Visitors to @LowellNPS often ask about the romantic & social lives of mill girls in the 1800s. Many are curious about whether mill girls could marry. This #PrideMonth , we're exploring the intimate and close relationships that women conducted with men & women in Lowell. Thread.
Not all operatives pursued lifelong companionship with men. In the 19c, it was common for women to have romantic friendships with other women. These intimate friendships were emotionally close & physically affectionate; some were encouraged as a way to “practice marriage.”
These relationships were one form of same-sex love, though terms we might use today (gay, lesbian, queer) did not exist as a framework in the mid-1800s to describe them. One example of romantic friendship can be found in the relationship between Lucy Larcom & Esther Humiston.
After working in Lowell, Larcom headed west to homestead with family. Her brother-in-law's brother, Frank Spaulding, proposed marriage, but Larcom turned him down. She instead pursued her education at Monticello Female Seminary and returned to MA to teach at Wheaton College.
While back in MA, Larcom met Humiston. Larcom called Humiston her “sister confessor” and revealed that when it came to her rejected proposal, “I am almost sure that there are chambers in my heart that he could not unlock.”
Larcom was more forthcoming about her feelings for Humiston after her death in 1861. Traveling to Humiston’s home, Larcom wrote: “I have tracked the footsteps of this loving pilgrim...and I know her and hers more truly; I am hers and she is mine, more surely now forever.”
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