Middle-Class American Women and Their Friends in the Twentieth Century
Publication Year: 1999
From nineteenth-century romantic friendships to childhood best friends and idealistic versions of feminist sisterhood, female friendship has been seen as an essential, sustaining influence on women's lives. Women are thought to have a special aptitude for making and keeping friends.
But notions of friendship are not constant-and neither are women's experiences of this fundamental form of connection. In Another Self, Linda W. Rosenzweig sheds light on the changing nature of white middle-class American women's relationships during the coming of age of modern America.
As the middle-class domesticity of the nineteenth century waned, a new emotional culture arose in the twentieth century and the intensely affectionate bonds between women of earlier decades were supplanted by new priorities: autonomy, careers, participation in an expanding consumer culture, and the expectation of fulfillment and companionship in marriage. An increased emphasis on heterosexual interactions and a growing stigmatization of close same-sex relationships fostered new friendship styles and patterns.
Drawing on a wide range of primary sources including diaries, journals, correspondence, and popular periodicals, Rosenzweig uncovers the complex and intricate links between social and cultural developments and women's personal experiences of friendship.
Published by: NYU Press
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In the process of researching and writing this book, I have been reminded many times of the frequent assertion by educators that the study of history fosters the development of a sense of personal identity and a sense of connection with a meaningful past. Because social history encompasses ordinary human...
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The theme of female friendship as an essential, sustaining influence in women’s lives has a familiar cultural resonance. Over the past three decades, discussions ranging from the idealistic visions of “sisterhood” that emerged in the early years of contemporary feminism to the more academic, analytic examinations...
Chapter 1: “The Sister of My Heart”: Female Friends before 1900
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In 1790, the popular English novel Euphemia characterized female friendship as a multifaceted, influential force in women’s lives. A friend, the work’s author asserted, is “a witness of the conscience, a physician of secret griefs, a moderator of prosperity, and a guide in adversity.”1 This definition would have...
Chapter 2: “The Other’s Facsimile”: Young Women's Friendships 1900-1920
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As Mary Pratt Sears celebrated her twentieth birthday on August 21, 1884, she reminisced poignantly about a close friend who had died several years earlier. “In forty minutes I shall really be twenty! It will be my fourth number that Fanny never had, but as I grow older, she seems to grow older too,”...
Chapter 3: “Boys in Particular”: Young Women's Friendships after 1920
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When Yvonne Blue met Phoebe Jacobus in 1931, she liked her immediately, although Phoebe was neither as well dressed nor as “immaculate” as she might have been. The two young women discovered that they had much in common, and their friendship blossomed quickly. Both craved activity...
Chapter 4: “The Staunchness of Female Friendship”: Adult Friends, 1900-1960
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In 1937, a pensive and vulnerable young wife reflected on the disintegration of her marriage and the difficult decision to seek a divorce from her second husband. “My friends have been wonderful,” she wrote in her diary. “And my faith in the staunchness of female friendship has once more expanded...
Chapter 5: “Partner and I”: Twentieth-Century Romance Friendships
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Janet Flanner and Natalia Danesi Murray met at a cocktail party in January 1940. Flanner, the renowned Paris correspondent for the New Yorker, was forty-eight years old and divorced. Murray, an Italian-born broadcaster and publishing executive whose marriage had also ended, was ten years younger...
Chapter 6: “The Most Straining of All Experiences”: Friendships with Men after 1900
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“A straight friendship between a man and a woman is, as you know, a happy, helpful and beautiful thing; but a friendship of which one side is passionate love is, I suppose, almost the most straining of all experiences,” Mary Pratt Sears wrote to a friend around the turn of the century. “I should dread unspeakably for a nature as emotional as yours any long continuation...
Chapter 7: Another Self? The Fabric of Friendship after 1960
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The twentieth-century climate of post-Freudian veneration of selfhood and individual enterprise has offered little impetus for a serious consideration of the role of interpersonal interactions, including friendship, in human development. Most theories of the self interpret development as an evolutionary process...
About the Author
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Linda W. Rosenzweig is Professor of History at Chatham College. She is the author of The Anchor of My Life: Middle-Class American Mothers and Daughters, 1880–1920, and the mother of two grown daughters. She and her husband live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Wellfleet, Massachusetts...
Page Count: 238
Publication Year: 1999