Theme: Relations between women in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Thesis: Relationships between women in the nineteenth century America created a web of love and support for women. Mothers and daughters, sisters and friends from childhood formed emotional and sometimes physical bonds that lasted lifetimes. These ties were acknowledged and easily accepted in their societies. Many women survived unthinkable hardships such as geographical isolation, child birth, and loss of children because of the unconditional love found in their relations with other women.
A. Female friendship of 19th century not really studied before
B. Abundance of evidence suggests very strong emotional ties between women.
C. All types of relationships are suggested from
sisterly love to passion
D. In this world men are hardly noted
II. Defining and analyzing these relations
A. Question of method and interpretation
B. How to view same sex relations
2.dichotomy between normal and abnormal
C. Viewing within a cultural and social setting
D. Based on the diaries of women from 35 families
from 1760s to 1880s
1.Represents brood range of women
III. Sensual and platonic
A. Sarah Butler Wister and Jeannie Field Musgrove
1. Met while families vacationed; spent 2 years
together at boarding school
2. throughout life wrote to eachother talking of
their deep affection and their anguish when apart
3. Marriage brought physical separation but nor
4. Made references that may imply a relationship
that is not necessarily platonic
5. Friendship lasted their entire lives
B. Molly and Helena
1. Met at boarding school
2. Formed friendship similar to that of Sarah and
3. many references to a physical relation
4. marriage brought depression and changes because
of now having male lovers.
5. Molly tells Helena she loves her as "wives do
love their husbands"
C. Significance of these letters
1. Do not define as hetero or homosexual but as
examples of the intensity of the emotional bond
2. Force us to place female love in a particular
IV. Emotional function of such female love
A. American society characterized by strict gender-role
1. women formed supportive networks that came with
rituals for every important event in a woman's life
from birth to death
2. these emotions supported by strict restrictions
in relations between young men and women. Two
totally separate spheres existed, women's and men's
B. The woman's world was a cycle of home, church, and
visiting other women. This world was inhabited solely
by women and children. Help with domestic during illness and other problems. Vacations often designed for
old friends to meet again.
V. Women and their female kin
A. Women's female kin were the core of this world of
1.Relatives provided the nucleus around
which groups of friends and networks revolved.
2.Much of a woman's life could be focuses around
her family and extended family (in-laws)
B. The mother-daughter relationship is at the center of this world. The daughters relied on their mothers for
support and learned their female duties from them, sort
of an apprenticeship.
C. through relations with female kin, the web grew
through the non-relative friends of kin as a girl
grew she made her own friends and they were incorporated
into this familial world.
VI. Rituals in the life of a woman
A. Marriage was one of the great rituals. Support
surrounded the bride for months before hand.
B. Childbirth was a solely female ritual, friends and
relatives were present through the entire process.
The relationships between women during this era was core to their lives and survival. Without the love, support, and rituals surrounding their daily lives together, many of the women would not have survived the hardships that often presented themselves in life.
Point of Analysis: I feel that the author was a bit long winded in her explanations of some things. There are many things that she repeats. I also feel that she could have presented more about the lives of men. After reading this, I wonder what the men did all day and if they had relationships like this with their friends and male kin. It is a great essay and does show vividly the lives of women during this time
Point of Synthesis: This article really helped me to understand the women during this time much more. To see their lives on a much more personal level, and how they socialized really creates a deeper and more personal understanding of women here. Connecting this with their political lives, regional, and religious helps to make the circle complete and create a true understanding of women during this era.