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Boston marriage


(English) A 19th century term, chiefly used in the USA, for two unmarried women who shared a household. There was an understanding that they were likely to be “romantic friends” but that understanding did not necessarily assume a sexual relationship and while “Boston marriage” might carry a sense of satire, it wasn’t an accusation of improper behavior.

LHMP entry

If one had any doubts about the common perception of the phenomenon of unmarried women forming stable, long-term partnerships in the later 19th century in America, those doubts could be settled by the existence of the term “Boston marriage” for such partnerships. Unlike earlier Romantic Friendships, which often had to work around the marriage of one or both parties to a man, the women in Boston marriages were normally unmarried and independent, either through inheritance or a career.

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