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Spinsters and Lesbians: Independent Womanhood in the United States


Spinsters and Lesbians: Independent Womanhood in the United States Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Americans have long held fast to a rigid definition of womanhood, revolving around husband, home, and children. Women who rebelled against this definition and carved out independent lives for themselves have often been rendered invisible in U.S. history. In this unusual comparative study, Trisha Franzen brings to light the remarkable lives of two generations of autonomous women: Progressive Era spinsters and mid-twentieth century lesbians. While both groups of women followed similar paths to independence--separating from their families, pursuing education, finding work, and creating woman-centered communities--they faced different material and cultural challenge and came to claim very different identities. Many of the turn-of-the-century women were prominent during their time, from internationally recognized classicist Edith Hamilton through two early Directors of the Women's Bureau, Mary Anderson and Freida Miller. Maturing during the time of a broad and powerful women's movement, they were among that era's new women, the often-single women who were viewed as in the vanguard of women's struggle for equality. In contrast, never-married women after World War II, especially lesbians, were considered beyond the pale of real womanhood. Before the women's and gay/lesbian liberation movements, they had no positive contemporary images of alternative lives for women. Highlighting the similarities and differences between women-oriented women confronting changing gender and sexuality systems, Spinsters and Lesbians thus traces a continuum among women who constructed lives outside institutionalized heterosexuality.

About the Author

A long-time political activist, Trisha Franzen is Director of the Anna Howard Shaw Center for Women's Studies and Programs at Albion College.

Table of Contents

Progressive era spinsters — Contemporary lesbians — Introduction : spinsters and lesbians — "What are you going to be?" : families and childhoods in the progressive era — "I knew I was odd" : growing up female — "O, the glorious privilege of being independent" : defining independent womanhood in the progressive era — "I was going to have to do it all on my own" : toward independent womanhood after World War II — "Such beautiful lives together" : community and companions among progressive era women — "We're not the only ones" : lesbian identities and communities after World War II — Spinsters and lesbians: resisting and surviving as independent women — Methodology.

Product Details

Independent Womanhood in the United States
New York University Press
Franzen, Trisha
Women's Studies
Publication Date:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format

Related Subjects

Gay and Lesbian » Fiction and Poetry » General
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » General
History and Social Science » Gender Studies » Womens Studies

Spinsters and Lesbians: Independent Womanhood in the United States
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Product details 229 pages NYU Press - English 9780814728116 Reviews:
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