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Outlaw Marriages: The Hidden Histories of Fifteen Extraordinary Same-Sex Couples

Overview

For more than a century before gay marriage became a hot-button political issue, same-sex unions flourished in America. Pairs of men and pairs of women joined together in committed unions, standing by each other “for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health” for periods of thirty or forty—sometimes as many as fifty—years. In short, they loved and supported each other every bit as much as any husband and wife.

In Outlaw Marriages, cultural historian Rodger Streitmatter ...

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Outlaw Marriages: The Hidden Histories of Fifteen Extraordinary Same-Sex Couples

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Overview

For more than a century before gay marriage became a hot-button political issue, same-sex unions flourished in America. Pairs of men and pairs of women joined together in committed unions, standing by each other “for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health” for periods of thirty or forty—sometimes as many as fifty—years. In short, they loved and supported each other every bit as much as any husband and wife.

In Outlaw Marriages, cultural historian Rodger Streitmatter reveals how some of these unions didn’t merely improve the quality of life for the two people involved but also enriched the American culture.

Among the high-profile couples whose lives and loves are illuminated in the following pages are Nobel Peace Prize winner Jane Addams and Mary Rozet Smith, literary icon Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, author James Baldwin and Lucien Happersberger, and artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. 

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Outlaw Marriages gloriously outs same-sex couples through history and celebrates their love and impact in theater, arts, and social change. If you love the guilty pleasure of reading People magazine for your celebrity-couple news, you'll love this book. And the fact-checking is flawless!"—Kate Clinton, humorist

“The volume will have particular appeal to readers of gender studies, but these stories ultimately prove that true partnership is gender blind.”—Publishers Weekly

“A thoroughly interesting look at gay and lesbian love, life and relationships.”—EDGE 

“Fifteen love marriages that dared not speak their name defied laws and mores, flouted conventions, and live today in Streitmatter’s essential, well-documented history.”—Booklist

“A nice gift for just the right couple.”—Kirkus Reviews 

"An engaging and well-researched volume with broad appeal to the LGBTQ crowd (especially couples) as well as social historians."–Library Journal

"In Outlaw Marriages he distills a wealth of information down to a lively and effective series of double portraits.”—The Gay and Lesbian Review

“…Streitmatter expertly threads together the historical backgrounds and incredible courage of these couples… it’s a damn good bunch of stories told in a very approachable 160-ish pages.”—The Stranger 

