Victorian notions of the passionless female allowed for a wide latitude of socially
acceptable relationships between girls in the nineteenth century that included
crushes, romantic friendships, and, for women, Boston marriages. However, textual
depictions of female sexuality were rapidly shifting in the early twentieth century.
As sexologists’ writings moved toward a medical model focused on the
prevention and treatment of homosexuality, the literature created and consumed
by parents and school officials reflected growing anxiety about the potential sexual
undertones of female friendships. The story of two women coming of age during
this cultural shift humanizes the impact of shifting cultural norms on the lives of
individuals and reveals the tragic consequences for those who resisted efforts to
conform to heteronormative expectations regarding their future.