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Chapter One The Modernization of Friendship and Marriage
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Chapter One
The Modernization of Friendship and Marriage

Like nearly everyone else, sociologists have paid little attention to friendship. They have tended to include it among the casualties of modernization, portraying modern friendship as a dessicated version of the richer intimacy of past times. Beyond sad comment on this "decline of community," they say little about friendship, except to note an occasional survival in street-corner society.

Marriage and the family, on the other hand, have received plenty of attention. The main task of twentieth-century sociologists of the family has been to chart the progress of companionate marriage, which is usually treated as fully evolved in whatever era the writer is situated. In these accounts, marriage now embodies the friendship and community that have been squeezed out of wider realms.

This chapter revises three accounts of changes in family and community that dominate sociological theory in these areas. As I create an alternate story of the modernization of friendship and marriage—one that fits better with recent social historical research—I can present my contemporary findings before a historical backdrop that may enrich and enliven their interpretation.

Two different sociological perspectives converge in the standard sociological accounts of community and family change.[1] The antimodernist perspective, generally conservative, echoes anti-Enlightenment alarm at the passing of the traditional family and the emergence of individualistic family norms. Writers like Carle


Zimmerman and Pitirim Sorokin, and later Robert Nisbet and Christopher Lasch, chart how individualism and the decline of community weaken the family. Emotionally and morally, the family collapses inward without the support of religious authority and intermediate communal institutions. Community is replaced by "pseudo-intimacy" and the "easy, nondemanding," and morally insignificant attachments of friendship.[2]

The modernist perspective—mostly liberal, and by far the predominant framework in American family sociology—generally embraces the transformation to modernity and views the family as resiliently adapting. Evolutionists, functionalists, interactionists have all contributed their particular versions of this change.[3] Sociologists in the modernist vein tend to agree with the antimodernists that the communal supports of the family have indeed eroded. But, although this shift has placed certain pressures on marriages, the family is able to adapt through internal changes and improve by functional specialization.

Although modernists and antimodernists draw different frameworks and conclusions for family and community change, they differ primarily in their attitude toward the change. Their accounts of the modernization of family and friendship converge remarkably. In the following portrait of this change, I incorporate a range of causal explanations, ignoring differences in framework among theorists, in order to depict this convergence.

Most explanations postulate a unidirectional flow of influence from larger institutions to the family (although important exceptions suggest a mutual interaction).[4] As industrialization and its attendant economic, political, demographic, and ideological changes—notably individualism—weaken traditional structures of kinship, a free market in marital selection emerges. Authority within the household democratizes. It becomes relatively greater than the authority of kin and community; yet it is simultaneously drained by an expanding state. In response to these changes, love, companionship, and the satisfaction of individual needs and desires become the standards for selecting and renewing commitments of marriage in an exchange between men and women as free agents.

As industrialism and urbanism infuse instrumentalism, impersonality, and transitoriness into social relations outside the family, the conjugal family becomes the last repository of emotionality,


love, long-term commitment, altruism, and nurturance. Communal sentiment and responsibility contract from a wider circle of kin, neighbors, and friends to the realm of the household. Secondary institutions such as guild, church, and civic council lose their moral hold. The public sphere of sociality and community disappears; deep lasting friendship, communal exchange, and ritual are replaced by shallow instrumental sociability and neighborliness.

The sociological consensus on the modernization of family and friendship covers three favored stories. The first story recognizes the rise of individualism as a predominant modernizing ideology. It tells how a single powerful ideological current developed in politics and the marketplace and swept through private life, irrevocably transforming all relations there. Under the influence of individualism, modern couples marry and remain married for love; they look to marital intimacy for self-fulfillment and the satisfaction of their desires. Their friendships become casual, specialized, even calculated.[5] My research with women, however, contradicts what this story foretells about how marriage and friendship develop.

The second stow concerns the rise of the privatized, sentimental conjugal family, built upon a romantic, companionate marriage. (A legal reformer, Judge Ben Lindsey, coined the term in the twenties for a proposed legal trial marriage; but it recently supplanted the awkward "companionship marriage.") In this story, a new marriage ideal arises and is realized through various social changes. In one version or another, this tale is the favorite of popular culture-makers as well as twentieth-century sociologists of the family. It asserts that free choice and romance make marriage passionate, sexy, fun, and equal—husband and wife are best friends and lovers.[6] My research, however, contradicts what this story foretells about texture and symmetry in contemporary marriage.

The third story is linked with the last one and in fact was taken up first by sociological theory. It describes moral-affectual changes in primary relationships outside the modernizing family. Here, the modern family partly responds to and partly abets the decline of intimate community. As community withers, relations with kin, neighbors, and friends become less intimate, warm, convivial, and committed until community no longer touches marriage and family life. Both husband and wife are pressured to meet all the other's needs. At least for women, my research contradicts what this story


foretells about contemporary relations between family and friendship.[7]

In reviewing these stories in light of recent family and social historical research, I have assembled a speculative history of connections between women's friendships and family, to set the stage for my account of contemporary women's friendships. There are many patterns of family and gender behavior that structural and historical arguments explain well. Here and throughout, I emphasize these structural and historical explanations over psychodynamic ones. Much excellent work explains gender difference by socialization and internalization, and I shall turn to its theories as I progress. Certainly, I recognize that many aspects of friendships have psychological motives and roots in gender personality. Theorists who sensitively chart the psychodynamics of gender personality locate that process within the modern family.[8] The following discussion follows the social and family changes that consolidate gender differences.

Affective Individualism and the Family

Students of the rise of the companionate marriage hold that the spread of individualism and democratic values were and continue to be central forces of family change. Individualism, they maintain, decreases the authority of kin. Individual rights encourage individual choices and so marriages are contracted on the basis of affection rather than calculation. Family life becomes conjugally centered. Democracy in the family accompanies democracy in society. The equality of husband and wife promotes their empathy and friendship. Their conjugal isolation makes their communication and companionship unique and precious.[9]

William Goode and Gary Lee, among others, argue that exposure to individualistic ideas changes marital patterns; these ideas are so powerful that people who are exposed to them in education or travel incorporate them into family life even before they learn them in the marketplace or polity.[10] Edward Shorter writes, "Once the rules of marketplace individualism had been learned, they easily took control of the whole arena of conscious attitudes."[11] A clear account of how individualism "took control" of the family is hard to find, however. Sociological writers rarely tell the story. It appears


rather as an assumption or as simple assertions of macrocauses and microeffects, as if some sociological classic had exhaustively explained how individualism altered family life and now only brief notes on that transformation were needed.

