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Perfect Love in a Better World

Same-Sex Attraction between Girls

Wendy L. Rouse

Keywords: Boston marriage; crush; homosexuality; lesbian; romantic friendship; sexual identity

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.

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