In 1880, on the first anniversary of her marriage, author Sarah Orne Jewett penned a romantic poem to her partner Annie Adams Fields. “Do you remember, darling, a year ago today, when we gave ourselves to each other? … We will not take back the promises we made a year ago.” Sarah and Annie lived together in a “Boston marriage,” which was a committed partnership between women.
For several years at the end of the nineteenth century, same-sex marriage was relatively common and even socially acceptable. Homosexuality itself was taboo but friendships among women were common. Women existed in a sphere separate from that of men. Public life, work and earning money were male activities.
In New England women took this concept one step further by “getting married” combining households, living together and supporting one another. They attended college, found careers and lived outside their parents’ home. As they did so with other women, their activities were deemed socially acceptable.
In 1885, novelist Henry James explored the phenomenon in his book “The Bostonians”. The practice became less common in the 20th century, but did not die out; In the 1950s, Your Activist lived a few doors away from a similar arrangement.