The emphasis on individualism in family sociology is not amiss. It is clear that over the past two or three centuries the family has been changing—leveling authority and favoring individual autonomy and other relational changes that are rooted in individualism. In our statements about individualism and the family, however, we must avoid a mechanistic view of ideological diffusion that obscures the ways that ideological changes in public life influence private life. Ideas that originate as market principles or civic ideals of political participation do not submerge old ideas and practices. Individualism and democracy did not simply or progressively replace communal and hierarchical traditions in family life. For the most part, they slowly, indirectly, and unevenly permeated family life and took diverse meanings there as they were mediated by religion, class, and gender.[12]

Writers who treat individualism in the family tend to focus on ways that individualism shaped the lives of men and women; but they pay little attention to the reverse process. By exploring how women and men have altered individualism as they adopted it, we can learn how communal and patriarchal ideologies found their last safe refuge in the modernizing family and how they bear today on companionship in marriage.

To revise the story of individualism and the family, I have adapted historian Lawrence Stone's concept of affective individualism. Stone holds that in sixteenth-century England, before the spread of individualism, "the family was an open-ended, low-keyed, unemotional, authoritarian institution," essentially an economic unit, short-lived because parents died early and children were fostered out in apprenticeship. Relations within all social strata were plagued with distrust, intolerance, habitual violence, and mutual litigation.[13] The affective chill of these times was a residue of harsh childrearing.

As the characteristic mentalité of modern culture, affective individualism changed relations of authority, thinking, and feeling among people. Awareness and expression of individuality, rights of autonomy, and emotional and personal intimacy replaced "dis-


tance, deference, and patriarchy" as the ethos of relations newly marked off as "personal life." The new, eighteenth-century family featured an "intensified affective bonding at the nuclear core," emphasized the pursuit of individual happiness, and valued sexual pleasure and privacy.[14] How affective individualism operated on wider social relations is less clear to Stone, but he finds evidence that people became more tolerant, sentimental, and distressed by cruelty and violence.

Economic, political, and psychodynamic influences combined to spread affective individualism among the eighteenth-century upper bourgeoisie and squirearchy.[15] Protestantism intensified the nascent individualism in Christian thought and undermined the patriarchal authority of husbands; the Renaissance and Calvinism diffused self-awareness. Capitalist markets and libertarianism augmented secularism, rationalism, and autonomy. The decline of patriarchy and repressive childrearing unleashed affection. A "complex of semi-independent developments, spread out over more than a century" initiated a "transformation of human consciousness" among the English elite, epitomized by these couplets from Pope's Essay on Man (1733):

Thus God and Nature link'd the general frame
And bade self-love and social be the same.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ...
That Reason, Passion answer one great aim
That true self-love and Social are the same.[16]

Stone finds the central themes of individualism in these couplets: self-awareness and the autonomous pursuit of self-interest advance the social good; love and reason can reconcile (in marriage). He maintains that the social and familial changes that produced and responded to individualism evoked capacities for warm and intimate personal relations. People developed self-conscious, self-expressive forms of intimacy, and with introspection they found and expressed sentiment. Affective individualism thus appears as a coherent ethos.[17]

Like others who write about individualism in the family, Stone documents its appearance in the personal lives of men and women without noting how differently they adapted its ideas. Evidence from the past decade of social history suggests, however, that dif-


ferent patterns of affective individualism filtered through the differently cut prisms of gender. Self-consciousness and orientation toward self-interest advanced by political and economic individualism took different shape in the thought and relations of women, because women's identities formed within the small, separate world of the family. Much more so than men's, women's affective individualism developed within the communal constraints of family responsibility and collective gender identification. In formulating a gendered ideal-type, I refer to men and women of the middle classes (primarily in the nineteenth-century American Northeast), both because they are the subjects of most available data and because they were the avant-garde of individualism.

Colonial America, although never quite fitting the mold of traditional community, restrained the expression of individualism. In Puritan communities, for example, thorough authoritative regulation of family, work, and cultural life left little room for the elaboration of individual themes inherent in Puritan theology. Private life, as a realm distinguished from public life by uniquely personal and private relations, did not yet exist. Their boundaries vague, families were units of economic production—and thus work, play, childrearing, courtship, government, gossip, and mutual aid intermingled through time and space. In the course of these activities, people passed through one another's households—trading, visiting, boarding, apprenticing—and when residing there, they were considered family.[18]

Patriarchal authority, vested in the father, unified the government of family and society. Women and children contributed substantially to family and thus to social production; yet they had few individual rights and no formal political power. Centrality in production and social intercourse yielded a measure of respectful recognition and, very likely, informal sources of power as well. Nonetheless, colonial family and community allocated and enforced social roles that ceded little to individual rights and self-exploration.

In postrevolutionary America, waves of social change favored adaptations of affective individualism within an emerging realm of personal life. By the early nineteenth century, commercial capitalism and regional agricultural trade had vastly extended the reach of market relations. Many Americans, at least in the Northeast, had encountered the ideas of market individualism and the ideological


currents of a centralizing national state. Although local communities continued to bound the moral space of social and communal ties, commerce and politics were conduits of Enlightenment and republican ideas of libertarian rights and the pursuit of happiness.[19]

Expanding commerce and factories fragmented the integrated world of family, work, and community. As men followed work out of the home, they entered the emergent public sphere of work and politics as access to wages became the measure of general value and status. Women continued their precapitalist domestic work, but now it became private, marginal to the dynamics of social reward in a cash economy.

While working-class and farm women continued to produce the goods and services of family subsistence, women of more prosperous classes were increasingly freed from activities of economic production. These middle-class women progressively enlarged their role in family nurturance and religious and moral tutelage. They did so with the blessing of religious authorities whose own public influence had been diminished by secular forces and who were glad to focus on regulating sexual and family relations. These newly allied middle-class women and ministers, joined by male veterans from the arduous public world of commerce, elaborated a new doctrine of separate spheres. They attributed a natural order and a moral equality to the responsibilities each gender would discharge in his or her own sphere. Men—tamers of nature, producers of value, warriors in the competition of each against all, providers of family material life, and citizens of public life—thereby rightfully governed families. Women—teachers of children, producers of domestic comfort, exemplars of purity and piety, providers of respite and consolation, and conservators of the values jostled out of public life—represented the heart of both society and family. In their separate spheres of endeavor, men and women adapted new relations of individualism.

Men of different classes were exposed and disposed to different degrees of configurations of individualism. By the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, most men—merchants, laborers, farmers— found their work integrated into larger and larger markets that made the relation of self to work increasingly abstract and fragmented.[20] For men, autonomy became the salient aspect of af-


fective individualism. Despite his brief cultural elevation in the eighteenth century, the "man of sentiment," whose moral self-awareness and humanist sensibilities imbued his participation in both private and civic life, had to step aside.[21] The eighteenth-century European bourgeois and, even more, the nineteenth-century American businessman were men of the market. Their self-interest, self-reliance, and competitiveness were core characteristics of the individualism formed in market relations. For husbands and fathers, their market self was reinforced in private life, as "provider" became men's central family role.

