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Maxwell School
Maxwell / Department of History
Gaffney, Mindy Lu

Mindy Lu  Gaffney  ABD  

Field of Study

Modern American; Women’s History

Advisor

Margaret S. Thompson

Dissertation Title

Intimate Collaborations: Female Faculty Relationships in Select Women’s Colleges, 1890-1930

Dissertation Description

This dissertation will focus on the long term relationships of two pairs of academic women: Mary Emma Woolley and Jeannette Augustus Marks from Mount Holyoke College, and Katharine Lee Bates and Katharine Coman from Wellesley College. These women were born and experienced their formative years during the late nineteenth century when female relationships were socially acceptable and often encouraged. However, by the early twentieth century female relationships and shared living arrangements between pairs of unmarried women, platonic or not, would begin to be labeled as deviant as the work of sexologists such as Havelock Ellis and Sigmund Freud were changing the public’s perception and acceptance of same-sex relationships. Woolley and Marks, Bates and Coman never married, led fulfilling professional lives, and lived in long-term relationships resembling de facto marriages. They would be caught straddling these two centuries of changing sexual mores. This dissertation will provide an understanding of how unmarried professional women, living in close and sometimes sexually intimate association with other women, structured their lives and relationships in this culture of change.