Single Lives: Modern Women in Literature, Culture, and Film 9781978828551

Single Lives is a collection of singleness studies essays from the interdisciplinary humanities that explores the last t

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Single Lives: Modern Women in Literature, Culture, and Film

Table of contents :
Introduction: situating single lives
PART I Singles Studies: archives and methods
Chapter 1 Searching for Singles: archival approaches for singleness studies and black women’s collections
Chapter 2 Reclaiming Single Women’s Work: gender, melodrama, and the processes of adaptation in the best of everything
Chapter 3 Recovering Single Biography: Jane Armstrong tucker, illness, and the single life
PART II Familiar Figures: representing and reforming the single woman
Chapter 4 Becoming Single: gidget “betwixt and between”
Chapter 5 F. Scott Fitzgerald and “The Sinking Ship of Future Matrimony” the unmarried flapper in literature and on screen
Chapter 6 Neither Betwixt nor Between: divorced mothers in the united states, 1920–1965
Chapter 7 Serves One: exploring representations of female singleness in American cookbooks
PART III Singles at Home domestic labors
Chapter 8 Feeling “Like a Queen” later-life single women at home in modern American short fiction
Chapter 9 “Spinsters’ Rest”? the discomforts of home in british women’s short stories of the 1920s to the 1940s
Chapter 10 All the Single Nannies: reforming elite domesticity and the cultural imaginary
Notes on Contributors

Citation preview

Single Lives •

Single Lives • Modern ­Women in Lit­er­a­ture, Culture, and Film

Edited by K at h e r i n e Fa m a J o r i e L ag e rw e y

rutgers u niversity press new bru nswick, camden, and newark, new jersey, and london

 LCCN 2021031487 A British Cataloging-­in-­Publication rec­ord for this book is available from the British Library. This collection copyright © 2022 by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey Individual chapters copyright © 2022 in the names of their authors All rights reserved No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. Please contact Rutgers University Press, 106 Somerset Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. The only exception to this prohibition is “fair use” as defined by U.S. copyright law. References to internet websites (URLs) ­were accurate at the time of writing. Neither the author nor Rutgers University Press is responsible for URLs that may have expired or changed since the manuscript was prepared. The paper used in this publication meets the requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences—­Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992. www​.­rutgersuniversitypress​.­org Manufactured in the United States of Amer­i­ca

 To Hannah


Introduction: Situating Single Lives    1 Katherine Fama and Jorie Lagerwey PA R T I

Singles Studies: Archives and Methods   13

1 Searching for Singles: Archival Approaches for Singleness Studies and Black W ­ omen’s Collections    15 Andreá N. Williams

2 Reclaiming Single ­Women’s Work: Gender, Melodrama, and the Pro­cesses of Adaptation in The Best of Every­thing   28 Jennifer S. Clark

3 Recovering Single Biography: Jane Armstrong Tucker, Illness, and the Single Life    48 Elizabeth DeWolfe PA R T I I

Familiar Figures: Representing and Reforming the Single ­Woman   67

4 Becoming Single: Gidget “Betwixt and Between”    69 Pamela Robertson Wojcik

5 F. Scott Fitzgerald and “The Sinking Ship of ­Future Matrimony”: The Unmarried Flapper in Lit­er­a­ture and on Screen   81 Martina Mastandrea


viii C o n t e n t s

6 Neither Betwixt nor Between: Divorced ­Mothers in the United States, 1920–1965    102 Kristin Celello

7 Serves One: Exploring Repre­sen­ta­tions of Female Singleness in American Cookbooks    118 Ursula Kania PA R T I I I

Singles at Home: Domestic ­Labors   133

8 Feeling “Like a Queen”: Later-­Life Single ­Women at Home in Modern American Short Fiction    135 Katherine Fama

9 “Spinsters’ Rest”? The Discomforts of Home in British ­Women’s Short Stories of the 1920s to the 1940s    157 Emma Liggins

10 All the Single Nannies: Reforming Elite Domesticity and the Cultural Imaginary  175 Ann Mattis

Afterword   193 Benjamin Kahan Acknowl­ edgments   197 Bibliography   199 Notes on Contributors   219 Index   223

Single Lives •

Introduction situating single lives Katherine Fama and Jorie Lagerwey

In December 2019, actor and United Nations w ­ omen goodwill ambassador, Emma Watson, claimed a new identity for herself in British Vogue. In response to the ubiquitous celebrity profile question about her dating life, Watson proclaimed herself not single but “self-­partnered.”1 Young, White, conventionally beautiful, wealthy, famous, and Ivy League–­educated, Watson has faced criticism for her version of celebrity feminism, particularly for bodily commodification and for centering men’s concerns about feminism in announcing the UN’s supposedly inclusive feminist campaign “HeForShe” (a campaign that she, of course, was not responsible for designing).2 In the context of her celebrity, this declaration of being “self-­ partnered” represented a coming-­of-­age from child star to self-­actualized adult feminist and si­mul­ta­neously expressed the narcissism of coining a new, allegedly more empowering term to describe the now familiar state of youthful eligibility without monogamous or marital goals. Yet if we follow singles studies or singleness studies and con­temporary popu­lar culture scholar Anthea Taylor’s exhortation to read repre­sen­ta­tions of “the single w ­ oman diagnostically, to help illuminate broader ideological tendencies and tensions around ­women and feminism,” we see, in the popu­lar press’s eye rolling over Watson’s new label, a con­temporary iteration of historical anx­i­eties about single w ­ omen.3 Watson’s hypervisibility reveals the dominance of White, heterosexual, culturally power­f ul models of singleness that have captured the public eye in the twenty-­first ­century. Even so, the backlash to Watson’s self-­identification reveals a rejection of single w ­ omen’s po­liti­cal power, public position, economic clout, and disruption of the still-­overwhelmingly dominant norm of nuclear families within patriarchal, heterosexist capitalism. This collection is, in part, a reaction to the twenty-­first-­century public fascination with single ­women.4 The essays collected h ­ ere address that fascination by analyzing a broader range of texts than have previously been collected by singleness studies. They examine the ways films, cookbooks, archives, popu­lar lit­er­a­ture, and other British and American texts express norms, ideals, and challenges for single ­women 1


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and their relationship to dominant ideals of marriage and the f­ amily. This volume looks backward to constellate existing scholarship, constituent fields, and unrecognized single voices; and forward to consider new methods for interdisciplinary singles studies.5 Confident statements of singlehood like Watson’s, and the backlash they engender, illustrate the vast con­temporary interest in and anxiety about singleness. Furthermore, they draw critical attention to the prominence of the premarital mode of single repre­sen­ta­tion in con­temporary culture. To offer just one example, real­ity tele­v i­sion, one of the medium’s most prolific genres, remains intent on (mostly) heterosexual coupling: The Bachelor (ABC, 2002–­pre­sent), Love Island (ITV2, 2015–­pre­sent; franchised in at least a dozen nations), 90 Day Fiancé (TLC, 2014–­pre­sent), and brief 2020 pandemic-­lockdown hit Love Is Blind (Netflix, 2020) represent a conservative, insistently premarital version of singleness. Late 1990s and early twenty-­first-­century TV and movies offered many hugely popu­lar, markedly eligible single-­women protagonists, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the WB, 1997–2001; UPN, 2001–2003), Ally McBeal (Fox, 1997–2002), Bridget Jones in three films (2001, 2004, 2016) based on the best-­selling novels, Girlfriends (UPN, 2000– 2006; the CW, 2006–2008)—­t he only non-­W hite single ­women to gain “hit” status on American TV in this period—­and t­ hose icons of consumerist postfeminism, the Sex and the City ladies (HBO, 1998–2004). In contrast, post-2008 recession-­ era British and American prestige tele­vi­sion struck a darker tone. From the advent of Girls on HBO in 2012, a slew of despondent White w ­ omen aged from their twenties through their forties navigate not romance but broken, disillusioning relationships and life on their own.6 Outside film and tele­v i­sion, con­temporary interest in single ­women is evident in the cluster of nonfiction writing engaging single history, culture, and identity politics. That work participates in re-­emerging feminisms that reveal unequal access to housing, income in­equality, and the promise of single po­liti­cal power. This writing also documents broad cultural anx­i­eties about single ­women’s sexuality, physical and economic vulnerability, reproductive agency, threats to the nuclear ­family, and potential po­liti­cal power. Popu­lar singleness texts include serial press coverage and long-­form articles in the Atlantic and the New Yorker, as well as Rebecca Traister’s 2016 best-­selling history of uncoupled American w ­ omen as an influential voting bloc, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried W ­ omen and the Rise of an In­de­pen­dent Nation, and Beyoncé’s 2008 smash-­hit song that lent the book its name. ­There is also a large collection of White ­women’s memoirs, interviews, and literary nonfiction about single life, including Kate Bolick’s Spinster (2015) and Briallen Hopper’s Hard to Love (2019), and nonfiction focused on the ­earlier modern era: Betsy Israel’s Bachelor Girl: The Secret History of Single ­Women in the Twentieth ­Century (2002), ­Virginia Nicholson’s Singled Out: How Two Million British ­Women Survived without Men ­after the First World War (2007), and Joanna Scutts’s The Extra ­Woman: How Marjorie Hillis Led a Generation of ­Women to Live Alone and Like It (2017). Such enormous public attention feels familiar to scholars of modernity, who work with a set of texts captivated by the late nineteenth-­century

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rise of the never-­married ­woman. The con­temporary reappearance of an anxious public fascination with a growing generation of single w ­ omen is the jumping-­off point for this collection of essays exploring the voices and repre­sen­ta­tions of single lives in the intervening years. This volume—­which gathers cultural repre­sen­ ta­tions from the modern and con­temporary eras—is jointly edited by a scholar of con­temporary celebrity, tele­v i­sion, and gender, and a literary scholar of modern U.S. fiction and single w ­ omen. The similarities and through lines between the examples just mentioned—as well as our separate research areas, our leisure consumption, and our own lived experiences—­inspired and ­shaped this collection. The essays h ­ ere make vis­i­ble the pathways traveled by single ­women across disciplines, genres, and eras as they gather singleness scholarship across lit­er­a­ture and film, and focus on the modern and con­temporary cultural repre­sen­ta­tions and voices of single ­women.

British and American Singleness Studies The emerging academic field of singleness or singles studies borrows heavi­ly from ­women’s and gender studies, social history, queer theory, and Black feminism.7 Significant scholarly coverage of single topics can be found across humanities and social science disciplines, though many studies lack explicit identification with singleness as a subfield. The foundations for singleness studies as a stand-­a lone field “intent on correcting negative images of unmarried ­women without male partners”8 and as an interdisciplinary proj­ect ­were laid in the first de­cade of the twenty-­first c­ entury by Rudolph Bell and V ­ irginia Yans’s Rutgers Center for Historical Analy­sis Proj­ect, “Gendered Passages in Historical Perspective: Single ­Women” (2003–2005). That proj­ect generated both an online “Singleness Studies Bibliography” and ­Women on Their Own: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Being Single, an essay collection that collated comparative historical and so­cio­log­i­cal approaches to recovering, rehabilitating, and analyzing unmarried ­women. Other field-­germinating studies came around the same time in social psy­chol­ogy work that established single w ­ omen as a separable demographic category with its own identity politics. Bella DePaulo’s Singled Out: How Singles Are Ste­reo­typed, Stigmatized, and Ignored and Still Live Happily Ever ­After (2006) identified “singlism,” or the construction of l­ egal, health, and dominant social structures around heterosexual marriage, to the exclusion and often active detriment of single ­people, whom, she illustrates, are not necessarily fleeting, transitory, or defined by their relationship to f­amily (see also DePaulo 2017). Singleness studies work in sociology includes that of Naomi Braun Rosenthal (2001), Anne Byrne (2009), Anne Byrne and Deborah Carr (2005), and Eric Klinenberg (2012); in social psy­chol­ogy, Tanya Koropeckyj-­Cox (2005) and Kinneret Lahad (2017); and in law, Rachel F. Moran (2004). In the last two de­cades, literary scholars have focused on repre­sen­ ta­tions of iconic single figures in fiction, including work by Michael Cobb (2012), Laura Doan (1990), Martha Patterson (2005), and Katherine Snyder (1999). Recent work on British fiction has begun to explore the interrelations between such single