Good providers properly subordinated the affective self to the market self. Tocqueville, impressed with how the marketplace pervaded the thinking of nineteenth-century American men, pronounced, "Few of them are ever known to give way to those idle and solitary meditations which commonly precede and produce the great emotions of the heart."[22] For men, autonomy subsumed self-exploration and self-development. Men developed self-consciousness in terms of self-interest and expressed individuality primarily in autonomous achievement. They restrained emotional intimacy to give rein to independence. Thus, Georg Simmel characterized affective individualistic modern men as "differentiated" men of "secrets," who limited access to their whole selves even in the closest of friendships.[23]

For women, self-awareness and emotional intimacy became the salient aspects of affective individualism. Women's lives did not encourage independence and autonomy. Although liberty and equality were widespread themes of civic life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, deference and the subordination of wives to husbands sustained less damage than other hierarchical social relations. Furthermore, the growing idealization of motherhood in these centuries and the barriers to participation in public life outside the newly separate "women's sphere" severely limited the possibilities of autonomy for women.

Individualism was a theme of the elevation of women's moral position in the family. Each woman was responsible for ensuring her family's piety and moral conduct; this calling encouraged her to claim she was the moral equal—at times the superior—of her husband. The moral equality attributed to women and men in the nineteenth-century gender ideal of separate spheres represented


an increase in female stature over patriarchal ideals. Yet the new ideal by no means repudiated paternal authority. Barbara Welter, documenting the American cult of domestic "true womanhood," quotes a nineteenth-century women's magazine: "The man bears rule over his wife's person and conduct. She bears rule over his inclinations: he governs by law; she by persuasion."[24] In terms of individualism, this arrangement left women far more room for self-examination than it did for autonomy.

Similarly, the sentimental ideals of motherhood and childhood that diffused at this time promoted serf-awareness and emotionality without increasing women's autonomy. As "angels of love and fidelity who first opened our senses to behold God in his works and word," mothers were increasingly viewed as forming their children's later character as well. And the most effective influence was now tender rather than repressive, as it had been in previous eras. In floods of diaries, magazines, and maternal associations, mothers examined their motivations and achievements. "It seems to me at times as if the weight of responsibility connected with these little immortal beings would prove too much for me," writes one very modern-sounding anxious mother. "Am I doing what is right? Am I doing enough?"[25]

If maternal responsibility was more exacting, it was also more engaging. In the daily care and tutelage of children, for whom mothers were now the primary parents, women developed intense emotions and relational capacities. Expressions of passionate attachment to children replaced the emotional reserve of previous eras. Mothers vicariously experienced self-interest, autonomy, and competition, nurturing husbands and rearing children to their proper place in the world. They tasted "the glory of victory, without suffering the dangers of the battle."[26] In short, women developed self primarily by self-consciously developing moral children. In this context they developed a less differentiated individualism than did men, whose context was contractual relations. Women's individualism tended to emerge communally, and it developed integrally with communal identification and responsibility for others. Their adaptation of individualism blunted themes of autonomy but sharpened those of self-awareness and emotional self-expression.

Women conducted self-exploration in a social world far more homogenous than that of men. Women lived in private worlds popu-


lated by family, kin, neighbors, friends, and fellow parishioners— people of similar social status whose parallel endeavors built a solidarity of resemblance and whose bonds were explicitly communal. There is evidence that women's public demeanor in the uneasy nineteenth century, like men's, revealed a concern for status—for example, in rigorous customs of dress and speech.[27] Women's daily lives were, nonetheless, far more private than public. Intimacy in this homogenous private world required less reserve than intimacy constructed amid difference, competition, and threat. In accessible intimacy, the elaboration of sentiment also came easier. The man of sentiment, horrified by cruelty and moved by deep feeling, was a brief literary vogue that the market culture instantly ridiculed. The woman of sentiment was a new social person. Her private world of family and friends welcomed empathy and feeling, apart from the harsh exigencies of the market. Her sentimental culture fortified the nineteenth-century woman to carry out a redemptive public mission in suffrage, moral reform, and charity.

Collective identifications, the sense of fundamental belonging and identification within groups, created distinct arenas of self-awareness for men and women as differences between their social lives sharpened. Affective individualism flourished amid the social changes that separated public from private life. Men's individualism involved constructing identities that bridged their public and private spheres of life. As they individuated, men identified themselves in contrast to other men within the collective identifications of class and stratum. Gender, for them, was a less complex identification.[*]

For women, gender emerged as a more important collective identification. Nancy Cott persuasively argues that for sectors of


nineteenth-century American middle-class women, gender was at least as important as class.[28] Women's individualism developed as part of a new ideology of gender. The materials of unique self-definition and expression were drawn from within the sharply etched gender culture of women's sphere, where the possible "others" for adult women were husband and children. In previous eras, women might have perceived the interests of children in competition with those of parents.[29] But under the emerging ideology of a paramount mother-child bond, wherein women's social and moral achievements were largely tied to mothering, women perceived their interests allied with those of their children.

Women's relationships to their husbands were an entirely different story. Although nineteenth-century women's economic interests depended more than ever on those of their husbands, a new female individualism nonetheless evolved. The antipatriarchal impact of Protestant marital values and the increasing secular veneration of women's moral role in the family favored an individualism in which wives defined their collective interests in opposition to their husbands'.[30]

These themes of gender opposition are most evident in nineteenth-century American writing on "true womanhood,"[31] in passages favorably contrasting women's values to men's. "Our men are sufficiently moneymaking. Let us keep our women and children from the contagion as long as possible." Women would counter male mercenary values with "purity of mind, simplicity and frankness of heart, benevolence,, . . . forbearance and selfdenial."[32]

Women's new moral stature allowed them room for independent judgment and activity. In advocating a negative strategy toward men's sexual demands, they offered female purity as an antidote to male sinfulness. They effected increased birth control by asserting the right to refuse sex. Daniel Scott Smith labels this strategy "domestic feminism"—the flowering of women's individualism in the private sphere.[33] True womanhood themes featured a protofeminist ideology in which the interests of women were defined partly in opposition to those of men. This gender-identified individualism—in which women identified themselves in relation to children and family and in opposition to the interests of men as a gender— shaped the content of the most popular forms of early feminism.


Movements for social purity and temperance, and to expand education for effective motherhood all asserted women's familistic values in the political arena and often attempted to control the public and private behavior of men.[34] (It is not surprising that feminist activity was directed against the public contexts, like the tavern, which had become the main arenas for male friendship and sociability. And even though capitalist urbanization and consumerism were clearly working toward the same effect, and with considerably more force, Christopher Lasch correctly places feminism [more accurately, wives and mothers] among the antagonists of nineteenth-century male public sociality.)

