Conventional wisdom holds that same-sex marriage is a purely modern innovation, a concept born of an overtly modern lifestyle that was unheard of in nineteenth century America. But as Rachel Hope Cleves demonstrates in this eye-opening book, same-sex marriage is hardly new. Born in 1777, Charity Bryant was raised in Massachusetts. A brilliant and strong-willed woman with a clear attraction for her own sex, Charity found herself banished from her family home at age twenty. She spent the next decade of her life traveling throughout Massachusetts, working as a teacher, making intimate female friends, and becoming the subject of gossip wherever she lived. At age twenty-nine, still defiantly single, Charity visited friends in Weybridge, Vermont. There she met a pious and studious young woman named Sylvia Drake. The two soon became so inseparable that Charity decided to rent rooms in Weybridge. In 1809, they moved into their own home together, and over the years, came to be recognized, essentially, as a married couple. Revered by their community, Charity and Sylvia operated a tailor shop employing many local women, served as guiding lights within their church, and participated in raising their many nieces and nephews. Charity and Sylvia is the intimate history of their extraordinary forty-four year union. Drawing on an array of original documents including diaries, letters, and poetry, Cleves traces their lives in sharp detail. Providing an illuminating glimpse into a relationship that turns conventional notions of same-sex marriage on their head, and reveals early America to be a place both more diverse and more accommodating than modern society might imagine, Charity and Sylvia is a significant contribution to our limited knowledge of LGBT history in early America.
Books about the history of love between women are very important to me. This one did not disappoint! I did not know about this couple prior to reading this book and I appreciate the in depth details.
This is a book which I think is best in audio format. It is well read. I learned a great deal about two women, and the times in which they lived. It is a real eye-opener for both history and the lives of women in general in that time.
Readers who enjoy Early American History will appreciate this story of Charity and Sylvia. These two women chose to live a life that might seem quite radical for their time, and yet were respectable members of their small community. Working hard to maintain an independent life, they built a business and home together that welcomed their many nieces, nephews, friends, and relatives to dine and fellowship with them. Rachel Hope Cleves sheds light on this touching story that challenges some strongly-held notions of early 19th century America regarding marriage, and the acceptance of same sex relationships between women in a rural New England town.
If only there were stories like this when I was coming of age, but I am thankful this story was written. It's a critically important story that needed to be told.
Important, informative and a must-read! Lesbian and women's studies. Great research and writing. Great presentation.