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Boston marriage as a term is said to have been in use in New England in the decades spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries to describe two women living together, independent of financial support from a man.
Origin of the term
The term Boston marriage was used by Henry James in The Bostonians (1886), a novel involving a long-term co-habiting relationship between two unmarried women, "New Women". The use of the term is thought to have persisted in New England for several decades. The term was less well known before the debut in 2000 of the David Mamet play of the same name. Many cite in particular the Maine novelist Sarah Orne Jewett and her companion Annie Adams Fields, widow of the editor of The Atlantic Monthly.
Some women did not marry because they felt they had a better connection to women than to men. Some of these lived together. Of necessity, such women were generally financially independent due to family inheritance or career earnings. Women who chose to have a career (doctor, scientist, professor) created a new class of women who were not dependent on men. Educated women with careers who wanted to live with other women were allowed a measure of social acceptance and freedom to arrange their own lives. They were usually feminists with shared values, involved in social and cultural causes. Often one of the pair perceived herself to be "a man trapped in a woman's body". Such women were generally self-sufficient in their own lives, but gravitated to each other for support in an often disapproving and sometimes hostile society.
- Gardner 2009
- Faderman 1992, p. ??
- Faderman 2002, p. ??
- Faderman, L. (1999). To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done For America - A History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Page 405
- Katherine B. Davis, Factors in the sex life of twenty-two hundred women (NY: Harper Brothers, 1929)
- Lillian Faderman, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America (Columbia University Press, 1991)
- Lillian Faderman, Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women from the Renaissance to the Present (NY: Morrow, 1981)
- Carol Brooks Gardner, "Boston marriages," in Jodi O'Brien, ed., Encyclopedia of Gender and Society, vol. 1 (SAGE Publications, 2009), pp. 87–88, available online
- Esther D. Rothblum and Kathleen A. Brehony, eds., Boston Marriages: Romantic but Asexual Relationships among Contemporary Lesbians (University of Massachusetts Press, 1993)
- Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (Oxford University Press, 1986)