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figures.9 Historical scholarship contributes significantly to the idea of singleness as an object of study with works by Amy Froide (1999 [coedited with Judith  M. Bennett], 2005), Lee V ­ irginia Chambers-­Schiller (1984), Jane Dabel (2006), Sarah Deutsch (2000), Katherine Holden (2007), Sheila Jeffreys (1985), Joanne Meyero­ witz (1988), Martha Vicinus (2004), and Karin Wulf (2010) adding immeasurably to the portrait of ­women outside of marriage. In media studies, large bodies of scholarship on postfeminism and girlhood studies take unmarried ­women as their object of study,10 though Anthea Taylor is perhaps the first to put the singleness of the w ­ omen in the texts she studies at the forefront of her interrogations and in the title of her book, Single W ­ omen in Popu­lar Culture: The Limits of Postfeminism (2012). She thus explic­itly places her work within the burgeoning field of singleness studies, alongside its place in feminist media studies. In addition to the selected publications just cited is e­ arlier work from contributors h ­ ere, Fama (2016, 2017), Lagerwey (with Taylor Nygaard 2020), Emma Liggins (2007, 2014), Andreá N. Williams (two works from 2014), and Pamela Wojcik (2010), all of whom focus on repre­sen­ta­tions of single ­women, ­whether or not they explic­itly position themselves within singleness studies; Benjamin Kahan’s Celibacies: American Modernism and Single Life (2013) focuses on celibacy as a radically po­liti­cal sexual identity. Ten years on from Bell and Yans’s, DePaulo’s, and other foundational works establishing the field, Single Lives shifts focus, from joining the work of historians and sociologists, to building on comparative approaches to cultural repre­sen­ta­tions and expressions of the single w ­ oman. This collection emphasizes textuality and textual analy­sis in multiple media and genres, and across more than a ­century of British and U.S. history. Single Lives incorporates film and literary analyses into conversation, recovering the structures, limits, and narratives through which single w ­ omen are i­magined and understood in cultural products. Together, t­hese essays operate, as Taylor insists, diagnostically, to trace anx­i­eties around race, class, age, sexuality, domesticity, and ­labor written on the bodies of single w ­ omen creators, consumers, and fictional characters. Essays also find single w ­ omen writing back in complaint, re­sis­tance, and cele­bration. As a ­counter to the overwhelming dominance of the heterosexual, reproductive, patriarchal, nuclear ­family, single ­women—­whether never married, separated, queer, divorced, or widowed—­fi nd ways to exist outside that power­ful framework of control. The challenges to, escapes from, and reconsiderations of that durable mechanism of control are ultimately the subject of this collection. Too often, investigations of single repre­sen­ta­tion focus on the never married as premarried. Feminist film and media studies, for example, include bodies of work on romance and make­over narratives that constitute single visibility within the field but do not necessarily focus on the singleness of ­women in ­t hose texts as an identity category, choice, or primary site of analy­sis. Definitions, experiences, and realities of singleness are much broader than young w ­ omen waiting on marriage. They include widowed, separated, and divorced w ­ omen as well as ­people of all genders escaped, exempted, or exiled from the often-­presumed opposite to singleness: heterosexual marriage. Single Lives argues for the structural parallel and

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phenomenological correspondences between such diverse single experiences, from the midcentury divorcée in Kristin Celello’s essay to the fin de siècle w ­ idows in Katherine Fama’s, or the never-­married nineteenth-­century correspondent in Elizabeth DeWolfe’s. In other words, many structural inequalities faced by never-­ married ­women are shared by other singles. Where single ­women from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have been understood as spinsters, “New ­Women,” or w ­ idows, for example, this collection considers parallels and relations between formerly distinct identity categories. The essays reveal numerous continuities, from single ­labor performed for the ­family to b ­ attles for in­de­pen­dence and pervasive singlism. Ann Mattis and Pamela Wojcik, for example, explore challenges to the inevitability of the heteronuclear ­family structure by analyzing childcare workers living in someone e­ lse’s home, and teen­agers navigating the choice between adult autonomy and premarital heterosexuality, respectively. In both essays, it is the key character’s singleness that makes vis­i­ble her relation and challenge to dominant structures of gender, class, and ­family—­and, indeed, what makes the power of t­ hose structures themselves vis­i­ ble. This collection thus reclaims singleness as a flexible and varied state re-­ emerging throughout an individual’s life span, including the never-­married and the widowed, separated, and divorced. Celello, for example, demands new visibility for the singleness of divorced w ­ omen in Amer­i­ca between 1920 and 1960, interrogating how they, like the other single figures examined throughout this book, challenge or threaten dominant constructions of gender and ­family. Throughout Single Lives, essays recover structural affinities where diverse w ­ omen did not claim identity with one another, or even identify as explic­itly single, yet nonetheless share cultural experiences ­because of that singleness. By bringing ­t hese interdisciplinary essays together, Single Lives pre­sents singleness as a newly vis­i­ble, expansive identity category. This collection hails even scholars already working with diverse feminist methods, providing new ways to study ­women creators and characters who “just happen” to be single. In so d ­ oing, it re-­exposes the per­sis­tence and dominance of the class, age, racial, gender, and familial structures against which in­de­ pen­dent ­women form such a stark and often disruptive contrast.

Geographic and Temporal Bound­aries This book operates within the geographic bound­aries of a shared British-­American cultural economy and the temporal borders from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-­first centuries, linking one con­spic­u­ous demographic surge and cultural shift to another. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw dramatic changes in ­women’s education, working lives, and prescribed gender roles. As their numbers ­rose in the late 1800s, British and American single ­women captured public interest and cultural production and came to be seen as both “superfluous, anomalous, incomplete, odd” and “ ‘new,’ modern.”11 The then-­largest-­ever generation of never-­married ­women in the United States was born between 1860 and 1880. War casualties, ­women’s education, immigration, internal migration, racialized


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vio­lence, westward expansion, industrialization, urbanization, and changes in ­women’s l­abor opportunities all contributed to delayed or in­def­initely deferred marriage in the modern era. This generation of w ­ omen came of age in the fin de siècle, which witnessed a transition from the “singly blessed” ­family ­women of the nineteenth ­century to the urban working w ­ omen of the twentieth. British culture, which fretted over single w ­ omen from the mid-­nineteenth c­ entury onward, witnessed a pronounced spike in anxiety about “surplus ­women” and low national birth rates ­after the First World War.12 About a hundred years ­later, the late twentieth and early twenty-­first centuries experienced a parallel demographic spike in single ­women,13 and a “hypervisibility” or “luminosity” of young single w ­ omen in what Taylor refers to as “Western popu­lar culture” beginning in the mid-1990s.14 Given the demographic peaks in British and American single ­women nearly a hundred years ­earlier, this single visibility represents a reiteration of the anxious, excited cultural focus of the fin de siècle and First World War eras. Essays in this collection put t­ hese demographic peaks in conversation, reclaiming the relationships among diverse single ­women and tracing the swells and troughs of feminist visibility in the 100 years in between. If the temporal bound­aries of this collection stretch from one demographic peak to the next, the geographic borders are bounded by the robust, durable cir­cuits of cultural exchange between the United Kingdom and the United States. In the late twentieth and early twenty-­first centuries, the allies’ so-­called special relationship is evident in politics, economics, and shared culture industries. Broadcast historian Michele Hilmes argues that “British and American broadcasting together constitute a unified system, a power­ful symbiotic machine of cultural influence that has spread long tentacles around the globe and affected the ways that culture is practiced and understood far outside the bound­ aries of ­t hese two nations alone: what I call the transnational cultural economy of British and American broadcasting.”15 Hilmes argues for a shared cultural economy born of broadcasting, with a clear lineage in con­temporary film and TV production and distribution, including the films analyzed in this collection. But, as she implies, it is a much broader cultural economy, by no means ­limited to moving-­ image media. This cultural circulation is also reflected in the established scholarship of transatlantic studies. Julia Straub describes recent transatlantic scholarship as locating “the Atlantic world” rather than the nation as the “site of cultural production,” justifying scholarly attention to the “Anglo-­American literary market” and its “production, distribution, reception, and criticism.”16 Writing of the nineteenth c­ entury, Brigitte Bailey notes an “extensive web of professional, affective, po­liti­cal, religious, and literary relations” across the Atlantic.17 Certainly, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, British and American writing and writers ­circulated in a system of transatlantic literary and cultural exchange, as single ­women experienced new forms of personal mobility. This book explores the specific regional, temporal, racial, and class contours of single bodies and texts, but neither British nor American cultural production can be understood in isolation. Liggins’s essay is the only one ­here that focuses on British lit­er­a­ture, but it is in direct conversation with Fama’s U.S. examples, highlighting the shared cultural

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economy between the two nations. The films analyzed by Mattis, Jennifer S. Clark, and Wojcik are Hollywood productions intent on a transatlantic, and indeed global, audience, and Martina Mastandrea reconstructs American film productions with the aid of promotional materials and production ephemera from imported Eu­ro­ pean versions of the films in question. Like the affinities in characterization and lived experience between single ­women in the temporally disparate late nineteenth and late twentieth centuries, the essays collected ­here find similar shared cultural knowledge and experience in circulation across the Atlantic.

New Directions for Singleness Studies Single Lives brings together humanities disciplines and methods, reconsiderations of iconic and emerging single figures, and an exploration of domestic space and ­labor in the British-­American cultural cir­cuit between the late nineteenth and late twentieth centuries. The collection celebrates the productive potential of placing media studies in conversation with historical and literary scholarship to contextualize and trace the lineages of specific single figures across modes of popu­lar culture, and to reveal the structural conditions that connect single lives in a given moment. Tying analyses of “high” and “low” culture, from mass commercial products like cookbooks, journalism, fictions, and cinema, to the private documents uncovered in archives, reveals the broad cultural impact of the many unrecognized forms and experiences of single womanhood. As an interdisciplinary collection, Single Lives reads across genre and field, and offers new approaches to its constituent disciplines. The essays by Celello, Mastandrea, Clark, and Mattis actively combine the two central disciplinary lineages collected h ­ ere, by discussing short stories or novels in relation to film and tele­v i­ sion, offering specific examples of how studies of media (literary and the audiovisual), often kept academically separate, build on one another through a shared focus on careful textual analy­sis of single repre­sen­ta­tion. DeWolfe and Williams leverage archival discoveries in their reconsiderations of published texts. The parallel analyses and methodological insights vis­i­ble within ­t hose essays reverberate across the literary and film analyses throughout the book. Essays in this volume reflect on the origins of singleness studies by engaging tools and scholarship from wide-­ranging fields of social history, w ­ omen’s studies, queer theory, and Black feminism. Essays likewise identify emerging intersections with age studies, the histories of emotion and ­labor, and the medical and architectural humanities. A number of essays engage with age studies: Williams, DeWolfe, and Fama discuss old age, illness, and ability; Mastandrea and Wojcik discuss young w ­ omen in transition from childhood to singleness as they experience complex possibilities beyond heterosexual ­union. The collection also engages the specificity of media, genre, and style in single repre­sen­ta­tion. Williams and DeWolfe rethink the form and function of single biography, highlighting respectability, per­ for­mance, health, and other issues of single self-­fashioning. Clark, Mastandrea, and Celello find broadened audiences and expanding single possibilities in


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adaptation. Wojcik explores the filmic ­middle that denaturalizes heterosexual coupling, while Fama reads fin de siècle short fictions as key for the emergence of the modern single identity and community. Essays highlight the importance of both new modes of single analy­sis—­reading familiar texts against the grain, rethinking archival resources, tracing and reading across familiar figures—­and new sources: cookbooks, ephemera, personal documents, recovered production histories, and forms of domestic space and l­ abor. The collection works within and beyond established scholarly focus on familiar historical “figures” of singleness—­spinsters, “­women adrift,” and “the New ­Woman.” Mastandrea challenges critical and cultural portraits of the shallow, sexualized flapper; in revisiting literary and filmic repre­sen­ta­tions, she recovers F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stubbornly single flappers. Mattis revisits the figure of the beloved nanny, exploring the racial, cultural, and class conventions that undergird repre­sen­ta­t ions of her single domestic heroism. Essays also expand beyond re-­examinations of familiar figures by analyzing single home cooks, “normatively” single girls, and ­women returning to singleness as w ­ idows and divorcées. Essays by DeWolfe, Clark, and Williams recover the voices and perspectives of individual ­women rather than representing categories of womanhood. Fi­nally, in the third part, focused on domestic occupancy and l­abor, Fama, Liggins, and Mattis propose new methods for understanding the structural relations between diverse ­single ­women. Fama reclaims a continuity between single generations, Liggins argues for the interrelation of “odd” w ­ omen, and Mattis uses a comparative lens to interrogate single privilege. This final section rethinks the ways in which other­ wise useful historical categories have obscured explicit relations and structural parallels between diverse single lives. Such expansions within the field acknowledge the productive, established use of the single figure while working to address its exclusions, ste­reo­t ypes, and oversimplifications. Contributors explore the interdependence and intermingling of single w ­ omen’s lives, answering Williams’s insistence that we interrogate the critically celebrated state of single “in­de­pen­dence.” DeWolfe traces tensions between personal in­de­pen­ dence and intergenerational obligation, in recounting the conflict between emerging professional and personal options for young singles and the older w ­ idow’s expectation of familial care. Celello examines the evolving repre­sen­ta­t ion and reception of the midcentury single m ­ other, bound to and beyond the ­family unit, her singleness and maternity often in tension. Both essays trou­ble any easy cele­ bration of in­de­pen­dent singleness, drawing attention to the per­sis­tence of competing claims for the bonds of intimacy and single autonomy. Many scholars have approached singleness as an experience of marginal, lonely contingency, intersecting with racism, poverty, ageism, homophobia, and sexism, and represented through what Heather Love has described as a “spinster aesthetic.”18 The costs of age, queerness, motherhood, and life beyond the ­family are ­etched painfully across cultural texts. But works in this collection also insist on reading texts for single pleasures: networks and relations, emotional transgressions,

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alternative domesticities. Contributors recover portraits of single strategies: silence and ambiguity, community building, privacy, respectability, and eccentricity. Their essays also acknowledge the ways in which single ­women si­mul­ta­neously—­a nd often uncritically—­accept privileged economic, cultural, and embodied positions of power.

