Skip to main content

Outlaw Marriages: A book I haven't finished yet

You might have noticed that I've been reading rather more nonfiction than usual lately. It seems like most of us tend to skirt that genre, and I'm not sure why (except for the fact that narrative is the FUNNEST). I'm really into history, and I'm really into poking around in it for gayness, so lately I've been doing both of those and acting like a kid in one of those germ-filled ball pits from our collective childhood: *holds up a ball* "Oh! Jane Addams, what're YOU doing in here!"

I've started a book called Outlaw Marriages, which I assuuuumed was just jumping on the gay marriage bandwagon, and maybe it is, but whatevs. So I wasn't going to take it too seriously, because it says stuff like:

A third line that scholars cite is one that tells of a young man in camp being valued “more than all the gifts of the world”—the phrasing speaks to Whitman’s love for Doyle being more important to him than worldly goods.
Does it? I would've had a hard time connecting those things. Thank you. I also enjoy "scholars cite," but then it's followed by dumbness. 

When I started it it also seemed pretty much like "Let's put a relationship construct of the 20th century onto previous generations!" which...y'know.




But then I kept reading, because it's broken up into stories (one chapter per couple), and it's not even necessarily just the COUPLE, but it also talks about what they did. And -- THIS IS THE REASON I LOVE HISTORY -- when you've read enough history, all the different parts of what you've read start interlocking like jigsaw pieces and it is the MOST fun.

Like they mention Elsie de Wolfe and Bessy Marbury, and at first I was like "Oh, ok, these people" and then I googled them and a book about the TRIANGLE FACTORY FIRE came up, and it was all "They helped with the shirtwaist strike of 1909," and THEN the book revealed that so did Alva Belmont, who worked closely with -- wait for it -- Alice Paul in the battle for suffrage. 

IT'S LIKE THE KEVIN BACON GAME BUT WITH HISTORY.




People wanting to put contemporary values/perceptions on anything in the past make me more irritated than when someone cuts me off while walking AND THEN SLOWS DOWN. Which is quite a lot, as I mentally turn into a furious adult baby when that happens. So the concept of same sex relationships of the past being marriages makes me a little *looks suspiciously at the author* because almost no one was able to break free enough of the culture to see that as a possibility. 

However. When M. Carey Thomas, president of Bryn Mawr from 1894-1922, wrote to her mother that "If it were only possible for women to elect women as well as men for a 'life's love,' I would do so with Mamie in a minute," and that she wished that "Mamie and I could go through the marriage ceremony together," I mean....

y'know?

I'm ALSO learning about gay dudes, which is a topic I have heretofore ignored, possibly because I'm bitter about the proliferation of gay male bars in Chicago while one of the two lesbian bars just closed (and by possibly I mean yuuuuuuup). BUT! But, I now know about J.C. Leyendecker, and how his art was amazeballs AND he was basically married to the Arrow Man (Charles Beach). Have you seen his painting of the Arrow Man?


Why, hello

So while the intro was not great and some of the claims should probably be extra-researched, he DOES have nice notations and cites a lot of primary source material. And he's making me think that same-sex marriage as we understand it now, is not, in fact a 20th century construct. Well done, sir. Looking forward to that chapter on Rauschenberg.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Harry Potter 2013 Readalong Signup Post of Amazingness and Jollity

Okay, people. Here it is. Where you sign up to read the entire Harry Potter series (or to reminisce fondly), starting January 2013, assuming we all survive the Mayan apocalypse. I don't think I'm even going to get to Tina and Bette's reunion on The L Word until after Christmas, so here's hopin'.


You guys know how this works. Sign up if you want to. If you're new to the blog, know that we are mostly not going to take this seriously. And when we do take it seriously, it's going to be all Monty Python quotes when we disagree on something like the other person's opinion on Draco Malfoy. So be prepared for your parents being likened to hamsters.

If you want to write lengthy, heartfelt essays, that is SWELL. But this is maybe not the readalong for you. It's gonna be more posts with this sort of thing:


We're starting Sorceror's/Philosopher's Stone January 4th. Posts will be on Fridays. The first post will be some sort of hilarious/awesome que…

How to Build a Girl Introductory Post, which is full of wonderful things you probably want to read

Acclaimed (in England mostly) lady Caitlin Moran has a novel coming out. A NOVEL. Where before she has primarily stuck to essays. Curious as we obviously were about this, I and a group of bloggers are having a READALONG of said novel, probably rife with spoilers (maybe they don't really matter for this book, though, so you should totally still read my posts). This is all hosted/cared for/lovingly nursed to health by Emily at As the Crowe Flies (and Reads) because she has a lovely fancy job at an actual bookshop (Odyssey Books, where you can in fact pre-order this book and then feel delightful about yourself for helping an independent store). Emily and I have negotiated the wonders of Sri Lankan cuisine and wandered the Javits Center together. Would that I could drink with her more often than I have.


INTRODUCTION-wise (I might've tipped back a little something this evening, thus the constant asides), I am Alice. I enjoy the Pleistocene era of megafauna and drinking Shirley Templ…

Yes, Frances Willard was as gay as Oscar Wilde. But in a lady-way.

Yup. We're gonna do it. We're gonna talk about Frances Willard and gayness. Look, it's not a major part of her life, and it's definitely not the main thing she should be remembered for, but the fact that a line is being put out that she was totally straight is complete hogwash and it upsets me.




The thing is, I get when people say it's anachronistic to put the cultural concept of "gayness" onto a person from a century other than the 20th/21st. I get that. And usually agree with it. But Frances Willard is one of the gayest people in history. I have zero problem labeling her with that. The fact that she didn't have the language to describe what she was experiencing is upsetting, but she managed to have a seemingly full and satisfying life anyway, so I am happy for her.

And for people annoyed when gay people say that someone from the past was gay, here's the thing: When you're completely whitewashed from history, it is a matter of TOTAL DELIGHT wh…