In sum, individualism and democratic ideas did not submerge communal and patriarchal family values. Men and women adapted individualism and democratic ideas differently. In the late nineteenth century, many women who aspired to autonomous public endeavor did not marry.[35] But even in this era, when the number of never-marrying women temporarily increased, most women married and spent most of their adult life rearing children. Once they married, they encountered individualism as mothers. Because eighteenth- and nineteenth-century social developments elevated the moral stature, affective qualities, and domestic influence of mothers, women developed a consciousness of self and of self-interest indissolubly bound to others. Maternal responsibility would thereafter figure in strategies of self-interest in both marriage dynamics and politics. Affective individualism—self-awareness and expression, strivings toward autonomy, and emotional intimacy—would develop for women within the constraints of familial commitment and gender-based consciousness. The ideology of separate spheres and its associated gender identifications limited the scope of women's individualism, but they also provided the cultural materials for constructing individuality.

The History of Marriage Sentiment

The second prominent story about family change identifies the sentimental texture of marriage as the most visible modern family change: marriage became increasingly founded on and characterized by affection. Religious, philosophical, literary, epistolary, and legal evidence of a new emphasis on companionship, love, eroti-


cism, and affection in marriage—from Reformation theology on— prompt confident generalization about the new companionship. In a statement that is now axiomatic in family sociology, Ernest W. Burgess declared that the basis of family life has moved from institutional rules to individual companionship and concluded that "in modern society, the companionship of men and women . . . is upon a plane perhaps never before reached in human existence."[36]

Typically, sociological statements about companionship commingle, collapse, or equate distinct relational characteristics and discrete structures and processes of domestic life Companionship has variously denoted affection, romantic love, eros, intimacy, similarity of interests, interchangeable division of labor, and joint recreation. Yet these characteristics are not analytically interchangeable. Intimacy does not necessarily evolve with affection, even in long-term affectionate relations such as those among neighbors· Nor does intimacy presuppose mutuality or equality, as the religious confessional and the psychotherapeutic hour demonstrate. Similarly, sociologists have read companionship in patterns of marital affiliation, codes of religious and legal obligation, statements about authority, measures of power, sexual mores, and emotional exchanges. Yet each of these categories refers to discrete marital ideals and actualities.

Constructing ideal-types involves combining concepts. But the loose construction of "companionship marriage" undermines its theoretical and methodological usefulness. Burgess's leap from ideal-type to empirical generalization in describing the actual progress of marital companionship, is an example of the confusion that results from conflation of historical trends with actual fact.[*] Such assumptions deflect attention from obstacles to change and modern sources of variation. We fail to assess just how companionate marriage has grown and what structures shape variations in marital sentiment. In effect, much twentieth-century family theory adds a coda to nineteenth-century evolutionary theories. Compan-


ionate marriage evolves past its full expression in the Victorian family to end with the contemporary egalitarian marriage.

When we look carefully at the story of marriage sentiment, we discover that three sets of changes have definitively shaped marriage: a loosening of familial control of courtship; the emergence of a romantic companionate marital ideal; and the development of a practicable ideal of domesticity, emotionally intensifying the mother-child bond and privatizing family life. Each change was causally linked to other changes in society and family. Let us see how sentiment changed marriage.

Free Courtship and Romance

Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century changes in American and European economy, society, and polity interfered with the coerced marriages that the middle classes often arranged for their kin.[37] Thus, premarital affection became more important in alliance, and initially repellent marriages became less common.[38]

Expressing itself in themes of affection and romance, freer courtship promoted a new individualism.[39] Young people could now pursue their preferences, desires, and personal dramas—the one point in young women's lives when the introspective, individualistic themes of nineteenth-century American courtship coincided with Stone's genderless notion of affective individualism. "Nowhere," wrote Tocqueville, "are young women surrendered so early or so completely to their own independence."[40] The acute self-awareness, liberty, and emotional freedom permitted girls in courtship meant that women experienced, at least briefly, an affecrive individualism that was somewhat similar to men's in its emphasis on autonomy.[41] Courtship probably represented the starkest experience of individualism that women in these centuries would encounter.[42] The next life stage, sentimental motherhood, obliterated the themes of autonomy and stark individuation in women's culture.

Freer courtship may have improved the distribution of an initial marital companionship that provided admiration, compatibility, and affection. But even the most controlling families of previous eras had likely conceded some role to affectionate consent; these particular companionate qualities probably also developed in mar-


riages (at least to some extent) in precompanionate eras, as the residue of successful interdependence and adaptation.[43] Nonetheless, the affective individualism of freer female courtship likely spurred the creation of a romantic companionate marriage ideal for married women's expectations.

The Rise of the Romantic Companionate Ideal

In colonial America, Puritan theology emphasized marital companionship and love, but affection was to grow from dutiful marriage— not to unite bride and groom. Furthermore, it was to grow from women's "reverend subjection" to their husbands. "Puritan love," writes Edmund Morgan, "was no romantic passion but a rational love in which the affections were commanded by the will." Indeed, Puritans cautioned against excessive marital affection as well as other "earthly" comforts.[44]

Courtly love had been an adulterous passion, thought to be incompatible with marriage. Puritanism prepared the ground for a marital love ideal by prescribing love in marriage. Drawing upon both traditions, the romantic love ideology resolved the Puritan antagonism between passion and reason.[45] The eighteenth-century novel (a new literary form) adapted the codes of courtly love to courtship and marriage, advertising a new conjugal ideal to the expanding reading publics of the middle classes. Idealized adoration, erotic passion, emotional attachment, enduring commitment, and the practicalities of property, class, childrearing, and conjugal cooperation blended in the new ideal without apparent contradiction. The earthly, the sublime, and the commonplace reconciled in the bourgeois "tender passion." By the late eighteenth century, the romantic conjugal ideal appeared in America and spread rapidly in a nineteenth-century surge of romantic novel reading.[46]

A structural source of the new ideal, Ian Watt proposes, inhered in the changing conditions of courtship in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England. Single women who were losing economic ground as production moved out of the household faced a marriage crisis; a new emphasis on love offered to shore up marriage chances for these dispossessed (or upwardly mobile) women.[47] Watt's evidence—the letters of wealthy married women


and the novels of their literary sympathizers—tells us much more about ascendent cultural ideals than about practices, however. The secular themes of individuality and romance emphasized in free courtship may have stirred imaginations and raised an ideal of romantic marriage among married women who had the leisure to develop their personality and whose economic dependence prompted a search for new marital bonds, But we must not mistake that ideal for actual change in marital relations.