Singleness Studies to Come This collection pushes singleness studies ­toward textual analy­sis, expanding and extending scholarship in cultural analy­sis and interdisciplinary collections in history and social science. It also creates an active dialogue between existing and new work in film, biography, and lit­er­a­ture and engages a broad range of theoretical tools from its constituent disciplines. Read together, ­t hese media forms make a compelling argument for the centrality of diverse single ­women to historical trajectories of gender, ­family, and sexuality. Nonetheless, as both Kahan’s previous work and his afterword note, singleness studies has thus far primarily presumed heterosexuality (despite the engagement of queer theorists with singleness).19 This collection includes Fama’s consideration of late-­life queer domesticities, Liggins’s approach to British single ­women who threaten “the heterosexual economy” through alternative occupancy practices, and Wojcik’s queer girlhood potential, but cisgender heterosexuality predominates. While Williams and, to a degree, Mattis, Fama, and Mastandrea engage with issues of race, ­f uture singleness scholarship should do more to reveal single repre­sen­ta­tions and experiences across diverse racial and ethnic categories. This collection engages significantly with age studies in Williams’s consideration of the ways in which the single ­woman might “res[ume] her singleness,” Fama’s focus on midlife and late-­life repre­sen­ta­tion, DeWolfe’s portrait of intergenerational tensions, and Wojcik’s work on the emergence of young singlehood. Single Lives also explores a range of downwardly mobile middle-­class ­women as they contend with the costs of self-­support in widowhood, divorce, and life outside the f­ amily, but the experiences of single working-­class w ­ omen offer territory for ­future scholarship. Ethnic and cultural diversity is engaged only by Mattis, who identifies transnational ­labor as the material counterpoint to a native-­ born, White nanny trope. This volume focuses on the productive cir­cuits of cultural exchange between Britain and Amer­i­ca, but we have worked within ­t hose bound­aries with knowledge of a much-­needed global singles studies collection also underway, edited by Ketaki Chowkhani and Craig Wynne. Many literary and historical considerations of singleness map a single national or geographic region; significant work remains to be done in comparative singles studies. This collection necessarily reflects the cultural privileges that have ­shaped single cultural repre­sen­ta­tion; nonetheless, its analyses work to challenge the dominance of t­ hose figures. Singleness stretches far beyond the young, middle-­class, never-­married White ­woman, but cultural production and reception are often skewed by privilege, excluding accounts marked


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by age, race, and class. Single Lives continues the crucial work of connecting disciplines, prioritizing unacknowledged voices and single figures, introducing new archival sources and methods, and recovering the specific and shared structural conditions that shape single lives in the modern and con­temporary eras.

notes 1. ​Paris Lees, “Emma Watson: ‘I’m Very Happy Being Single. I Call It Being Self-­Partnered,” British Vogue, November 4, 2019. 2. ​See Travis M. Andrews, “ ‘Feminism Is Not a Stick with Which to Beat Other ­Women’: Emma Watson Tells Off Critics of Revealing Photo,” Washington Post, March  6, 2017; Emine Saner, “Emma Watson and Vanity Fair: Not Every­thing a Feminist Does Is a Feminist Act,” The Guardian, March 6, 2017; Cherry Wilson, “Is Emma Watson Anti-­feminist for Exposing her Breasts?,” BBC​.c­ om, March 6, 2017. 3. ​Anthea Taylor, Single ­Women in Popu­lar Culture: The Limits of Postfeminism (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 4. 4. ​The collection refers to single ­women, with the understanding that the term ­woman is neither stable, agreed upon, nor clear-­cut. We intend for the term single ­woman to contain the broadest pos­si­ble diversity of woman-­identified subjects living outside of or in conflict with heterosexual marriage. ­Woman is therefore a placeholder in the introduction, a term we understand to contain the many ways in which constructed expectations of gender, the body, desire, sex, and femininity change over ­t hese many de­cades. 5. ​This collection focuses on single ­women, in recognition of the gender-­specific forms of singlism, economic and social constraints, and temporal and spatial expectations visited on diverse w ­ omen. ­There remains ample space—­a nd a real need—­for focused comparative work on the gendered contours of singleness. 6. ​See Taylor Nygaard and Jorie Lagerwey, Horrible White ­People: Gender, Genre, and Tele­v i­sion’s Precarious Whiteness (New York: New York University Press, 2020). 7. ​This section includes authors who focus on other regions, like Anne Byrne, “Perfidious and Pernicious Singlism,” Sex Roles 60, no. 9 (2009): 760–763; and Kinneret Lahad, A ­Table for One: A Critical Reading of Singlehood, Gender and Time (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017), ­because their insights have strongly influenced the field of British and American singleness studies. 8. ​Rudolph M. Bell and V ­ irginia Yans, ­Women on Their Own: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Being Single (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2008), 1. 9. ​Emma Liggins, Odd W ­ omen: Spinsters, Lesbians and W ­ idows in British ­Women’s Fiction, 1850s–1930s (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014); and Emma Sterry, Single ­Woman, Modernity, and Literary Culture (Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). 10. ​See Angela McRobbie, The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Change (London: Sage, 2008); Diane Negra, What a Girl Wants: Fantasizing the Reclamation of Self in Postfeminism (London: Routledge, 2009); Alison Winch, Girlfriends and Postfeminist Sisterhood (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013); and Sarah Projansky, Spectacular Girls: Media Fascination and Celebrity Culture (New York: New York University Press), 2014. 11. ​Liggins, Odd ­Women, 1. 12. ​See Sterry, Single W ­ oman, Modernity, and Literary Culture. 13. ​See Eric Klinenberg, ­Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone (New York: Penguin, 2012); Rebecca Traister, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried W ­ omen and the Rise of an In­de­pen­dent Nation (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016); and Bella DePaulo, Singled Out: How Singles Are Ste­reo­typed, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever A ­ fter (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2006). 14. ​Taylor, Single W ­ omen in Popu­l ar Culture, 1; Projansky, Spectacular Girls. 15. ​Michele Hilmes, Network Nations: A Transnational History of British and American Broadcasting (New York: Routledge, 2012), 4 (emphasis in original).

I n troduction


16. ​Julia Straub, “Introduction: Transatlantic North American Studies,” in Handbook of Transatlantic American Studies, ed. Julia Straub (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016), 1. 17. ​Brigitte Bailey, in Transatlantic ­Women: Nineteenth-­Century American ­Women Writers and G ­ reat Britain, ed. Brigitte Bailey, Beth L. Lueck, and Lucinda Damon-­Back (Hanover, NH: University of New Hampshire Press, 2012), 11. 18. ​Heather Love, “Gyn/Apology: Sarah Orne Jewett’s Spinster Aesthetics,” ESQ: A Journal of the American Re­nais­sance 55, no. 3–4 (2009): 305–334. 19. ​See Kathryn Kent, “ ‘Single White Female’: The Sexual Politics of Spinsterhood in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Oldtown Folks,” American Lit­er­a­ture 69, no. 1 (March 1997): 39–65; Eve Sedgwick, “Tales of the Avunculate: Queer Tutelage in The Importance of Being Earnest,” in Tendencies (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), 52–72; Jack Halberstam, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (New York: New York University Press, 2005); Love, “Gyn/Apology; Elizabeth Freeman, Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010); and Sarah Ensor, “Spinster Ecol­ogy: Rachel Carson, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Nonreproductive Futurity,” American Lit­ er­a­ture 84, no. 2 (January 2012): 409–435.


Singles Studies a rc h i v e s a n d m e t h od s This book sets out to be the first collection within the burgeoning field of singleness studies to collect scholarship exclusively in the humanities, and to be rooted firmly in texts and textual analy­sis. Part I explores the richness of textual analy­sis and the specificity and intricacy of that method across periods, genres, and media. Where established singleness studies work has most often used historical, demographic, statistical, and geographic methods to uncover and understand “lost” or unrecognized singles, ­t hese three essays establish a set of practices for analyzing the experience of being a single w ­ oman. To do so, all three expand the definition of text well beyond the borders of a film or piece of lit­er­a­ture to material artifacts like photo­graphs, manuscripts and ephemera, correspondence, memos, and personal writing and exemplify how that work productively illuminates single characters within fictional texts as well as the lived experience of singleness outside ­t hose texts. In her essay, Andreá N. Williams argues that the goal of con­temporary singleness studies is to productively shift the question from why ­women are single to how “experientially and qualitatively, ­women ­were [and are] single,” a question answered in dif­fer­ent ways throughout this book. H ­ ere, Williams demonstrates the archival methods she uses as a literary historian to understand both the texts she studies and the experiences of their writers. In the second essay in this part, Jennifer S. Clark, working in cinematic rather than literary history, uses similar methods to Williams, analyzing the correspondence, production notes, and publicity materials of Rona Jaffe, a con­sul­tant on the 1959 film adaptation of her novel The Best of Every­thing. The finished film, itself about single w ­ omen working in New York, takes on a much richer and more complex set of meanings as Clark puts it in conversation with the behind-­t he-­scenes arguments and production decisions that ­were explic­itly ­shaped by Jaffe and her gendered singleness. All three essays in this part speak to each other about the challenges of locating single w ­ omen in historical archives of any era or in relation to any cultural practice. In so ­doing, they highlight advantages of race and class, and access to 13


Pa r t I

power via friendships with more visibly power­f ul White men. Th ­ ose markers of identity ­were and are valuable to the how of ­women’s singleness but also to the ability to find and study single ­women using the textual and archival methods laid out h ­ ere. In her essay, Elizabeth DeWolfe “reads” nineteenth-­century writer Jane Tucker through letters preserved in a collection of f­ amily papers in a Boston archive. Like Jaffe’s letters and memos, Tucker’s correspondence not only illuminates her own character but also helps readers understand how the single identity and close personal relationships clearly expressed in t­ hose letters ­shaped Tucker’s choices and experiences of life as a single w ­ oman. Perhaps tellingly to a twenty-­first-­century reader, Tucker’s illness came upon her primarily when she was forced to conform to middle-­class norms of feminized domesticity, departing again when she reclaimed a mea­sure of in­de­pen­dence. DeWolfe thus revises the expected content of biography, as well as text, and through this expansion of the literary text beyond published or commercial work, her essay illustrates how social norms, presumptions about class, and a dominant repudiation of singleness for ­women become a text in their own right. Taken together, ­t hese essays model a reading of single relations, pleasures, and cultural production that is often obscured by dominant narratives of gender roles, temporality, and artistic pro­cess. Their goals and methods ­will repeat themselves throughout this book and illustrate with stark clarity the benefit of a carefully interdisciplinary collection where a film scholar’s recovery of unacknowledged, uncredited single ­women’s contribution to film might suggest related questions about literary editing or mentorship, or where a focus on historical ephemera and alternative life events in literary history has echoes of and suggestions for f­ uture reading of celebrity texts in vari­ous media. Th ­ ese first three essays draw from the entire temporal and textual range of the collection and kick-­start fascinating conversations among media, eras, and geographies to begin the book’s work of highlighting a rich textual tapestry of British and American single ­women’s lives from the nineteenth to the twenty-­first ­century.

chapter 1

Searching for Singles archival approaches for singleness studies and black ­women’s collections Andreá N. Williams

What can the sometimes fragmented assortment of lit­er­a­ture, letters, photo­graphs, manuscripts, scrapbooks, and other rec­ords tell us about single w ­ omen in e­ arlier periods? While many of the experiences of marriage and f­ amily life are recorded by formal documents—­wedding invitations, marriage licenses, and sometimes birth certificates of offspring—­singleness often leaves a dif­fer­ent paper trail. This essay proposes an archival research method for interpreting the lives of single ­women, whose marital status pre­sents both obstacles and opportunities for locating their historical traces. Centering a singleness perspective in archival research on ­women may entail at least five practices: (1) attending to ­whether and how ­women self-­identify as single; (2) reading with and against the grain of expected romantic plots; (3) tracking single w ­ omen’s social and professional networks to trace forms of sociability beyond the c­ ouple; (4) valuing nonliterary material artifacts that reveal ele­ments of single ­women’s everyday lives; and (5) incorporating archival findings that both celebrate and complicate affirmative single lives. Researchers and curious readers often puzzle over a recurring question: Why ­were ­t hese ­women single? While the practices I outline sometimes help us tease out answers, I also trou­ble the impulse to seek explanations, as though singleness needs a justification. Instead, by shifting from questions of why to how—­how, experientially and qualitatively, ­women ­were single—we can examine the organic patterns, trajectories, and tropes of unmarried w ­ omen’s lives. To illustrate ­these practices, I reflect on my own ­trials and triumphs in researching the lives and lit­er­a­ture of single African American ­women in the first half of the twentieth-­century United States. Many Black female writers and reformers ­were single—­whether always single, divorced, separated, or widowed—at the height of their productivity. But while critics have explored how Black ­women tackled racism and sexism to assert themselves in the public sphere, we have seldom considered how other ele­ments of their personal identity, including marital status, s­ haped 15


