birth to twins. The couple are not rich and they cannot afford to hire help, so they find themselves exhausted trying to take care of nine children, two of them infants. (“Red-faced tyrants” the inventor jokingly calls the twins.)
Our central character develops plans to construct a robot in order to ease the workload for himself and his wife.
The inventor talks a friend into investing in the robotic “mother” project and uses the funds to build the artificial mother. Electricity, compressed air, and steam are all considered as power sources for the android but rejected by the scientist as too dangerous.
He settles on using large clockwork gears and mechanisms for the robot’s innards so they can be powered by winding like any other clock. At last the artificial mother is completed, and, the next time his unsuspecting wife is out of their home, our main character tests the robot by letting it take care of his brood.
The robot can make cooing, comforting sounds and rock babies back and forth in its arms or in a cradle. Everything is working just fine until the wife returns and sees the creation caring for her children.
She tries to take the twins away from the artificial mother, but the robot resists, preferring to fulfill its programmed purpose. Neither the real nor the robotic mother harm the children but engage in a battle royal between themselves, to the inventor’s horror.
The conflict turns out for the best when his wife, obviously feeling the emotional and adrenaline rush from her imperative to protect her offspring, wins the battle. She inflicts enough damage on the robot to cause its gears and springs to burst out of its internal workings, thus winning the battle and teaching her husband a lesson.
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FOR WASHINGTON IRVING’S 1809 depiction of an invasion from the moon click here: https://glitternight.com/2014/05/05/ancient-science-fiction-the-men-of-the-moon-1809-by-washington-irving/