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly
Cultural historian and American University professor Streitmatter (Mightier Than the Sword) absorbingly details the public and private lives of notable same-sex couples, deftly examining affairs, betrayals, and disappointments, as well as the enabling power that the right marriage, recognized or not, provides. Many of the pairs comprised a famous and not-so-famous member: Walt Whitman’s much younger partner and muse, Peter Doyle, sold streetcar tickets and worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad, while Greta Garbo’s upper-crust partner, Mercedes de Acosta, taught the star, who came from a poor family, rules of etiquette and style. The thoroughly researched, lovingly rendered joint histories—including Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Tennessee Williams and Frank Merlo, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns—share a common thread that is less about gender than partnership-as-catalyst. Toklas championed Stein’s writing and became her literary agent; Rauschenberg encouraged Johns to act on the content of a bizarre dream and paint the American flag; Merlo “single-handedly stabilized Tennessee Williams’s life and career.” When James Baldwin seemed “on the verge of a nervous breakdown,” his partner, artist Lucien Happersberger, whisked him off to a Swiss village where he could focus on his work. The volume will have particular appeal to readers of gender studies, but these stories ultimately prove that true partnership is gender blind. Agent: Howard Yoon, Ross Yoon. (May)
Library Journal
Streitmatter (journalism, American Univ.; Mightier Than the Sword: How the News Media Have Shaped American History) demonstrates that, legality aside, same-sex relationships are not a recent by-product of political correctness gone awry, as opponents aver. The 15 couples whom he chronicles here forged not just strong, loving, and committed, if imperfect and occasionally impermanent, relationships, but enduring social and cultural legacies. Among the "outlaws" are some iconic names, including Walt Whitman, Jane Addams, Tennessee Williams, and Greta Garbo, whose partners, with a few notable exceptions (e.g., Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas; filmmakers Ismail Merchant and James Ivory) were less famous. Each chapter covers one couple and highlights how the pair's personal lives synergistically developed and came to influence their work, whether as muse (Whitman and Peter Doyle), emotional stability and support (Williams and Frank Merlo), or a fully evolved working partnership (Merchant and Ivory). VERDICT An engaging and well-researched volume with broad appeal to the LGBTQ crowd (especially couples) as well as social historians.—Richard J. Violette, Greater Victoria P.L., B.C.
Kirkus Reviews
A selective glimpse at prominent same-sex nuptials. Streitmatter (Communication/American Univ.; From Perverts to Fab Five: The Media's Changing Depiction of Gay Men and Lesbians, 2008, etc.) considers the cases of 15 couples from a time when such unions were scandalous. In the households of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns and James Ivory and Ismail Merchant, both parties were famous. Typically, though, just one member of the outlaw marriage was celebrated. The less well-known, long-suffering partner was muse to his or her famous spouse. That was the case with Walt Whitman and his beloved streetcar conductor, Jane Addams and her financial supporter, J.C. Leyendecker and his Arrow Collar model, Greta Garbo and her social advisor and Tennessee Williams and his loyal caretaker. These notable subjects were not ordinary folk; they were social reformers, poets, playwrights and painters. The author begins each story with thumbnail bios, followed by a short section titled "Creating an Outlaw Marriage" and then some information on how they worked together. The tales continue with the ebb and flow of romance, faithfulness and loyalty, infidelity and betrayal. Finally, each story draws on newspaper obituaries that generally omitted mention of the spouse who figured so largely in the life of the deceased. While his topic undeniably interesting, journalist Streitmatter adheres to his journeyman's formula too much; however, his book might be a nice gift for just the right couple, for he clearly loves his story. In the epilogue, the author proudly announces that he and his partner are now husband and husband. Joint biographies, rendered in mostly artless prose, of successful and influential gay and lesbian couples who married before it was allowed.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807003428
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 5/7/2013
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 811,203
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Rodger Streitmatter, a former newspaper reporter, is a member of the School of Communication faculty at American University. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his husband, Tom Grooms.

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Table of Contents

Prologue ix

Chapter 1 Walt Whitman & Peter Doyle 1865-1892

Revolutionizing American Poetry 1

Chapter 2 Martha Carey Thomas & Mamie Gwinn 1878-1904

Opening Graduate Education to American Women 11

Chapter 3 Ned Warren & John Marshall 1884-1927

Building the Collections of America's Art Museums 23

Chapter 4 Mary Rozet Smith & Jane Addams 1891-1934

Breaking New Ground in Social Reform and Global Peace 33

Chapter 5 Bessie Marbury & Elsie de Wolfe 1892-1933

Founding the Field of Interior Design 43

Chapter 6 J.C. Leyendecker & Charles Beach 1901-1951

Taking the Art of Illustration to a New Level 55

Chapter 7 Alice B. Toklas & Gertrude Stein 1907-1946

Expanding the Dimensions of American Literature 67

Chapter 8 Janet Planner & Solita Solano 1919-1975

Pioneering a New Style of Journalism 77

Chapter 9 Greta Garbo & Mercedes de Acosta 1931-1960

Making Hollywood the Celebrity Capital of the World

Chapter 10 Aaron Copland & Victor Kraft 1932-1976

Inventing a Distinctly American Style of Music 99

Chapter 11 Frank Merlo & Tennessee Williams 1948-1963

Lifting American Theater to New Heights 109

Chapter 12 James Baldwin & Lucien Happersberger 1949-1987

Attacking Racism through Literature 121

Chapter 13 Robert Rauschenberg & Jasper Johns 1954-1962

Expanding the Definition of Art 133

Chapter 14 Ismail Merchant & James Ivory 1961-2005

Turning Literary Works into Sumptuous Films 145

Chapter 15 Frances Clayton & Audre Lorde 1968-1988

Raising a Voice for Women of Color 157

Epilogue 169

Acknowledgments 171

Notes 173

Photography/Illustration Credits 211

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