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their c­ areers and access to resources and social authority. Throughout my work, I attempt to trace how singleness shifts from being considered a temporary life stage to a prolonged lifestyle that often enables Black w ­ omen’s professionalization.1 Applying a singleness-­focused archival method in the current essay, I consider the rec­ords of Jane Edna Hunter, an African American ­woman who left a brief, coerced marriage, relocated, and resumed her singleness before founding a charitable lodging ­house for other migratory single Black ­women in Cleveland, Ohio. Hunter’s autobiography, A Nickel and a Prayer (1940), proj­ects her public image, but her unpublished personal and business letters, receipts, and other print and material artifacts additionally convey her lived experience as an unmarried ­woman. By focusing on Hunter’s papers, while gesturing to other single Black w ­ omen’s collections, I model a set of approaches that might be applied across humanities disciplines to invite students, researchers, and archivists to continue the meaningful work of resituating single w ­ omen’s lives and work. If what might be called singles studies or singleness studies is to flourish in the coming years, then analyzing, sharing, and refining the methods and theories that singleness researchers employ in common can help to advance the shape and scope of our knowledge. As Bella DePaulo proposes, with a collective set of “singles studies resources to draw from,” we stand a greater chance of producing interdisciplinary insights “to be passed along to the next generations of students” and public audiences.2 Archival research can play an impor­tant role in helping us to recount and analyze the context-­specific ways that singleness takes form, as its meaning differs based on geography, culture, and historical period. Documents ranging from letters and w ­ ills to newspapers and photo­graphs grant us a glimpse of past single lives. Yet even the most extensive written and material rec­ords reflect only a fragment of h ­ uman experience, never fully encapsulating the range of thoughts, interactions, and social conditions that exist at any given time. Rather, as Jean-­ Christophe Cloutier notes, “The word archival bespeaks an under­lying notion that documents have an afterlife, that they can be put to new, unpredictable uses and form the basis for new interpretive and narrative acts.”3 Thus the “archival turn” in con­temporary feminist criticism aims not only to access more numerous rec­ords to expand collections, but also to bring new questions to existing archives.4 As in the pre­sent volume, singles studies have focused mostly on ­women, emerging out of and alongside the disciplinary growth of w ­ omen’s studies. More specifically, I recognize how Black feminist studies and queer studies have laid the foundation for contextualizing single Black ­women and their cultural innovations. No one repository holds archival rec­ords that make for a broad or con­ve­nient dataset for studying single Black ­women, as though they constitute a cohesive category or predictable search term. Instead, following the work of scholars such as Hazel Carby, Saidiya Hartman, Cheryl Hicks, Darlene Clark Hine, Tera Hunter, and Stephanie Shaw, we can gain an eclectic sense of single Black ­women’s presence in public and private life through institutional rec­ords, including from social clubs and community organ­izations, schools, churches, professional workplaces, and the criminal justice system.5 Meanwhile, by interrogating the centrality of the

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heteronuclear ­family, queer criticism has highlighted the historical presence of unwed individuals, some of whom w ­ ere (or w ­ ere likely) LGBTQ. Michael Cobb further proposes that “S” for single might be added to the alphabetic list of “non­ majority sexualities that deserve more sustained attention, po­liti­cal interventions, and cultural investigations.” 6 Still, in the intersectional approaches of Black feminist and queer criticism, singleness usually appears as a tangential interest rather than a primary emphasis. By approaching archives with our focus attuned to singleness, we can better inquire about its contours, while losing none of the intersectional insights about race, class, gender, and sexuality accrued through complementary research endeavors. For example, the flurry of public and academic interest in Black marriage has brought secondary attention to unmarried Black ­women, both as individuals and as a collective demographic.7 Yet, rather than reading marriage and singleness in opposition, understanding the two as mutually constitutive proves more generative. The same rec­ords that support the study of Black marriage can offer glimpses into contemporaneous attitudes ­toward singles. For example, in the early to mid-­ twentieth c­ entury, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) often hosted marriage workshops, ­whether specifically for enrolled students or as part of the schools’ community outreach. At the all-­women’s Bennett College in North Carolina, the annual Homemaking Institute in 1949 focused on the topic “­Today’s ­Woman—­Homemaker or Careerist.” Rec­ords from this multiday event include copies of printed programs, speakers’ transcripts, statistics about the number of attendees, and lists of many of the participants, including unmarried female students and faculty, who constituted more than half of the planning committee.8 Most spokespersons at the conference presumed that ­women should prioritize marriage over ­career. Yet the rec­ords attest to the number of single ­women who did not follow this seemingly sage advice—­even when they themselves ­were sometimes the ones dispensing it. As a notable sector of the workforce of teachers, school administrators, dormitory matrons, traveling 4-­H demonstrators, home economics instructors, and domestic-­advice columnists, single ­women w ­ ere often the professional ­faces of the institutions promoting ideals of heteronuclear marriage and ­family. But while touting marriage, ­t hese ­career ­women personally modeled singleness as an eco­nom­ically and socially ­v iable alternative. Was ­t here any tension between what single professional w ­ omen practiced and the marital conformity they often preached? By reading both with and against the grain of public sentiment in ­t hese papers, we can coax even from reluctant files previously neglected stories. In attending to how ­women ­were single rather than why, I want to defamiliarize singleness as a self-­evident state—­t he condition of simply not being legally wed—­and think more of its effects and affects in ­women’s lives and cultural productions. ­Doing so may begin with looking at how w ­ omen do or do not self-­identify. In determining who counts as single, Rudolph Bell and V ­ irginia Yans in ­Women on Their Own argue for relying on l­egal understandings of marital status, a practice that intends to expose rather than reinforce state regulation of intimate lives.9 Accordingly, we might consider never-­married ­people (more affirmatively termed


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ever-­single or long-­term singles) alongside divorcées, w ­ idows, or even t­ hose Bella DePaulo deems as “socially coupled,” such as long-­term romantic ­couples or cohabitating partners.10 How ­women self-­identify as single in archival rec­ords reflects the evolution of l­ egal and vernacular terminology for marital status. Does a w ­ oman refer to herself in diaries or even jokingly in letters as “unmarried,” “spinster,” “old maid,” “bachelor-­girl,” or “singleton”? Which terms seem in vogue during a par­ tic­u­lar period? Does someone check or leave empty a box for “single” on a school, job, or loan application filed away with her personal papers? By noting how ­women describe themselves—or w ­ hether they refuse marital categorizations altogether— we see the ways that ­women negotiate between their state-­sanctioned civil status and the more localized and personal meanings of their social position. Single w ­ omen are both more and less easy to identify than their married counter­parts in many archival collections. ­Because ever-­single ­women seldom change their surnames over the course of their lives, we may be able to identify them fairly consistently across census rec­ords, city directories, school rec­ords, or correspondence. Looking for ­women listed with the appellation “Miss” also would seem like an obvious method for finding single w ­ omen. Yet titles can misleadingly pre­sent ­women’s projected or externally perceived marital status. For example, the capacious title “Mrs.” can obscure the presence of ­w idows, divorcées, and ­others who may append that title for the sake of respectability. In her autobiographical account Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861), Harriet Jacobs details how, u ­ nder the terms of slavery, she was denied a l­ egal marriage to the man of her choice. Even when ­later ­free and legally able to marry someone ­else, Jacobs seems not to have done so. Yet her name customarily appears as “Mrs. Jacobs” in nineteenth-­century newspapers that celebrate her abolitionist writing and her charitable work for newly freed ­people. Jacobs also occasionally seems to have been identified as a ­w idow. Over the years, she appears in local city directories listed as a w ­ idow associated with three dif­fer­ent men’s names, including her own f­ ather’s first name. In t­ hese cases, the census recorder may have made an error in transcribing Jacobs’s status. But it is just as likely, as biographer Jean Fagan Yellin suggests, that Jacobs chose some name “plucked from the air to hush a questioner intruding into her privacy.”11 While in Incidents Jacobs had confessed her unwed pregnancy during slavery, being identified as a w ­ idow lent her the esteem of a once-­married ­house­holder. In other rec­ords, ever-­single ­women may be misrepresented with the titles “Mrs.” or “Mr.,” particularly by third parties such as marketers, reporters, or business correspondents. This irreverent pattern suggests that many observers took for granted that ­women, especially ­mothers or middle-­aged ­women, ­were or had been married. Companies often addressed business letters with the title “Mr.,” assuming the masculine gender of the head of h ­ ouse­hold or person transacting business. Thus, when Fannie Rosser, in Durham, North Carolina, received letters from a city tax office and insurance com­pany in the 1920s and 1930s, the salutations did not anticipate Rosser’s status as a single female homeowner. Besides owning her Durham home, Rosser maintained rental property in ­Virginia, settled her ­father’s estate, and managed personal loans to at least one married c­ ouple out of

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her single income as a bookkeeper.12 Ever-­single w ­ omen ­were especially liable to be mislabeled by title, when ­people assumed that maturely aged ­women surely must be married. To try to disambiguate the conflation between singleness and youth, one Black newspaper as early as the 1890s contended that ­there needed to be a designation besides “Miss” for single w ­ omen over age thirty. Summarizing a debate ­earlier printed in Vogue magazine, the Salt Lake City Broad Ax invited its African American readers to consider w ­ hether it is “a distinct disadvantage for a person no longer young to be compelled to the perpetual announcement of her unwedded state.”13 The article considers it “ridicu­lous that spinsters of 30 and more should have to go through life labeled with the non-­adult Miss.”14 The writer seems to have had less concern over troubling the somewhat unfavorable term spinsters. Still, the provocative discussion about age-­appropriate nomenclatures for marital status, as well as typographical labeling in letters, attest to how the increasing presence of long-­term single ­women complicated the conventions of gendered honorifics, especially in the era before the title “Ms.” gained widespread circulation. In analyzing how w ­ omen identify as single, researchers can attune to how single w ­ omen’s print or oral accounts reveal any tensions in language, tone, verb tense, or shifts between first-­and third-­person modes of self-­address. Jill Reynolds and Margaret Wetherell have noted that, in answer to the interminable question “Why are you still single?” single w ­ omen tend to frame their explanations through the narrative modes of “apology and confession.”15 While Reynolds and Wetherell draw their examples from the rhetorical gestures of modern-­day single ­women, their insights may apply to e­ arlier historical contexts as well. B ­ ecause remaining single could itself be viewed as suspect in many eras, unmarried ­women aimed to pre­ sent themselves as still marriageable or, if contentedly single, at least respecting marriage as an institution. The published work and collected papers of Jane Edna Hunter, ­housed at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio, perfectly exemplify this mix of a single ­woman’s apology and confession, along with self-­conscious in­de­ pen­dence. Using the title “Miss” while keeping her married surname, Hunter, ­after leaving her husband, Jane Edna Hunter positioned herself in Northeast Ohio as an advocate for Black female advancement. In her autobiography, A Nickel and a Prayer (1940), Hunter balances humility with shrewd business sense in detailing her upward mobility. Joining what would become the wave of African American urban migration in the twentieth c­ entury, Hunter moved to Cleveland in 1905 in search of greater job opportunities as a nurse. But ­because unmarried ­women ordinarily lived with their parents or families, even well into adulthood, a single ­woman moving to a new city relatively alone could have trou­ble securing living space. This was especially so for single Black w ­ omen who encountered housing segregation or discriminatory price hikes. Even institutions such as the Young ­Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) that offered temporary housing usually excluded Black ­women.16 Based on her own difficulty in finding safe, affordable housing, Hunter or­ga­nized with friends to commit a weekly nickel and hopeful prayer ­toward establishing a group residence for Black working ­women who ­were


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new to the city. Founded in 1911, the Phillis Wheatley Association (PWA) home would grow to ­house hundreds of ­women, most but not all of whom ­were single; the PWA also expanded to offer nonresidential community ser­v ices for c­ hildren and families. Comparing the published version of Hunter’s autobiography with early manuscripts raises questions about the writer’s angst over ­whether and how to reveal her past marriage and the terms of her singleness. As a teenager, Hunter yielded to parental pressure to marry a much older man against her w ­ ill, and they separated ­after l­ittle more than a year. In manuscript form, Hunter initially explains that ­because her “poor m ­ other did not know the value of education,” she wanted to curtail her d ­ aughter’s schooling and in­de­pen­dent wage earning by marrying her off to a financially stable man. “I ran off from home to keep from marrying,” Hunter shares.17 At her ­mother’s behest, however, Jane does marry Edward Hunter, though unhappily. In the manuscript, Hunter initially crosses out this passage about her marriage but ­later includes a revised account in the final published volume. What is at stake in t­ hese changes? Why does Hunter waver over w ­ hether to disclose her past? I agree with critic Rhondda Robinson Thomas that Hunter “may have been more reluctant to share this part of her life story.”18 Yet I am also interested in how the revised version courts readers’ empathy not only through apology and confession but also with a strong and repeated affirmation of the institution of marriage. The published version of A Nickel and a Prayer insists that Hunter’s g­ reat regard for marriage, not her disregard for it, prompted her to leave her husband. As she explains, “I am sure that it is wrong to live in wedlock without mutual affection. ­A fter some fifteen months of ­mental anguish, I de­cided to leave.”19 This version emphasizes a lack of love and compatibility as the primary reason the marriage ends. For many of the book’s original readers, knowing that Hunter left a “loveless marriage” may have been more sentimentally appealing than another explanation she also provides: leaving her husband allowed her to “find and keep the freedom I so ardently desired.”20 Without declaring one interpretation of the print rec­ord as more “true” or “au­t hen­tic” than ­others, a singles approach to the archive allows us to at least ask ­whether Hunter’s public idealization of romantic marriage in the published version of A Nickel and a Prayer may be as much performative as transparent. If, as literary historian Lois Brown reminds us, “African American pre­sen­ta­tions of private self often are disseminated in order, literally, to finance public work,” Hunter’s work of fund­rais­ing and building a housing complex for single w ­ omen depended on a public claim to convention.21 Representing single Black ­women as vulnerable, in need of charitable protection, and respectably committed to marital aspirations was more likely to attract philanthropists’ dollars. Reading counterfactually, we might question ­whether Hunter had an option to assert her single-­minded ambition for personal freedom and education without remorse over her failed marriage. What kind of message would that have sent about single w ­ omen, a population that many observers already feared as heedless libertines or “man-­haters” intent on disrupting the social order of American ­family life? Hunter’s dilemma

