Jane Addams established the settlement house movement with a close group of female collaborators.
Eleanor Roosevelt emerged as a political force independent of her husband because of the central role that her friends played in her life. Women’s friendships can vary greatly along economic and racial lines.
Their history begins with the Bible, in which women spend so little time interacting with one another that details about their friendships are mostly speculative. pertain to men,” Yalom and Donovan Brown acknowledge, which makes the beginning chapters of their book a bit thin on the sorts of stories that tend to define and differentiate friendships.
By the 17th century, women had started to become associated with friendship.
The philosopher Mary Astell wrote that women’s bonds were more authentic and pure because women were “less concern’d in the affairs of the World.” Women formed bonds with neighbors, “since wives commonly moved away from their mothers and sisters.” These women usually weren’t wealthy enough to travel or literate enough to keep in touch with their kin, so friends became supplemental family.
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In stark contrast to modern wedding vows that often position a woman’s romantic partner as her best friend, in the 16th century, “it was understood that a woman could share the same soul with her best friend, but rarely, if ever, with her husband,” the authors write.
The word “gossip” simply referred to a female friend and had no negative connotations.
By the time Betty Friedan called out housewives’ malaise and the second-wave feminist movement was percolating, the bonds between women were openly acknowledged as an organizing force for political change. So it’s disappointing that even when it arrives at the 20th century, “The Social Sex” is heavily biased in favor of the stories of rich, educated white women.
While the Gee’s Bend quilters, a group of African-American craftswomen in rural Alabama, make an appearance, and Yalom and Donovan Brown acknowledge the strong bonds among African-American women, most of the anecdotes they include reference women who have had quite a bit of access to money and power.
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