The romance of courtship notwithstanding, nineteenth-century married couples appear not to have realized a romantic companionate ideal. Unless we are to believe that a small sampling of fervid correspondences between spouses or erotic diaries represented the very silent bourgeois majority, scholarship on nineteenth-century Europe and America suggests that marriage became more affectionate before it became romantic, and then more romantic before it became companionate. (I wonder whether a psychoanalytic historian like Peter Gay has considered that torrid correspondences may have represented bursts of romance set off by the obstacle of separation rather than indices of the sentimental texture of marriage.)[48] Even the emotionally intense marriages preserved in correspondence seem to manifest a distance and deference between husbands and wives that must represent a very rudimentary companionship.[49] Domestic sentiment united spouses whose separate lives provided limited bases for engagement, empathy, or joint endeavor. The separation of public and private spheres of life created the needs and possibilities for new emotionalized domestic attachments. Nonetheless, it seems likely that romantic sentiments waned throughout marriage. The attachments women kept to their own families were often more intense than their marriages until as mothers they transferred their attachments to their children.[50]

Even where courtship had become romantic and emotionally intense, writes Ellen Rothman, young women anticipated marriage with "images of confinement, struggle, and loss"; they expressed the belief that the intimacy of courtship could not be sustained in marriage. Steven Stowe infers from his Southern courtship letters that courtship allowed women, who approached marriage with a model of intimacy they had learned from female friendships, to relinquish that ideal as they acknowledged that "the


thing is not its vision." Nancy Cott reports evidence of a nineteenth-century pattern of "marriage trauma" among bewildered and disappointed married women.[51]

European visitors of the time noted "a want of entire community of feeling" between husbands and wives. One observer commented on the fidelity of American husbands and also noted their indifference to their wives: "His wife is never the confidante of his intimate and real thoughts."[52] And Tocqueville noted the effects of separate spheres: "All these distinct and compulsory occupations are so many natural barriers, which by keeping the two sexes asunder, render the solicitations of the one less frequent and less ardent—the resistance of the other more easy." He believed men's commercial passions dampened marital feeling—the criticism of American marriage that Frank Furstenberg says foreign observers made most frequently.[53]

Among midwestern farm folk, writes John Faragher, the notion of companionate marriage was "foreign"; and in folk songs of the region, "women's needs for sentiment, passion, and sensuality combined with constancy were nearly always betrayed by masculine incapacity."[54] In urban Los Angeles and Newark, Elaine Tyler May finds no new forms of intimacy in divorce records of nineteenth-century partners who failed to live up to traditional sex roles of masculine provision and feminine purity.[55] Carl Degler, who presents evidence of companionate marriages, also documents widespread complaints by women about their treatment in marriage. In a series of letters to Good Housekeeping, women insist that husbands ought to provide the sympathy and support that wives provide husbands.[56]

Whatever the progress of marital sentiment, expectations considerably outdistanced it. The romantic ideal probably affected courtship (and perhaps, early marriage) far more than later married life.[*] When Christopher Lasch locates a historic apogee of emo-


tional intensity in the nineteenth-century bourgeois family, he mistakes lyric celebrations of a new domesticity for conjugal romantic love.[57]

Domesticity: The Sentimental and Private Family

It was the sentiments of domesticity that echoed among the households of the middle classes. As family life became a hallowed repository of private experience and a refuge from the cold, harsh public experience, domestic sentiment celebrated the family's new special comforts.[58]

Edward Shorter, one of the first to sift the chronology and causes of changes in marital sentiment, distinguishes between the sentimental complexes of romance and domesticity. Romance is the sentiment of courtship; domesticity, of marriage. Shorter describes domesticity as "the family's awareness of itself as a precious emotional unit that must be protected with privacy and isolation from outside intrusion." He proposes that the emotional intensification of family life that developed first among the middle classes took form around the mother-infant relationship. This matricentric domesticity then extended its boundaries to include husbands, as households withdrew into privacy and intimacy.[59]

Shorter's logic falters when he explains how husbands entered the sentimental culture of domesticity. Rather than develop his logic of matricentric domesticity, Shorter ignores his own profound doubts about the durability of romance and insists that empathy and equality develop in the intimacy of marriage contracted on romantic love. Empathy, "effective sex," and emotional exchange will equalize sex roles even as the sexual division of labor widens. Voilô, romantic companionate marriage.[60]

Shorter's descriptions of the family in France articulate with nineteenth-century changes in American life that were idealized in the matricentric "cult of domesticity." American domesticity does seem to have intensified family intimacy as the family became a venerated realm of privacy. But even though domestic doctrine asserted the moral equality of wives and husbands, it also cemented gender inequalities in social power and segregated male and female work and sensibility. When Shorter looks to romance


for the constituents of domestic companionship, he overlooks the barriers to empathy and mutuality these inequalities represented. Writers like Shorter fail to distinguish among qualities of attachment, engagement, and companionability. Yet a larger problem plagues discussions like Shorter's—they attempt to conceptualize a significant change in marital sentiment with notions of symmetry, empathy, and mutuality. What if these new emotional exchanges involved men and women giving and taking different sentiments and values? Why assume marital sentiments were symmetrical or mutual?

I think it would be useful to analyze nineteenth-century sources to determine if men did more often celebrate nurturance and take consolation in refuge from the cruel world; if women did express emotionalized dependence and attachment and celebrate sympathy, tenderness, and protection. If so, we could describe the new marital sentiment as new sets of sentiment, or gender-differentiated individualism, in which autonomous men came home for community and tending and women found emotional self-expression and recognition in interdependent relationship. Men sought a new psychological investment in the one relationship that promised to comfort and compensate them. Women, now entrusted to conserve noncommercial values, found security in greater recognition of their worth and tender gratitude for their new self-conscious role.

Historians of sentiment will probably continue to infer a nineteenth-century elaboration of companionship in marriage. They are likely to agree, nonetheless, that standard interpretations mistake the rise of a newly sentimentalized—but still psychologically and sentimentally differentiated—marital relationship for one built on empathy, mutuality, and equality or symmetry of exchange. The bases for these mutual exchanges were generally missing from marriages, even though social developments favored their inclusion in an avant-garde marital ideal.