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about how to shape her autobiography may have been partly about how to tell the story of single w ­ omen’s ­career success. What w ­ ere the public role models or fictional story lines that could have shown her how to plot a w ­ oman’s upward mobility with neither a romantic culmination nor regret? While the inquiry “Why are you single (again or still)?” may not appear explicit in the texts we examine, single female writers and in­for­mants often indirectly respond to this question in accounting for their decision-­making and life trajectory. Noting that narratives like Hunter’s risk disrupting the expected “happy ending” of romantic coupling, I suggest that a second approach to a singles-­studies archival method is to acknowledge both the absence and the presence of evidence about singles’ romantic and sexual expression. Finding traces of ­earlier single Black ­women’s intimate lives can often be difficult, and for good reason. Scholars have highlighted how Black ­women enact what Darlene Clark Hine calls the “culture of dissemblance” and silence, in order to outlive sexual vio­lence and deny racist ste­reo­t ypes of sexual wantonness.22 African American w ­ omen may have hesitated to disclose their sexual history or practices, even in forms such as diaries. By contrast, several Black feminist scholars have argued for interpreting Black w ­ omen’s sexuality not through tropes of silence and vulnerability but in terms of agency and plea­sure. Shoniqua Roach notes, however, that t­ hese two approaches may create a false binary that “conflate[s] silence with invisibility, domesticity, privacy and subjection,” while crediting Black ­women’s confessions with “visibility, speech, publicity and liberation.”23 For Black w ­ omen, both keeping one’s sexuality private and disclosing it can be precarious acts, suggesting that, as Roach proposes, scholars need to attend to “quiet articulations of black erotic freedom.”24 What scholars have often disavowed as Black ­women’s silence may indeed be subtlety or quietude, a more strategic assertion of self-­representation that need not be radical, subversive, or resistant in order to be recognized. Attending to ­these “quiet articulations” helps us to encounter single w ­ omen’s archives being open to the w ­ omen’s sexual declarations and innuendo, but also as convinced by the content that does not appear ­t here. In some ways, this recommendation not to privilege disclosure may appear counterintuitive to the substantial efforts of historical recovery in sexuality studies. By sometimes having to read between the lines of letters, photo­graphs, and personal effects, scholars have been able to identify articulations of queer desire in historical figures whose sexuality was not publicly known or was deliberately repressed in their own time. Reclaiming ­these stories of LGBTQ figures and social life revises and enriches literary and cultural narratives. Still, while some w ­ omen likely chose singleness to accommodate queer desire or same-­sex relationships, treating single ­women without regard to their having a love interest allows for a more flexible understanding of intimacy. For example, in highlighting the possibility of asexual figures and celibate practices reflected in the archives, Ela Przybylo and Danielle Cooper contend, “Only through reading asexually can we expand and newly trou­ble queer understandings of intimacy, polyamory, partnership, kinship, and singleness.”25 Przybylo and Cooper propose that researchers maintain a


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dose of “skepticism of any approach to sexuality that does not question the sociocultural centrality of sex.”26 If intimations of sex are absent from the archive, perhaps it is not ­because sex was omitted or suppressed from the rec­ord but ­because, for some ­people, it was fairly inconsequential. Allowing sexuality to remain as a meaningful ambiguity in the archives can usefully direct our attention to other understandings of single embodiment. Helena Michie and Robyn Warhol propose that bracketing discussions of sex, however temporarily, when examining the lives of unmarried historical figures can enable us to address other ­matters of the material body. “Without sex we can focus on eating, drinking, walking, physical pain, reactions to heat and cold, sketching and the physicality of writing,” and, as Michie and Warhol add, “Each one of ­these activities, of course, can be assumed to be a sublimation or a compensation for a missing sexual experience, but again, we want to take the experiences themselves seriously.”27 Likewise, as Brittney Cooper notes, feminist studies that equate plea­ sure with sexual activity miss the nuances of other ways that African American ­women concerned with racial respectability may express plea­sure in keeping with ­t hose respectability protocols. As Cooper suggests, even the haptic plea­sure of dancing might be read as meaningfully expressing one’s embodiment.28 If we read sexual and physical pleasures as sometimes distinct, we might identify both sexually inactive and active ­people as relating to their bodies through nonerotic but nonetheless sensory experiences. We need not, of course, ignore evidence of ­single ­women’s sexuality. But rather than reading between the lines to identify a single ­woman’s hidden love interests—an inquiry that risks centering the ­couple form in our research about singles—we can follow the line of single ­people’s passions beyond romance and ­human objects of desire. Thus, a third practice that we can emphasize in a singleness archival method is tracking social and professional networks to identify forms of attachment beyond the c­ ouple and f­amily. In this regard, the area of singles studies already benefits from queer and feminist research into w ­ omen’s collaborative organ­izations such as clubs, reading circles, and reform organ­izations.29 For example, scholars have revealed how Black ­women worked together to advance local and national movements, including abolitionism, w ­ omen’s rights, and civil rights, with single ­women playing a role in all of t­ hese. Yet, by being focused on c­ auses, ­t hese studies often have paid less attention to the personal relationships between African American ­women. Admitting that m ­ atters of work and play often necessarily overlap, I want to argue that we need to pay even greater attention to w ­ omen’s friendships and fictive kinships beyond the w ­ omen’s activity-­based organ­izing.30 As singleness studies stands to show us, friendships can be nonproductive relationships that reflect how p ­ eople negotiate their core emotional and fiscal values, their time, and their physical closeness to o ­ thers. Usually reciprocal, friendships may be considered nonproductive in that they are not governed by the market values associated with work relationships (­labor exchanged for wages and benefits) or the demands placed on heterosexual marriage (to produce offspring, domesticity, or other mutual benefits ­under vow). Although single w ­ omen are often assumed as being ­future-­oriented

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t­oward marriage (not married yet) or past-­oriented (formerly married or widowed), social relationships actually reveal how singles voluntarily spend their pre­ sent time. Indeed, singles studies can recover how unmarried ­women temporally conceive of their lifetimes as directed t­ oward p ­ eople, places, and events besides romantic partnering. When studying single Black w ­ omen like Jane Edna Hunter, some of my favorite moments have been finding evidence of friendly visits, gift exchanges, tea times, and leisurely travel, as ­these show how single w ­ omen indeed cultivate full lives and rich memories apart from marriage. Using print archives like letters, receipts, travel itineraries, city directories, historical maps, and train schedules, we can use GIS tracking technology to locate how closely friends or fictive kin in the same city lived to one other, or how single ­women braved interstate transportation to be together. The social columns of African American newspapers sometimes announced when locals hosted out-­of-­town guests. As I add, ­t hese long-­d istance commutes ­were often no small feat for single Black ­women traveling alone and prone to encounter sexual harassment, Jim Crow racism, and segregated transportation. Notably, single ­women’s friendships and professional relationships may also be marked by fractures, tensions, and competitions that are worth noting. While feminist studies in general has taken up the focus on friendship, ­f uture archival work focused on singles and African American w ­ omen in par­tic­u ­lar can continue to examine what w ­ omen’s networks reveal about gender formation, consumption and gift giving, cooperative economics, storytelling and vernacular speech practices among friends, and the leisure cultures in which singles participate.31 As we trace single ­women’s networks of affiliation, evidence of ­t hose connections often remains in nonliterary print items and material artifacts, a category of archival remains that I emphasize as enabling scholars of singleness studies to discover more of the experiential ways that unmarried ­people lived their everyday lives. In Jane Edna Hunter’s collection, I was drawn to a wallet-­size identification card that lists an emergency contact person. If I ­were interested only in Hunter’s authorial persona, this card might appear irrelevant to the composition of her autobiography, A Nickel and a Prayer. But if feminist scholars have revealed how male authors historically benefited from the support of invisible w ­ omen—­such as ­mothers, ­sisters, and wives who managed their ­house­hold needs, or female secretaries who typed manuscripts—­t hen we likewise should inquire how unmarried ­women authors amassed the fiscal, physical, and intellectual resources to cultivate their art. In Hunter’s case, part of the answer might rest on the other­wise negligible stock card from her wallet. Completing an identification card or demographic form is a quotidian moment, when respondents’ relationship status exceeds the often preset options of boxes or short-­form dotted lines. While spouses often serve reciprocally as each other’s next of kin, for unwed p ­ eople, the next of kin or most immediate support may apply to a broader range of referents, including parents, siblings, friends, cohabitants, and romantic partners in nonmarital relationships. For a moment, I want to imagine the tactile experience of Hunter voluntarily filling out that card. Determining who to list as an emergency contact might be based


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on a number of f­actors: a person’s physical proximity, trustworthiness, and the likelihood that the contact person ­will have the time, resources, and loyalty to respond when needed. Does Hunter pause when determining whose name to supply? Is the pro­cess of completing this card a momentary reminder of her unwed state? If so, filling out an identification card may be classed among what Elizabeth  A. Sharp and Lawrence Ganong identify as triggering events for singles, such as the bouquet toss at a wedding, when single w ­ omen’s unwed status is made hypervisible.32 From a dif­fer­ent ­a ngle, filling out a card may be a rote activity, requiring l­ ittle self-­reflection, as someone mechanically provides the details. ­W hether filling out the card was rote or reflective for Hunter, the card reveals her spontaneous, voluntary thought about her means of care and support beyond the form of the nuclear f­ amily. Likewise, in other documents such as address books, ­wills, promissory notes, receipts of loans and gifts to friends and f­ amily, medical directives, and instructions that the ­women sometimes leave for their own memorials or funerals, we see the way that they make public their intentional social attachments. Though we are unlikely to recuperate the ephemeral act of transcription for Hunter’s card by knowing exactly what she thought, asking questions about both the card’s content and function is nonetheless significant. In Hunter’s case, she first supplies the name of her longtime personal secretary, Ethel Storey. Storey’s typed name is ­later scratched through and replaced with the handwritten name “Eliza Thompson.”33 While the erasures or updates on that card would seem to shore up single p ­ eople’s impermanent social attachments, the erasure also exposes the illusion that, by contrast, marriage is permanent and forever. Both conditions are as easily dissolved or transformed. What is more, Hunter’s identification card highlights how singleness is enacted through a repeated series of social relations and everyday acts. If marriage is a state of two (or more, in the case of polygamy) becoming one, enacted through public vows and anniversaries, ­singleness, too, is renewed through a series of special occasions and everyday ­per­for­mances, such as designating a nonfamilial emergency contact. While I consider archival pieces such as this card as l­ittle gems, many collections thwart speculation about the everyday ­matters of ­women’s single lives. Feminist scholars often have critiqued and responded to historical gaps in the archive, ­whether introduced by the historical subjects themselves or by the se­lection and curation pro­cesses of individual repositories. The w ­ omen themselves or their legatees who donated the materials sometimes redact information, w ­ hether by excising passages, ripping out pages, burning, or other­w ise attempting to destroy materials. Con­temporary scholars may regret ­t hese omissions, wishing always to know what is left out. But we also can re­spect the affirmative decision that many single ­women may have made to control their stories through ­t hese acts of self-­ censorship and self-­curation. Singleness studies aims to depart from previous disciplinary frameworks that have pathologized singleness as a “prob­lem” needing to be remedied. This laudable aim may tempt us to approach the archive to recuperate “in­de­pen­dent” single ­women who w ­ ere content with their state. Yet my fifth recommendation is to

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acknowledge the range of repre­sen­ta­t ions of singleness reflected in the archive, including t­ hose with which we as researchers may not personally identify or agree. Indeed, in my research, I confess to wanting to find unmarried Black ­women who flout patriarchal systems, relish being child-­free, and mobilize their singleness to set the world aflame. Sometimes I do; sometimes I do not. Not all instances of singleness are necessarily acts of re­sis­tance to marriage. In my research, I find some ­women who express their loneliness or equate their singleness with failure, and apparently long for a traditional heteronormative ­family life. How should we assess the lives of single ­women who apparently internalize and affirm the superiority of coupling? What can they show us about the historically coercive force of marriage and what scholars S. Pearl Brilmyer, Filippo Trentin, and Zairong Xiang call the “ontology of the ­couple”: the condition or expectation “to have one’s identity or experience bound up for some duration with another”?34 ­People’s experiences of singleness are individualized and inflected by other f­ actors of positionality, such as race, age, disability, religion, and class. For some ­women, living on one salary rather than two, or aging far away from f­ amily may require occasional or repeated dependence rather than in­de­pen­dence from one’s kin, extended network, or social ser­v ices. Perhaps, like me, other scholars w ­ ill begin to use the often vaunted word in­de­pen­dent more cautiously, taking for granted neither its positive effects nor its inevitability for all single ­women. Bringing both curiosity and re­spect to the archives, we can devise adaptive archival strategies that center singles’ lives. I have sometimes honestly been stumped—­but mostly exhilarated—in trying to tease out the social and artistic productions and biographies of single Black w ­ omen who, by their very numbers, self-­ presentation, and collective influence, helped to make long-­term singleness a more ­v iable option for w ­ omen. Th ­ ese ­women’s lit­er­a­ture, lives, and legacies invite us to understand their view of singleness, sometimes by resisting the appeal of romantic closure. Instead, we can trace single w ­ omen’s social networks and use nonliterary sources, including print and material objects, to recover some traces of everyday experiences. By amassing and analyzing diverse literary and cultural accounts from the archives, scholars can be poised to lodge trenchant historicized analyses of single w ­ omen’s lives.

notes 1. ​By referring to singleness as a lifestyle, I mean a sustained or deliberate pattern of habits, perspectives, or relations that entail more than preparation for marriage. 2. ​Bella DePaulo, “The Urgent Need for a Singles Studies Discipline,” Signs 42, no. 4 (2017): 1015. 3. ​Jean-­Christophe Cloutier, Shadow Archives: The Lifecycles of African American Lit­er­a­ ture (New York: Columbia University Press, 2019), 2. 4. ​Digital humanities proj­ects and collaboration among scholars, archivists, book and art collectors, and librarians all enhance the pro­cesses for conducting research on ­women. See Kate Eichhorn, The Archival Turn in Feminism: Outrage in Order (Philadelphia: T ­ emple University Press, 2013); Alexis Pauline Gumbs, “Seek the Roots: An Immersive and Interactive Archive of Black Feminist Practice,” Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of W ­ omen’s Studies Resources 32, no. 1 (Winter 2011): 17–20.


