Friday, May 2, 2014

The Boston Marriage

 Henry James coined the term “Boston marriage” in his 1886 novel, “The Bostonians” which involves a long term cohabiting relationship between two unmarried women. Alice, Henry James’ sister, lived with another women and was one of his inspirations for the novel.


19th century society saw nothing unusual about two unmarried women living together, the very idea of two women having sex with each other was incomprehensible at that time. Women were thought to lack sexual desire and so a close bond between two women was seen as “sisterly” and purely innocent.

Women lucky enough to come in to an inheritance, sometimes preferred to retain control of their money and their independence by remaining single. Well educated women, often feminists, chose to live with other women who shared their interest in social and cultural causes that men at that time were unlikely to accept.

While not all Boston marriages were between lesbians, the social acceptance of such relationships made them an easy cover for women in love.

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Thanks, Jeffrey Gent