Spinsters and Lesbians: Independent Womanhood in the United States

Spinsters and Lesbians: Independent Womanhood in the United States

by Trisha Franzen
     
 

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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

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Looks at the lives of 15 never-married women of the Progressive Era and 15 never-married lesbians of the post-WWII era. Their stories illuminate questions and issues that remain hidden when viewing the world through the norm of the heterosexual nuclear family. Topics include families and childhoods in the Progressive Era; growing up female, 1936-1965; independent womanhood after WWII; and lesbian identities and communities after WWII. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780814728116
Publisher:
New York University Press
Publication date:
01/01/1996
Series:
Cutting Edge: Lesbian Life and Literature Series
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
258
File size:
3 MB

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