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5. ​Carby, Hartman, and Hicks locate single ­women within their studies of Black urban life. Hunter’s focus on Black marriage highlights the situations of unwed w ­ omen, while Hine and Shaw reveal the predominance of single w ­ omen in professional fields such as teaching, nursing, and social work. Hazel Carby, “Policing the Black ­Woman’s Body in an Urban Context,” Critical Inquiry 18, no.  4 (1992): 738–755; Saidiya  V. Hartman, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (New York: W.  W. Norton, 2019); Tera Hunter, Bound in Wedlock: Slave and F ­ ree Black Marriage in the Nineteenth ­Century (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2017); Darlene Clark Hine, Black ­Women in White: Racial Conflict and Cooperation in the Nursing Profession, 1890–1950 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989); Stephanie  J. Shaw, What a ­Woman ­Ought to Be and to Do: Black Professional W ­ omen Workers during the Jim Crow Era (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996); Cheryl D. Hicks, Talk with You Like a W ­ oman: African American W ­ omen, Justice, and Reform in New York, 1890–1935 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010). 6. ​Michael Cobb, Single: Arguments for the Uncoupled (New York: New York University Press, 2012), 5. 7. ​See, for example, a special issue of differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies (29, no. 2 [2018]), devoted to the topic of Black marriage, guest edited by Ann duCille. 8. ​ P roceedings of the Twenty-­Third Annual Homemaking Institute, Bennett College, Greensboro, North Carolina, April 3–8, 1949, Thomas F. Holgate Library, Bennett College. 9. ​Rudolph M. Bell and ­Virginia Yans, “Introduction,” in ­Women on Their Own: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Being Single, ed. Rudolph  M. Bell and ­Virginia Yans (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2008), 3. Bell and Yans elaborate: “Civil status offers a con­ve­nient and manageable criterion for determining who is, and who is not, single. In the modern world, where state rules regulate much of the social life, including the ­legal control and privileging of marriage, the categories of never married, divorced, separated, widowed, and cohabiting offer a logical beginning” for studying single w ­ omen. 10. ​Bella DePaulo, Singled Out: How Singles Are Ste­reo­typed, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever ­After (New York: St.  Martin’s Press, 2006), 3. DePaulo distinguishes h ­ ere between ­t hose who are legally wed and socially coupled, as observers may still recognize the latter as being involved in a serious attachment, but not legally bound. 11. ​Jean Fagan Yellin, Harriet Jacobs: A Life (New York: Civitas, 2003), 92. 12. ​Fannie  B. Rosser Papers, David  M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University, Durham, NC. 13. ​“­Shall It Be ‘Mistress’? How the Spinster Suffers from Being Called ‘Miss,’ ” Broad Ax, June 4, 1898, 3. 14. ​“­Shall It Be ‘Mistress’?,” 3. 15. ​Jill Reynolds and Margaret Wetherell, “The Discursive Climate of Singleness: The Consequences for ­Women’s Negotiation of Single Identity,” Feminism and Psy­chol­ogy 13, no. 4 (2003): 490. 16. ​The Ladies Christian Association, ­later known as the Young ­Women’s Christian Association, or YWCA, opened a boarding­house for students and working ­women in New York in 1860. Early sites w ­ ere often racially restrictive, and the growth of branches designated for African Americans spread unevenly across the country. The national YWCA a­ dopted the Interracial Charter prohibiting segregation throughout its branches in 1946 (http://­w ww​ .­y wca​.­org​/­site​/­c.​ c­ uIRJ7NTKrLaG​/ ­b​.­7515891​/­k ​.­C524​/­History​.­htm). 17. ​Jane Edna Hunter Papers, 1930–1969, Western Reserve Historical Society Research Library, Cleveland, OH. 18. ​Jane Edna Hunter, A Nickel and a Prayer, ed. Rhondda Robinson Thomas (Morgantown: West V ­ irginia University Press, 2011), 176. 19. ​Hunter, 57. 20. ​Hunter, 58. 21. ​Lois Brown, “Death-­Defying Testimony: ­Women’s Private Lives and the Politics of Public Documents,” Legacy 27, no. 1 (2010): 132.

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22. ​Darlene Clark Hine, “Rape and the Inner Lives of Black W ­ omen in the M ­ iddle West,” Signs 14, no. 4 (1989): 912–920. 23. ​Shoniqua Roach, “Black Sex in the Quiet,” Differences 30, no.  1 (May  2019): 130, https://­doi​.­org​/1­ 0​.1­ 215​/­10407391​-­7481302. 24. ​Roach, 129. 25. ​Ela Przybylo and Danielle Cooper, “Asexual Resonances: Tracing a Queerly Asexual Archive,” GLQ 20, no. 3 (2014): 304. 26. ​Przybylo and Cooper, 299. 27. ​Helena Michie and Robyn Warhol, Love among the Archives: Writing the Lives of George Scharf, Victorian Bachelor (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), 115, 10. Thinking critically about how the search for a romance plot—­heterosexual, queer, or other­ wise—­often informs how archival researchers assess biographical details, Michie and Warhol suggest that the Victorian bachelor they study, George Scharf, may (or may not) have had a romantic relationship with one or more of the male acquaintances who frequented his residence. E ­ ither way, the critics propose that Scharf’s more traceable pleasures ­were expressed not sexually but gastronomically, as he was an inveterate foodie who hosted elaborate meals, was a frequent dinner guest, and recorded much of what he ate. 28. ​Brittney Cooper, Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race ­ Women (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017), 74. 29. ​Literary and cultural studies on bachelor culture also contribute to singleness studies. Based on works such as Howard Chudacoff’s The Age of the Bachelor: Creating an American Subculture (Prince­ton, NJ: Prince­ton University Press, 1999), I propose that one gendered difference in nineteenth-­century and early twentieth-­century experiences of singleness is that bachelors ­were, ­earlier and more often, the target audience of public and semipublic sites dedicated to them, including saloons and fraternal lodges. Many single ­women gathered in homes, churches, or physical sites not expressly commissioned for their use. 30. ​Two exceptions are scholarly studies on nineteenth-­century Black ­women’s friendship ­a lbums and on ­women’s interracial friendships. For more on friendship ­albums, which friends circulated to share signatures, poetry, and sentimental inscriptions with one another, see Erica R. Armstrong, “A ­Mental and Moral Feast: Reading, Writing, and Sentimentality in Black Philadelphia,” Journal of ­Women’s History 16, no.  1 (Spring 2004): 78–102; Jasmine Nichole Cobb, “ ‘Forget Me Not’: F ­ ree Black ­Women and Sentimentality,” MELUS: Multi-­ Ethnic Lit­er­a­ture of the United States 40, no. 3 (Fall 2015): 28–46; Nazera Sadiq Wright, Black Girlhood in the Nineteenth ­Century (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016). A striking example of attention to ­women’s interracial connections appears in Joycelyn Moody and Sarah R. Robbins, “Seeking Trust and Commitment in ­Women’s Interracial Collaboration in the Nineteenth ­Century and ­Today,” MELUS: Multi-­Ethnic Lit­er­at­ ure of the United States 38, no. 1 (2013): 50–75. 31. ​Based on archival research on Black ­women’s letters, two groundbreaking studies in this direction are Farah Jasmine Griffin, ed., Beloved ­Sisters and Loving Friends: Letters from Rebecca Primus of Royal Oak, Mary­land, and Addie Brown of Hartford, Connecticut, 1854–1868 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999); Mary Maillard, ed., Whispers of Cruel Wrongs: The Correspondence of Louisa Jacobs and Her Circle, 1879–1911 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2017). 32. ​Elizabeth A. Sharp and Lawrence Ganong, “ ‘I’m a Loser, I’m Not Married, Let’s Just All Look at Me’: Ever-­Single ­Women’s Perceptions of Their Social Environment,” Journal of ­Family Issues 32, no. 7 (2011): 971. 33. ​Jane Edna Hunter Papers, 1930–1969. 34. ​S. Pearl Brilmyer, Filippo Trentin, and Zairong Xiang, “Introduction: The Ontology of the ­Couple,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 25, no. 2 (2019): 217–218, https://­doi​ .­org​/­10​.­1215​/1­ 0642684​-­7367703.

chapter 2

Reclaiming Single ­Women’s Work gender, melodrama, and the pro­cesses of adaptation in the best of every­thing Jennifer S. Clark

When preparing to write The Best of Every­thing, a 1958 novel about unmarried ­women who work at a Manhattan publishing com­pany, Rona Jaffe interviewed fifty ­women about their experiences with premarital sex, ­career pressures, sexual harassment, and abortion. Jaffe’s research helped her craft realistic characterizations of single life with which her target audience could identify. “I thought that if I could help one young w ­ oman sitting in her tiny apartment thinking she was all alone and a bad girl,” said Jaffe, “then the book would be worthwhile.”1 By the time the film version of The Best of Every­thing (1959) made it to theaters, the groundbreaking authenticity of Jaffe’s work had been transformed into what Hollywood Reporter reviewer Jack Moffitt described as a “big, glittering, gaudy Hollywood screen spectacle of New York ­career girls, telling through many parallel parables of the old, old story of ‘He done her wrong.’ ”2 A comparison of the novel and the film versions of The Best of Every­thing situates each text at oppositional poles: on one end, a bold, empathic study of “bad girls” and, on the other, an extravagant yet formulaic Hollywood production. While acknowledging ­t hese differences, this essay explores the pro­cesses of adaptation alongside its final product. ­Doing so brings to light the connective terrain between texts; acknowledges players and forces involved in their production; and illustrates the contentious and, at times, productive strug­gle in bringing the novel to screen. This proj­ect calls on Shelley Cobb’s feminist model of adaptation studies that re­orients us away from “an almost obsessive search for narratological equivalence” between a film and its source material.”3 In lieu of this model, Cobb proposes an approach to adaptation that “privileges a multiplicity of voices in and between texts and theorizes the necessity of that multiplicity for the meaning-­ making of texts.” 4 Arguably, no one was more centrally involved and invested in the adaptation of Jaffe’s novel than Jaffe herself. Since she was not part of the studio workforce, 28

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conventionally defined, Jaffe’s acknowledged association with The Best of Every­ thing has been restricted to the role of author of an adapted novel.5 In real­ity, however, Jaffe devoted a significant amount of ­labor and expertise to the film that extended well-­beyond her author status and involved casting, set design, script, direction, producing, audience research, and marketing. From the film’s preproduction planning, through production shooting, to postproduction editing and promotion, Jaffe intervened on proposed revisions to her novel, particularly t­ hose that evacuated its realistic ele­ments. To do this, she engaged the vari­ous players responsible for turning The Best of Every­thing into a film, navigated multiple channels of influence over the film’s production, and deployed flexible strategies of persuasion to maximize her involvement in the film. This, in turn, bears evidence of adaptation as “a material phenomenon produced by a system of institutional interests and actors” and reveals the stakes involved in representing single womanhood at the midpoint of the twentieth c­ entury.6 To explore the longitudinal path of adaptation of The Best of Every­thing and to highlight Jaffe’s role in it, I call upon letters, memos, production reports, publicity, and correspondence generated around the film’s production. ­These archival materials recenter Jaffe—­a single ­woman who strove to represent single ­women with compassion and complexity—as a central force in the pro­cesses of adaptation. Tracing Jaffe’s involvement in the film version of The Best of Every­thing also illuminates a constellation of other ­women—­among them, director Jean Negulesco’s wife, Jaffe’s publisher, and secretaries at 20th Century-­Fox—­who also helped shape the film.7 Although they w ­ ere excluded from centers of power in the moviemaking world and their impact was not manifestly evident on-­screen, ­women collectively influenced The Best of Every­thing as it made its way from page to screen. Looking at adaptation through its many dynamics, stages, and sites of meaning making therefore makes vis­i­ble ­t hose ­women and their contributions to a major Hollywood production and quin­tes­sen­tial single girl story.