Twentieth-century social changes such as women's increasing education and participation in the public sphere shifted tensions between ideals and realities of marriage. These tensions had been muted when preindustrial and then separate-spheres norms of gender difference, deference, and subordination remained dominant. Sentimentalized friendship, which I discuss next, also muted


this tension. Twentieth-century realities, however, eroded both patriarchal values and nineteenth-century gender ideals and created new bases for marital companionship. As the divorce rate began its climb in the late nineteenth century, it showed new paths to love and self-development as well as marriage's structural insecurity. As divorce increased, marital companionship accelerated; women correspondingly enlarged the conjugal ideal of emotional interdependence—increasing the role of communication, empathy, mutuality, and sexuality—as the source of marital solidarity.[61] Like nineteenth-century novelists, sociologists responded to this same impulse, heralding a new "exaltation of sympathies" and greater "mental interstimulation and response" in varying prescriptions for companionship. Some emphasized romance; some, clear-headed partnership. Some stressed complementarity; others urged a healthy struggle for communication.[62]

The companionate conjugal ideal always evolved several steps ahead of marital realities. Six decades of empirical research on marriage document women's greater dissatisfaction with many companionate elements of marriage, as well as a consensus among husbands and wives on women's greater self-sacrificing marital "adjustment."[63] During the mid-1920s, when the Lynds found Middletown exceedingly couple-oriented, they also found "little spontaneous community of interests" within couples of all classes. Answering Robert and Helen Lynd's question about what one would do with an extra hour in one's day, no woman of any class wished to spend it with her husband (although some did mention children or friends).[64] By the end of the 1950s, sociologist William Kephart, among others, hopefully postulated a unifying dynamic of "complementarity," since men's and women's interests still appeared too divergent to hope for companionship in marriage. And Lillian Rubin marked the progress of communication and struggle—the prescribed marital agenda of the 1960s and 1970s— as she characterized couples of the 1980s she interviewed as "intimate strangers."[65] It appears that twentieth-century marriages still encounter the limits of companionship.

To summarize, companionate marriage evolved first as an ideal and then slowly, unevenly, and incompletely as a reality. The literature on the development of companionate marriage has tended to imply a mutualism and symmetry in marital sentiment that in-


accurately represents the history of marriage. My speculations on the history of family sentiment may now illuminate what has happened to friendship and community.

The Fate of Friendship and Community

The third story tells how the spread of individualism and privatized companionate marriage accelerated a larger process of communal decline. Modernization simultaneously deprived kin, neighbors, and parishioners of bonds of intimacy and emotional depth. Reuben Hill, for example, writes, "Whereas yesterday they derived some affectional satisfactions from neighbors and friends, today adults are dependent on the few intense person-to-person relations found within the family."[66] Where modem friendship exists, moreover, it does not reconstitute community. Louis Wirth writes of the loss of the "spontaneous self-expression, the moral, and the sense of participation" that had been part of traditional community. Friendship, says Robert Nisbet, is characterized by the "growing appeal of pseudo-intimacy with others, a kind of pathetic dependence on the superficial symbols of friendship and association."[67]

Social history in recent decades, however, has assembled considerable evidence that contradicts the simple thesis of devolution. Some historical clues indicate new forms of communal bonds that grew as society industrialized. Particularly for women, these new forms—suffused with values of affective individualism—found fertile grounding in older forms of female interdependence and sociablity that lasted well into the twentieth century. Evidence from feminist historiography and from works by social historians who take little note of the gender differences they document suggests a simultaneous growth of affection in women's relations in family and friendship. Emotion and romance infused elective friendships among women, forming a distinctive culture of friendship that corresponded to the marital changes just reviewed.

A number of historians have challenged assumptions about the intimate and affectionate character of our older ties to kin and community. Traditional community may well have been intimate, as neighbors were party to much familial conduct that is now considered private or personal.[68] But psychological intimacy requires the self-consciousness and sense of individuality that traditional tom-


munity necessarily restrained in its members. Excessive self-exploration and expressiveness could only disrupt settled communal patterns, which depended upon tradition and identification with kinship and communal roles.

Traditional community was enfolding and solidary. It offered lively patterns of association and stable affiliation and status. Individual isolation occurred only as punishment. But warmth and affection are not synonymous with moral solidarity and stability. Historians show us periods that were rife with discord among neighbors and kin, villages where relations outside economically cooperating groups were hostile and suspicious. At certain life stages, obligations between aging parents and adult children were contractually stipulated rather than left to good faith. Likewise, neighborly responsibility for aid was sometimes minutely stipulated in law, rather than being left to spontaneous communal caring.[69]

Interdependence, solidarity, familiarity, obligation, and authority do not necessarily entail either affection or psychological intimacy. Traditional community offered many values that modern men and women miss; but some of what they experience as loss (a sense of personal authenticity, for example) are retrospective projections of a modern imagination.[70]

Recent historical scholarship has questioned whether industrialism extensively reduced the functional importance of kin. Kin networks continued to be important in migration, resettling, job finding, and transmitting urban values and factory skills.[71] Even this recent literature, however, draws few contrasts between the functions of the kin (or neighborly) bonds of women and men. Histories of the daily lives of women and men in early industrial society suggest that bonds among female kin and neighbors were less affected by encroaching industry than were bonds among males. Indeed, as women continued to exchange child care, sick care, domestic production, and kinship ritual, kinship bonds remained critical through the vicissitudes of daily family survival.[72] Even though the man's new provider role required less daily exchange among kin, the woman's domestic responsibilities continued to rely on—indeed, in periods of market contraction, relied increasingly on—nonmarket exchange among friends and kin. For men of all classes, much of this exchange appears to have been periodic; de-


spite their role in family businesses, kin figured less frequently in men's than in women's exchanges.[73]

Historians have documented a broader sentimentalizing of personal relations—an increasing expression of feelings in friendship and kinship that accompanied the decline of kin authority and paralleled the sentimentalizing of family life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.[74] Once again, Lawrence Stone's history of private life best documents this change in the protean culture of affective individualism: Enlightenment humanism, varieties of individualism and romanticism, increasing choice in association, and new methods of childrearing endowed public as well as private association with warmth and sentiment.[75]

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries converted kinship to a wider, sentimental, recreational network. Its traditional form rarely extended beyond economically cooperating relatives. The warm and sociable family networks we know as "traditional" consolidated on a broad scale only after state institutions to provide for the poor, the sick, and the elderly allowed us to socialize with relatives without incurring economic obligations. During the same centuries new forms of urban public sociability also appeared.[76] Industrialism and urban growth may have squeezed out vital rituals and forms of public congregation and familiarity typical of pre-industrial village life. But contemporary historians document the flourishing sociability and the growth of secondary associations in American and European cities.[77] Fraternal, charitable, and religious organizations provided sociability for city men and women, newcomers as well as old residents.

With the massive urbanization accompanying late-nineteenth-century industrial growth in America, public association in general may have slackened. At the least, secondary associations became weaker at mediating between the family and larger social forces.[78] If so, the arenas of public sociability most stricken were male haunts—tavern, lodge, and fraternal association.[79] The decline of these institutions sent men into the isolation of the conjugal household, where female sociability continued unimpeded, at least during the day, before husbands retreated to these "havens from the heartless world."

