7 Women Who Had Very Full Lives and Never Married

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

7 Women Who Had Very Full Lives and Never Married


Byline: Lisa Bonos The Washington Post

For centuries of American history, marriage was both compulsory for women and tightly restricted. Socially, it was expected; and unless you were rich, it was an economic necessity. Yet marriage was also confined to heterosexual couples, and it wasn't until the Supreme Court's Loving v. Virginia ruling in 1967 that interracial marriages were legal all across the country.

Now, there's a lot more freedom within marriage and without it. A life lived without marrying isn't as unusual as it once was.

But we didn't get here without other unmarried women paving the way. As Women's History Month draws to a close, here are some accomplished and fascinating women who just happened to never legally tie the knot -- proving that marriage isn't absolutely essential to a full life.

As journalist Rebecca Traister points out in her book "All the Single Ladies," our nation's early unmarried women weren't all without meaningful relationships or long-term companions. But for various reasons, they eschewed expectations by not entering "an institution built around male authority and female obeisance." (Inspiration for this list comes from Traister's book and my Washington Post colleague Julia Carpenter's A Woman to Know newsletter.)

-- Charity Bryant (1777-1851) and Sylvia Drake (1784-1868)

These two seamstresses met in Massachusetts in 1806 and were far more than spinsters: They started a tailoring business and apprenticed other young women. They were also incredibly close, living together in Vermont and becoming what historians consider to be the first record of a same-sex partnership.

Bryant's nephew, William Cullen Bryant, describes the women's relationship as resembling a marriage: "I would tell you how, in their youthful days, they took each other as companions for life, and how this union, no less sacred to them than the tie of marriage, has subsisted, in uninterrupted harmony, for more than forty years."

-- Catharine Beecher (1800-1878)

Beecher (sister of abolitionist author Harriet Beecher Stowe) was engaged to Alexander M. Fisher, a professor at Yale University, but he died at sea before they could marry. After his death, she dedicated her life to teaching: She opened a private girls' school in Connecticut in 1823 and was instrumental in establishing several women's colleges in the Midwest. She also taught herself math, Latin and philosophy, subjects not commonly offered to women in her era.

Beecher believed that women were well-suited to be teachers, arguing that the job could ease the stigma of being a spinster. Her beliefs about women as natural teachers and mothers were so strong that she opposed giving women the right to vote. In 1871, Beecher said she was concerned that suffrage would cause "the humble labors of the family and school to be still more undervalued and shunned" in her "Address to the Christian Women of America."

-- Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)

Anthony was passionate about many things -- abolition of slavery, workers' rights and women's rights -- and getting married wasn't one of them. She was part of the Underground Railroad; she organized anti-slavery meetings in upstate New York and campaigned for a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery; and she laid the groundwork for women earning the right to vote, even though that milestone in American history came 14 years after her death.

That Anthony was unmarried made it easier for her to devote time to political action, and it also made her highly unusual. For Anthony, remaining single was closely aligned with her fight for women's rights. In 1877, Anthony gave a speech called "The Homes of Single Women," in which she argued that, as women gained more freedoms, it would be harder for them to submit to the inequalities inherent in marriage at that time. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

7 Women Who Had Very Full Lives and Never Married
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.