Single Girl Melodrama Melodrama grounds The Best of Every­thing. It operates at the heart of Jaffe’s narrative directed at young, unmarried w ­ omen isolated by shame, and it dramatizes the wronged-­woman story line central to Hollywood spectacle. Yet, as much as melodrama tethers the novel to the film, it operates in critically divergent registers in each text. To Jaffe, ­women’s very existence in 1950s Amer­i­ca fit with melodrama’s valuation of surfaces and their capacity to both mask and reflect social and psychological realities. “It was on the surface such a happy, lovely time,” recalled Jaffe, “but it ­wasn’t like that at all. It was what we pretended.”8 Jaffe used melodrama, in the tensions between the realities of ­women’s suffering and the pretense of the society in which they lived, to “tell the truth” about ­women’s lives.9 This perspective placed Jaffe at odds with a filmmaking industry e­ ager to capitalize on melodrama’s marketability as a genre and to represent w ­ omen, even in their suffering, in “glittering, gaudy” ways.


Jennifer S. Clark

Both the novel and film versions of The Best of Every­thing center on Caroline Bender, a young Radcliffe gradu­ate who moves to New York City to start her ­career as a secretary at Fabian Publishing Com­pany. Once in the city, Caroline befriends and shares an apartment with April Morrison, a naive transplant from Denver, Colorado, and Gregg Adams, a world-­w ise actress who longs to cement her fame in the theater. The single-­woman cast is rounded out by a young, divorced m ­ other who strug­gles to raise her child on her own and support her widowed ­mother; a working-­class w ­ oman from the Bronx who is planning her wedding to her childhood sweetheart; and an embittered middle-­aged editor who temporarily quits her job to marry, only to find that she is ill-­suited to domestic life, gets divorced, and returns to work at Fabian. Caroline, her friends, and her coworkers all strug­g le to navigate urban life, workplace challenges, and romantic dilemmas. While Caroline ultimately succeeds in her aspirations to become an editor, t­ here is as much tragedy as triumph in the ­women’s personal and professional lives. Caroline’s college boyfriend leaves her to marry another w ­ oman and then proposes that she become his mistress, an offer that she refuses. April meets a heartless playboy, becomes pregnant, and is forced to have an abortion. Gregg falls for an emotionally detached theater producer who, ­after living with her, breaks off their relationship, which precipitates her m ­ ental breakdown and death. The melodramatic ele­ments of Jaffe’s novel provided ample material for translation to a Hollywood genre film. But, as “what became known as ‘melodrama’ within Film Studies was never a single cinematic form but rather a hybrid of vari­ ous sub-­genres and film cycles,” Jaffe’s work adhered to distinctive melodramatic traditions.10 While ­family melodrama has come to define film melodrama of the 1950s, The Best of Every­thing brings other melodramatic traditions into view and connects to longer-­standing fascinations with single ­women.11 Rather than a focus on intergenerational conflicts of a middle-­class f­ amily, the hallmark of ­family melo­ omen who dramas, The Best of Every­thing is concerned with young, unmarried w exist in the working world and apart from the stifling confines of the ­family. The “white-­collar girl” of the 1940s, an aspirational young working ­woman who migrated to the city in hopes of finding employment and in­de­pen­dence, presaged The Best of Every­thing and set a pre­ce­dent for its melodramatic potential. The white-­ collar girl conjured the allure of sophisticated urban life along with the novelty of a (culturally, if not eco­nom­ically) middle-­class, wage-­earning White ­woman. The cultural weight of this figure is evidenced by her appearance in advertisements, magazines, newsreels and movie shorts, novels, short stories, and feature-­length fictional films. The March of Time newsreel “White-­Collar Girls” (1948) demonstrates the terms by which the white-­collar girl was defined. The newsreel first informs its audience that, at that moment, one in four American workers are ­women. It then proceeds to document the lives of young ­women who moved to New York City for jobs as secretaries and retail workers and, in notable cases, r­ ose to the executive ranks. Typical repre­sen­ta­tions of white-­collar girls—­March of Time included—­figured them as traditionally gendered in both their occupational skills

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and their personal satisfactions, in spite of their modern in­de­pen­dence. “White-­ Collar Girls” reassured viewers that white-­collar girls brought “patience, application, adaptability, and charm” to their jobs; their “incentives” for succeeding ­were not only power and success but also “material compensations along the way,” which primarily included shopping. “For ­every w ­ oman,” opined the film, “likes to feel that when the state of her morale or her wardrobe calls for a new hat or dress, she can afford to buy one without asking any man’s permission.” Hollywood responded favorably to the mediated figure of the white-­collar girl. Her appealing but potentially threatening ele­ments—­her in­de­pen­dence, unmarried status, and sexual freedom—­were tempered by the cap­i­tal­ist containments of her cosmopolitan, fashion-­conscious lifestyle. Fictional repre­sen­ta­tions of the white-­collar girl frequently added heightened emotion and tragedy to the mix, which Hollywood expanded and adapted to match, and at times update, existing melodramatic conventions. Throughout the development stages of The Best of Every­thing, the film’s producer, Jerry Wald, and o ­ thers at 20th Century-­Fox repeatedly referenced Kitty Foyle as a template for conceptualizing and marketing the film. A 1940 RKO film starring Ginger Rogers, Kitty Foyle was an adaptation of Christopher Morley’s best-­selling novel. It tells the story of a w ­ oman who moves to New York City to work in a department store, falls in love with a wealthy man whose ­family disapproves of their relationship, has an unplanned pregnancy with the baby ­dying at birth, and pragmatically marries another man by the film’s conclusion. Wald’s initial interest in The Best of Every­thing was prompted by Kitty Foyle’s success, and his plans for adaptation ­were founded on associations between Jaffe’s work and Kitty Foyle. In a January 23, 1959, letter to Charles Einfeld, head of promotion at Fox, Wald wrote, “As you know, making this picture at this time is no accident. Ever since KITTY FOYLE I have waited and planned for the right way to pre­sent modern white-­collar girls in a story.”12 Touted by Fox’s publicity director, Harry Brand, as “a frank story of the white-­collar girls of t­oday,” publicity for The Best of Every­thing called upon the pathos of young working ­women’s lives in the big city.13 “Out of the multitude of ­women who come to New York City to  pursue their dreams,” Brand’s copy reads, “Some become happy brides and ­mothers, some shatter themselves against the rocks that rise up before them . . . ​ ­others become brittle, successful business w ­ omen, too often lonely and frus14 trated.” Brand’s publicity materials promise the film buyer: “Not since ‘Kitty Foyle’ has a property come along with the potential and built in woman-­appeal of The Best of Every­thing.”15 Although film executives understood the marketability of Jaffe’s novel through its ties to the white-­collar girl genre, Jaffe resisted telling the same generic tale. Jaffe was well aware of the canon and conventions of the white-­collar-­g irl story and made a point of reading Kitty Foyle in preparation to write The Best of Every­thing. She was also deeply critical of inauthentic repre­sen­ta­tions of working ­women and found much to criticize in the prevailing treatment of white-­collar girls. Jaffe condemned Morley’s novel as “dumb” b ­ ecause Morley did not “know anything about


Jennifer S. Clark

­ omen,” whereas she possessed the requisite knowledge about young working w ­women’s lives through her own experiences.16 Consequently, Jaffe revised traditional white-­collar-­girl repre­sen­ta­tions to underscore, alongside titillating stories of broken hearts and controversial unwanted pregnancies, the many realistic hardships that young working w ­ omen faced. The w ­ omen of Jaffe’s novel suffered from economic precarity, job insecurity, rape, and sexual harassment. Th ­ ese issues ­were ones that Hollywood could represent through existing melodramatic conventions, but the way Jaffe presented ­these issues posed a much greater challenge. Jaffe framed w ­ omen’s suffering in ways that foregrounded its realism, which did not occupy an easy place within Hollywood melodramas specifically, or within Hollywood conventions of spectacle generally. The adaptation pro­cess converted much of the realistic undertones of Jaffe’s melodramatic novel, thereby suggesting pos­si­ble answers to Christine Gledhill’s question: “How does gender get into genre, and what does genre do with it?”17 In order to fit within the par­ameters of film melodrama, Jaffe’s explorations of material concerns involved in w ­ omen’s waiting—­gauging the durability of their wardrobe, the number of meals they could buy before their next paycheck, the timing of their next menstrual cycles with fears of unwanted pregnancies—­were compressed to suit plot conventions and the pacing of Hollywood’s narrative films. Her depictions of underpaid ­women who had ­little hope of ascending the com­pany ladder or living beyond a subsistence level w ­ ere coupled with location shots of New York City in all its urbane sophistication.

Spectacularizing Single ­Women and Their Habitats For Hollywood, a fundamental appeal of single-­woman genres, ­whether melodramatic white-­collar girl films or comedic showgirl and gold digger films, was the glamour of the protagonists and their environment. Emerging film technologies of the early 1950s enhanced t­ hese attractions. When Jean Negulesco was assigned as the director of The Best of Every­thing, he had already proved himself a­ dept at CinemaScope, 20th  Century-­Fox’s proprietary wide-­screen technology. In his direction of How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), the second-­ever film shot in CinemaScope, Negulesco demonstrated the technology’s potential to relate stories beyond historical sagas and mass spectacles. How to Marry a Millionaire was a story of three unmarried ­women who lived in New York City and schemed to ensnare rich men in marriage. According to a BoxOffice review, this film utilized CinemaScope to better advantage than did the very first CinemaScope release, The Robe (1953). Unlike the biblical epic, How to Marry a Millionaire benefited from its “lush, modern, familiar backgrounds” that “len[t] themselves more naturally to the depth-­ illusion filming.”18 The review went on to praise the film’s “breathtakingly beautiful and panoramic shots of New York’s skyline, airplanes in flight, the snow-­clad Maine woods and countless other scenes to which limitless spectacle and scope are contributed through l­ ittle more than the camera.”19 Acclaimed director Joseph Mankiewicz summed up the impact of Negulesco’s film when he wrote to the

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director, “From what we hear, How to Marry a Millionaire is making The Robe look like an old jock strap.”20 CinemaScope was meant to reinstitute Fox’s financial stability at a time when the studio, like all the other major Hollywood studios, was facing economic decline.21 By early 1953, Fox announced that, g­ oing forward, all its films would be shot in CinemaScope. In its public demonstrations of the new technology held over four days in March 1953, Fox showed audiences a compilation reel from three of that year’s releases: How to Marry a Millionaire, The Robe, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.22 The crowd scenes of The Robe presented one potential path that CinemaScope could take, but the other alternative, that of showcasing the bodies of female stars, was where the studio staked its claim. Ariel Rogers observes that, with the success of How to Marry a Millionaire, Fox moved from the “spectacular vistas” of biblical epics to an “offer of close, tactile contact with the screen spectacle as a promise of intimate communion with female bodies, including, most notably, [Marilyn] Monroe.”23 Wide-­screen technologies exhibited novelty and pro­gress, which ­were signaled through the sexually available or otherwise-­liberated w ­ oman, as well as the glamorous modern city she inhabited. How to Marry a Millionaire’s use of the Manhattan skyline, which garnered so much praise, was one that Wald and Negulesco wished to reproduce in The Best of Every­thing. Location shooting in New York City was therefore integral to the film’s appeal. The city’s modernity, signaled through its buildings, appealed to Wald. He requested that Lyle Wheeler, chief art director for the film, provide him with suggestions for on-­location exterior shots. Wald and Wheeler had already discussed the possibilities of the Museum of Modern Art’s garden, the Cloisters, and the UN dining room, but Wald called upon Wheeler’s “up-­to-­date” knowledge of “the changing New York skyline, new buildings, untapped visual areas” in order “to find backgrounds that are dif­fer­ent and ­will be visually welcomed by a world audience.”24 Much like the voy­eur­is­tic, power­f ul position that Michel de Certeau describes as “imaginary totalizations” of the city, plans for The Best of Every­thing prioritized camera a­ ngles that would emphasize the scale of buildings and the iconicity of the skyline.25 Negulesco asked second-­unit director Johnny Graham to frame the city very particularly, writing, “Could you by any chance make us a shot from up high of a New York Street with the newest skyscraper—­very early morning—­with almost nobody on the street . . . ​or very l­ ittle traffic?”26 The first screenwriter for the film, Mann Rubin, suggested to Wald that in the opening credit sequence the camera should “slowly pull back so that our final shot of the city is a distant one as the last credit is announced.”27 If, as de Certeau argues, “the crossing, drifting away, or improvisation of walking privilege, transform or abandon spatial ele­ments” of urban space, then the perspectives proposed by Negulesco and Rubin limit the agency of inhabitants to ­counter the alienating power and disciplining forces of the planned city.28 ­After extended, multiple shots of lofty vistas and empty streets that lead to monumental buildings, the film’s opening moves to scenes of ­women rushing through