Similarly, consumerism may have replaced various sociable patterns but, for many women, shopping remained a sociable pursuit. Gunther Barth maintains that the nineteenth-century department


store "made the new phenomenon of a female public possible," as stores transformed downtowns from rough male terrains into areas that respectable women could enter. A department store was perhaps not the "community" Marshall Field declared it to be, but it was a public arena for female sociability.[80] The wider spread of consumerism in the 1930s hastened the retreat of working-class husbands to their new homes, cars, and appliance repairs. Working-class housewives, by contrast, had increasing access to cars to visit family members and to ferry neighbors to market; and they secured a few of the genuinely labor-saving devices (like gas stoves) that could release time for friendship.[81]

Writers like Joseph Folsom, Robert Nisbet, and Christopher Lasch offer male-focused portraits of the modes of family sociability that replaced traditional communal patterns. By overlooking the fact that married women continued to work within a preindustrial mix of labor and sociability and by narrowly focusing on post-working-day socializing, they tend to see an overall decline in friendship. In their narrow purview, they find that only shallow friendliness remains from the patterns of deep, warm, meaningful personal relations of yore. They are referring, of course, to patterns of couple-socializing, the status-building leisure work of the middle classes.[82] By the middle of the twentieth century, family sociability may well have come to dominate the after-work friendly association of middle-class married men but never of women, even of wives relatively isolated in the suburbs; they continued to conduct daytime friendships.[83] (One assumption that blinds writers to new forms of community holds that short-lived relationships are inevitably shallow ones.[84] It concedes, by contrast, depth of feeling and commitment to sudden romantic love—thus love affairs may achieve great moral depth although transitory friendships remain trivial.)

The Rise and Decline of Romantic Friendship

Because women's friendships have generally been conducted in the private sphere, they have been poorly documented, particularly those of working-class women, who often had neither the education nor the leisure to write their own accounts. Letters, diaries, and literary writings of middle- and upper-class girls and women are the sources of most accounts of women's friendships. These,


with a few documents on working-class women, reveal patterns of sociability, cooperation, and attachment persisting among women kin and friends.[85] In addition, historians have documented a female culture of romantic friendship that extends from sixteenth-century platonism through eighteenth-century private religious and spiritual experience to the sensual and passionate sorority of Victorian "true womanhood."[86]

Romantic friendship was the idealized, self-conscious, affective-individualistic pattern that women built upon older bonds of material and emotional interdependence among female kin, neighbors, and friends. The most distinctive ideal of women's friendships had its roots in romanticism and the great awakening of religion in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Women's friendly associations had flourished in collective work, worship, and festivities of early modern village life and religious confraternity; and they continued in preindustrial forms that carried into the modern era.[87] But the roots of modern friendship lie more in new forms of self-conscious attachments than in older forms of female interdependence.

The evangelical emphasis on heart and feeling drew women into a self-conscious religious role that historian Barbara Welter considers a feminization of American religion. American religious participation was probably always predominantly female, but the change allotted women a prominent religious role.[88] Nancy Cott documents how this new role became the basis of friendly communion: "'I do not believe that men can ever feel so pure an enthusiasm for women as we can feel for one another,' Catherine Sedgwick recorded in her diary in 1834 after meeting Fanny Kemble, '—ours is nearer to the love of angels.'"[89] The religious redefinition of womanhood in terms of spiritual and moral superiority fed the romantic friendship culture that flourished in middle-class women's narrowed sphere.

Focusing on the republican virtues of true womanhood, secular canons of domesticity paralleled religious themes. Cott explains their logic: "The success of self-government in a nation of diverse characters . . . required 'the culture of the heart, the discipline of the passions, the regulation of the feelings and affections'" that only dedicated self-conscious mothers and wives could provide.[90] The moral elevation of women in evangelical thought and the new


emphasis on women's moral responsibility for children and husbands allied women in a sentimentalized sisterhood of religious, maternal, charitable, and moral reform associations that blossomed during the early period of urban growth and private domesticity.[91]

The statements published by women's organizations, the flood of literature on domesticity (including the massive new production by women novelists), and the letters and diaries of women friends document a salient theme of romantic friendship in this period—a glorification of female sensibilities and an explicit hostility to the male (read public) values that domesticity in fact underwrote.[92]

Proponents of domesticity worked to expand girls' schooling to prepare them for women's socially influential domestic responsibilities.[93] The flowering of school friendships both complemented and added adolescent passion to the solidarity of spiritual sisterhood. Carroll Smith-Rosenberg and Nancy Cott illustrate this passionate sorority of educated young women in the late eighteenth century, friends who throughout schooling and courtship relied on each other for spontaneity, emotional expression, and love; they addressed letters to "My Beloved," to "lay our hearts open to each other" and closed, "Imagine yourself kissed a dozen times my darling."[94] Passionate attachments such as these, expressed in public embraces, kisses, and the luxuriant sharing of beds caused no disapproval among elders or suitors.

Spiritual sisterhood was further secularized and sentimentalized in the nineteenth-century adoption of European romantic styles, including the epistolary tradition.[95] Women and girls recorded their ardent feelings for one another in passionate letters, diaries, and novels. Lillian Fademan's history of romantic friendship quotes typical passages from popular literature, such as these turgid verses by Christina Rossetti:

Golden head by golden head,
Like two pigeons in one nest,
Folded in each other's wings,
They lay down in their curtained bed:
Cheek to cheek and breast to breast
Locked together in one nest.[96]

Thus, by the nineteenth century, adult middle-class women had adopted the romantic conventions of friendship that earlier gener-


ations of school girls had pioneered.[97] A mature diarist describes her friend: "Time cannot destroy the fascination of her manner. . . her voice is music to the ear."[98] Demonstrating the romantic spur of obstacles, the letters and diaries of nineteenth-century married women who found themselves separated from friends were especially passionate: "Dearest darling—How incessantly have I thought of you these eight days—all today—the entire uncertainty, the distance, the long silence—are all new features in my separation from you, grevious to be borne."[99]

A friend's death presented an obstacle nothing could overcome. One newly married woman whose best friend died, mourned: "To me her loss seems irreparable, I have not a friend on earth, to who [sic] I could so freely communicate my feelings, at any time."[100] Even a honeymoon could stimulate romantic yearnings for a friend. From her honeymoon voyage, one bride writes to her friend of having no one with whom to share the pleasures of traveling and seals her complaint: "Darling, do you think every day that in my heart, I am close, close by your side?"[101]

Although both Carl Degler and Ellen Rothman question the extent of romantic friendship, all the historians who document its rise consider it an enriched female solidarity—not just an ideal or style.[102] Even though the language of female friendship followed the romantic conventions of an era, those conventions reflected a new sensibility. For women, modern subjectivity unfolded in a gender-identified culture that affirmed their dignity and individuality in a separate sphere of caring that they believed would indirectly influence and enrich all of society.[103]

