Charity and Sylvia

Charity and Sylvia

A Same-sex Marriage in Early America

Book - 2014
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Explores the lives of Charity Bryant and Sylvia Drake, two ordinary middle-class women who serve as a window on historical constructs of marriage, gender, and sexuality in late 18th-century and early 19th-century America. Both were born in Massachusetts, but in different towns, 11 years apart. Charity's attachment to women was so blatant that after she turned 20, her father told her to leave the house. She worked as a schoolteacher, but was forced to leave jobs several times because of hurtful gossip about her relationships with other women. In early 1807, Charity moved to Vermont to stay with a friend, and there she met Sylvia. The two fell in love, set up housekeeping, and considered themselves married. Gradually, their family members and the residents of Weybridge did as well. Charity and Sylvia became integral to the community, attending church, running their tailor shop, and contributing to charitable endeavors. Most of all, Charity and Sylvia remained passionately committed to each other and refused to hide their relationship. An important work of history that resonates with one of today's most public debates.
Publisher: New York :, Oxford University Press,, 2014
ISBN: 9780199335428
Characteristics: xix, 267 pages ; 25 cm

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rpavlacic
Oct 25, 2014

Many people think the push for gay marriage is a relatively recent phenomenon, even those who are its most vocal advocates. This book tells the story of two women, Charity Bryant and Sylvia Drake, who used a loophole in Vermont's common-law marriage statute and lived as a married couple from 1807 to 1851. In fact, Bryant had had at least two lesbian lovers before she settled down with Drake. This is an incredibly moving and sentimental story of love at its purest by two women who were both teachers and tailors by trade, poets by hobby, and deeply religious by practice. Remarkably, their marriage was tolerated by the community they lived in and prospered. Sadly, much of their shared correspondence was burned so we will never know the true extent of how deeply they were into each other. But the writer does specify that when Vermont formally legalized civil unions and later gay and lesbian marriage, many legislators noted Charity and Sylvia's marriage as their precedent. A truly surprising story for me and a delight to read.

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rpavlacic
Oct 25, 2014

rpavlacic thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

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