Romantic women friends shared the heady illusion of that early era of gender consciousness—that women possessed an "almost magic power, which in [their] proper sphere [they] now wield over the destinies of the world.[104] Women's culture ennobled friendships that satisfied deeply felt needs newly defined by the "cult of subjectivity." And by eliciting religious approval and affirmation from their broader culture, women augmented their resources for domestic struggle with men (and for public versions of that struggle).[*]


Romantic friendship developed parallel to romantic marriage, as its cultural twin. Both ideals centered on themes of affective individualism, mutuality, and romance. The ideal of companionate marriage opposed patriarchal traditions and confronted timeless practices of same-sex socializing. By the nineteenth century, its progress was paradoxically accelerated by a new gender ideology that endorsed the separation of work and home—the segregation of male and female worlds and sensibilities. Thus, romantic expectations of marital companionship spread among middle-class women just as new gender expectations moved them worlds apart from the husbands with whom they hoped to find communion.

Nancy Cott seems to suggest romantic friendship absorbed the tension between the ideals and realities of nineteenth-century marriage.[105] Certainly, romantic friendship fit easily into traditions of female interdependence, sociability, and attachment, whereas romantic marriage contradicted inherited modes of authority, deference, and demeanor between husbands and wives. Romantic friendship thrived on its practicability in a period in which romantic companionate marital ideals were unpracticable.

From the late nineteenth century through the 1920s, various influences undermined romantic friendship; it remained in decline for most of the twentieth century. One set of changes involved male-female companionship, as education (especially coeducation) for women expanded and urban recreation diversifed. Young men and women spent more time in mixed-sex socializing; both in school and with peers, they shared more common interests and endeavors. Dating, which became widespread in the 1920s among high school and college women and men, was an intensive and time-consuming leisure pattern.[106] It isolated couples far more than nineteenth-century courtship or peer activity had, and it preempted the energies of female friendships. In 1920 a woman professor pronounced that "one seldom sees" the kind of women's friendship "that has all the wonderful community of interest one finds in ideal marriage."[107]


Another influence on friendship was the spread of popular sexology and psychoanalytic ideas. A new belief in the ubiquity of eroticism lifted the mantle of innocence from formerly unclassified romantic and sensual language and behavior. Schools actively condemned romantic friendships among girl students. Those that survived were forced underground.[108] The "lesbian threat" would hereafter shadow the course and culture of female friendships. By 1934 one sociologist, Joseph Folsom, observed fewer girls' "crushes," and less "homosexuality . . . in the form of strong friendships," which, he maintained, had been predominant among women more than men in the preceding fifty years.[109]

In response to a divorce rate that had been rising steadily from the late nineteenth century, sociologists and the up-and-coming professionals of marriage counseling placed more and more prescriptive value on companionship in marriage (strongly emphasizing mutuality), couple socializing, and "togetherness." M. E Nimkoff observed this new emphasis on "comradeship and understanding" in reviewing family sociology of the 1920s and 1930s.[110] Finally, the burgeoning industry of advertising increasingly sold identity and status through consumption, targeting women and urging them to explore romance and individuality with purchases. Beauty became a commodified individual quest, its products hyped with invidious female comparisons. Advertisers threatened that each failure of a homemaker's acumen or allure could result in loss to her sharper competitor.[111]

These remarks do not indicate the decline of same-sex friendships among women but rather the decline of romantic friendship, a culture of friendship that had been constructed within the ideology and practices of radically separated spheres of gender. Un-romantic but intimate friendships among women seem to have survived, filling the gap in marital companionship noted by twen-tiethcentury observers. As the companionate marriage ideal became more popular and more specifically romantic, egalitarian, and empathic, women intensified their emotional investment in marriage. Doing so, they relied increasingly on friendships to manage the emotional strains of marriage and to sustain their commitment to it. The researches of Harvey Locke and Ernest Burgess each concluded that friends were more important for the "marital adjustment" of wives than of husbands.

Sociologists in most eras of this century noted—if not in detail—


both the intimacy of women's friendships and the contrast with the greater distance of men's.[112] The sociologists who restudied Middletown in the 1970s found "overwhelming" evidence that marital communication had improved since the 1920s and offered, without further comment, "a typical example from one housewife": "I feel there is nothing I couldn't go to him and ask. . .I mostly talk to one of my best friends, but I feel that you should look to your own husband for basic communication."[113]

The romantic friendship ideal withered as twentieth-century social changes accelerated the companionship of men and women. They amplified egalitarian and empathic themes in the marriage ideal, stigmatized passionate attachments between women, and replaced material interdependence between women with consumption in the marketplace. The tone of adult women's friendships faded from passionate attachment to affectionate camaraderie. Romantic friendship was not to emerge again among heterosexual women until the 1970s when contemporary feminism opened a new era of gender consciousness and conflict. It emerged once again within a middle-class segment, this time among young, college-educated women. Part of a much narrower class- and age-based stratum, they relied on its countercultural support rather than the larger structures of religion and mass literature that had spread nineteenth-century romantic friendship.

In the 1980s romantic friendship has drawn publicity, particularly from advertisers, who must still exploit autonomous feminist and female cultural themes because women have remained their most important audience. Long-distance telephone commercials, for example, portray the longing and intimacy between separated women friends. For the moment, however, romantic friendship appears to flourish mainly within small feminist circles. Yet if romantic friendship has been in eclipse for most of the twentieth century, intimate friendships among women have continued to thrive in spite of the vicissitudes of geographic mobility, the double day of work within and outside the home, pronatalist and marital revivals, and the feminization of poverty. Intimate friendship among women has not only persisted; it has expanded as effective individualism has affected new sectors of society. In contrast to marriage, the reality of women's friendships has outstripped the ideal.

I have revised the history of friendship and marriage because


my contemporary interviews contradicted so much of what the sociological account of the decline of community and the rise of companionate marriage would predict. I interpreted more than a decade of new social history to suggest that friendship and marriage evolved intertwined, symbiotic cultures infused with the modern ethos of affective individualism. The economic forces that separated public and private life, and associated forces of individualism, fostered the change from traditional forms of female interdependence to modern forms of intimacy. Concurrently, intimate friendship and intimate marriage became social ideals. But for women the ideals of friendship were generally more practicable than the ideals of marriage; and so romantic friendship both compensated for and served as a model for romantic companionate marriage. As husbands and wives became more companionate, women's friendships became less romantic. Intimate female friendship quietly persisted, unheralded support for women as wives and mothers.


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Chapter One The Modernization of Friendship and Marriage
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