Jennifer S. Clark

the city on their morning work commutes. H ­ ere, too, the conceptualization of the space is planned for certain effect. Negulesco reinforced the use of CinemaScope as a means of creating spectacle, in this instance as a way to overwhelm the audience with the volume of w ­ omen’s bodies that populated the screen. He instructed the second unit that “the screen should be absolutely filled” with ­women as they make their way to work, with “cockeyed a­ ngles” and “big CLOSE UPS” that emphasize “feet and legs pouring out of a building.”29 Negulesco’s vision of the crowd, composed primarily of w ­ omen’s fragmented bodies, is a chaotic one. This visualization chimes with feminist geography’s understanding of anx­i­eties about gatherings of ­women—as well as sexual and racially marginalized inhabitants—en masse in city spaces. As Elizabeth Wilson writes of the emergence of w ­ omen in cities in the nineteenth ­century, the urban crowd “was increasingly invested with female characteristics, while retaining its association with criminals and minorities,” and “threatening masses w ­ ere described in feminine terms: as hysterical, or in images of feminine instability and sexuality, as a flood or swamp.”30 Jaffe’s novel, like its film adaptation, opens with repre­sen­ta­tions of the city. But Jaffe’s figuration of the city is distinctively dif­fer­ent from the film’s. The film offers perspectives that start from aerial shots above the city, move to high-­angle shots of the Manhattan skyline, and pro­gress to street-­level shots of deserted ave­nues leading to iconic buildings. Only a­ fter New York City is established in this way does the film cut to crowds streaming onto the streets. In contrast, Jaffe’s first description of Manhattan involves hundreds of ­women “rushing out of the maw of the subway tunnel” and details lengthy, early-­morning commutes from the outer boroughs. Rather than a sunny springtime day in a pristine city, Jaffe opens her novel on “one of t­ hose cold, foggy midwinter mornings in New York, the kind that makes you think of lung ailments.” The crowd is specified according to their class differences, but Jaffe makes it clear that, despite how any of t­ hese working w ­ omen look, “None of them has enough money.”31 All the ­women, even the most fash­ion­able among them, stretch their wardrobes as far as they can and pack their lunches to economize. From the start, unlike the glittering cityscape that garnered such praise from industry publications, Jaffe’s New York is an eco­nom­ically stressful environment for each and e­ very working ­woman. Like Wald and Negulesco, Jaffe had a very clear outlook on how the film should begin and advised Wald that it “should definitely open with scenes of New York in the morning.”32 But, rather than a vision of the city as monumental, modern, and filled with fragmented female bodies and feminized hordes, Jaffe focused on ­women’s lives and experiential qualities of the city. She ­imagined “girls on their way to work, entering big buildings, showing all the excitement of New York on a busy week-­day morning.”33 The existence of “girls” in the city, while energizing for the viewer, was not expressed through the chaos and hysteria of the feminized crowd. Jaffe suggested that the excitement of the urban setting should mimic the opening of Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), a romantic comedy about three unmarried American w ­ omen who work as secretaries in Italy and ultimately fall in love. Promotions for Three Coins in the Fountain emphasized the spectacular

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nature of the film. The film’s trailer boasts, in voice-­over, of CinemaScope’s ability to capture the “eye-­filling setting” of Italian landmarks and to convey the “worldly wicked wonderful story of American girls.”34 If Negulesco, who also directed Three Coins in the Fountain, planned to repeat aesthetic choices of that film in The Best of Every­thing, Jaffe asked for differentiation. Unlike Three Coins in the Fountain, The Best of Every­thing, in Jaffe’s opinion, “should have more of a sense of purpose as we follow the girls across New York.”35 Jaffe valued realistic world building. When she learned of plans to use an inexpensive pro­cess shot rather than location shooting in the film’s production, she worried that the artifice of the setup would be “obvious to one and all.” She suggested to Negulesco that he look to Sweet Smell of Success (1957) as an example of how to shoot in the city on a bud­get. She praised the cheaply produced film ­because “the background was the best part b ­ ecause it was so real” and argued that the “most impor­tant ­t hing about The Best of Every­thing is that it is real, real, real.”36 Using a noir film about corrupt newspaper reporting, failed jazz musicians, and suicide attempts as a point of reference for a melodramatic story of young working w ­ omen may seem incongruous. But, given the role that realism plays in Jaffe’s deployment of melodrama, her reference to a noir film makes sense. Jaffe saw beyond the highly gendered bound­aries of Hollywood genres to see the connective point, via realism, between her melodramatic rendering of w ­ omen’s lives in the city and that of noir’s hypermasculine articulation of urban life. The majority of The Best of Every­thing is set in apartments and other interior spaces and was shot on constructed sets. Jaffe was as concerned with the realism of t­ hese locations as she was with exterior shooting. She proposed sets for the characters’ apartments that approximated the a­ ctual existence of real-­life New York working w ­ omen: they emphasized ordinariness and economic scarcity while sustaining the cosmopolitanism of the location. When describing a terrace to Negulesco, for instance, Jaffe emphasized that it should be context-­appropriate, “not a glamorous Hollywood’s style.”37 Jaffe laid out specific instructions in order to achieve this aesthetic: “The view it affords is of other ­houses, the peculiar hardy trees that grow in the poor soil of Greenwich Village, clotheslines, and other ­people’s terraces and gardens. Since this is a walk-up, the view cannot be of a New York skyline, but it has its own kind of glamor ­because it is a view of the lives of many p ­ eople.”38 Two weeks l­ ater, Jaffe wrote to Negulesco again to detail a cramped set, where “three girls are living in an apartment which was designed for two.”39 She also provided the costs and sources for furnishings that would be typical of an apartment where w ­ omen made “a ­great attempt to be chic on NO money.” 40 While Jaffe was concerned with the microgeographic realities of Greenwich Village, she was also concerned that the pendulum would swing from one extreme to the other—­from Hollywood-­manufactured fantasies of lavish New York pent­ houses to the male-­oriented bohemianism of the Village. She beseeched Negulesco to rein in set decoration and prevent the apartment from becoming “too Villagey,” and she provided direction to Edith Sommer, the screenwriter hired to replace Rubin, to change the description of a sofa that was once an automobile seat.


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Jaffe chided: “No girl I have ever known would endure a sofa like that; it belongs to a male jazz musician.” 41 Jaffe’s concerns about associations between masculine hipness and the Village setting ­were not unfounded. She frequently corrected screenwriter Mann Rubin and his male-­oriented imagining of the world. Jaffe’s feedback on one of Rubin’s scripts included the question: “Why does Caroline have to talk like the poor man’s Mort Sahl? She’s a sweet girl.” 42 Even if the thought of Sahl’s serving as the model for Caroline Bender seems laughably incongruous, Jaffe’s concerns about beatnik masculinity ­were well-­founded. At one point, Wald considered adding a Jack Kerouac–­like male author to the film and consulted none other than Sahl himself in the pro­cess. Although it never materialized on film, Sahl pitched a plan to Wald to “justify the inclusion of the ‘beat generation’ writer” in the Best of Every­thing based on his research of Kerouac’s writings, Beat poetry, a suppressed 1959 edition of The Chicago Review, and Sahl’s own experience living in San Francisco.43

Strategic Femininity: Authenticity, Relationship-­Building, and Influence in Hollywood Production Cultures When 20th Century-­Fox hired Jaffe as a con­sul­tant for The Best of Every­thing, it clearly hoped to exploit her celebrity and her authenticity as a real-­world “single girl.” But the very qualities that defined the single girl—­educated, unmarried, career-­oriented, and ambitious—­made Jaffe disruptive as well as desirable to Holly­ wood. When the studio tried to diminish her contributions to the film’s production, Jaffe pushed back and asserted her value as a single w ­ oman to the men in charge. For example, when Jaffe inquired about what her advisory role to the production entailed, she was told by Ira Tulipan, publicity man­ag­er at Fox, that she would oversee relatively minor details. According to Tulipan, Jaffe should weigh in on the type of bread that would be used for a working w ­ oman’s lunchtime sandwich, or w ­ hether a par­tic­u ­lar costume design reflected East Coast or West Coast sensibilities. Jaffe responded to Tulipan’s trivialization of her advisory role with an equally condescending attitude. When expressing her frustration about Tulipan in a letter to Wald, Jaffe first wrote, “I think he’s cute.” 44 She then made a case for what she saw as the priorities of the film and her unique ability to help actualize them. “I feel strongly that details in this par­tic­u ­lar picture should be correct from a working girl’s point of view,” wrote Jaffe.45 Based on this assertion, she informed Wald that she should be invited on set to advise on a wide range of more substantive issues. Jaffe contributed to the film’s production in ways that a producer, set designer, casting director, screenwriter, publicity agent, and costume designer might. Her amorphous job title of con­sul­tant meant that her ­labor was alternatively valued and disregarded, depending on how much it infringed on the authority of ­t hose in power. At certain moments, Wald and ­others at 20th Century-­Fox welcomed Jaffe’s expertise and willingness to devote considerable, uncredited, and often uncompensated l­abor to the film. At other times, particularly when Jaffe challenged the

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status quo or infringed on another production worker’s expertise, her efforts w ­ ere dismissed, and she was disciplined as someone who exceeded her advisory role. When Jaffe’s concerns about the authenticity of an apartment set led her not only to provide copious notes about furnishings but also to draw an architecturally styled plan, she overstepped a line. This rather innocuous contribution generated considerable conflict between Jaffe and Wald and sparked another episode in an ongoing feud between them. By this point, Wald had already spread misinformation in the press about his role in developing Jaffe’s novel and had chided Jaffe about her agent’s intervention in pay negotiations for her advisory role. Presumably, in providing her sketch for the apartment, Jaffe felt she should receive compensation, something Wald was unwilling to do. For a stretch of time, Wald and Jaffe’s falling-­out was so intense that Wald effectively cut off all communication with Jaffe, who was then forced to work through Negulesco to voice any advice she had about the production. The apartment sketch rift grew beyond the initial issue of payment to one of reputation and control. Jaffe related her frustration to Negulesco by writing to him, “Listen . . . ​one of the editors of ‘Cosmopolitan’ who was at the press party told me that Jerry Wald told her that I had REFUSED to send him the description of the girls’ apartment for THE BEST OF EVERY­THING and that I NEVER SENT IT TO HIM! You know that is a big fat lie, as I sent it to you and you sent it to the set department, and what’s the difference anyway[?]” 46 As her dispute with Wald demonstrates, Jaffe utilized emotional appeals and expression in her professional relationships. This type of “emotional ­labor,” as identified in Arlie Hochschild’s classic so­cio­log­i­cal study of gendered l­abor, orchestrates feeling “that produces the proper state of mind in ­others.” 47 When she broached a reconciliation with Wald—­six days a­ fter she wrote to Negulesco to complain about Wald’s slander—­Jaffe asked him, “Please write me a letter immediately and tell me that we are still friends as we w ­ ere before we started to feud over payment for the set of an apartment. That was too silly to have caused all this wasted emotion.” 48 Jaffe then emphasized yet again the sociability of their relationship, saying, “­There is no reason for two p ­ eople who are as good friends as I hope and feel we are to pick and hack at each other over a ridicu­lous misunderstanding.” 49 In cultivating relationships with men in power, Jaffe called upon interpersonal dynamics to conduct business m ­ atters; selectively deferred to men’s authority; and situated herself as an unmarried w ­ oman with an ability to assess men’s worth, typically in flattering ways. Jaffe exploited characteristics that typically w ­ ere used against ­women and resulted in their disempowerment. She strategically turned ­t hese demerits into assets, much like w ­ omen working in Hollywood film studios who deployed feminized characteristics “to carve out a niche for themselves while reassuring the advantage they offered was complementary, not competitive.”50 When broaching a truce with Wald, Jaffe called for a harmonious coexistence between her “writing ability” and Wald’s “promotional genius,” which ­were “two separate and dif­fer­ent ­things.” To reassure Wald of his impor­tant role in their working relationship, Jaffe wrote: “One does not detract from the other. Th ­ ere is no reason why both can not exist side by side.” Jaffe brought her appeal home by couching


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the benefits of a cooperative professional relationship in personal terms: “­There is also no reason why you and I can not continue to be the best of friends, each aware of the other’s contribution to an effort which happened to turn out extraordinarily well for both of us.”51 Jaffe’s relationship with director Jean Negulesco differed considerably from the one she had with Wald. Jaffe socialized with Negulesco at his home and developed a relationship with his spouse. In her frequent correspondence to Negulesco, Jaffe shifted between professional and personal ­matters, often within the same document. Jaffe’s letters to Negulesco contained affectionate salutations (“Dear, dear Johnny”) and closes (“Hugs and kisses” and hand-­drawn hearts). In a note that accompanied the hardback version of her novel that she sent to Negulesco, Jaffe dedicated the gift to the director, “who does something for me emotionally.”52 Although t­ here is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the personal relationship between Jaffe and Negulesco, it is clear that Jaffe called upon this relationship to articulate her professional opinions, soften her critique of decisions made on the film’s production, and frame requests. When asking Negulesco to consider location shooting over cheaper pro­cess shots, Jaffe offered an apol­og­ etic, but nonetheless impassioned, personal plea. “I know this is none of my business,” she admitted, “but I feel emotionally and deeply about the Best of Every­t hing.” When writing to Negulesco about casting choices for the film, Jaffe assured him that he was “older and wiser” than she was, and therefore she would “not make any more protests about the casting.” Yet, a­ fter expressing her deference and promising to withdraw her objections, Jaffe proceeded to provide her opinion on the m ­ atter. She did so with informal language and humor that tempered her criticism. When Jaffe opposed the casting of a lead male role, she warned Negulesco that the actor u ­ nder consideration, who “look[ed] exactly like a swollen gland,” would cause prob­lems on the set. During a kissing scene with a female love interest, teased Jaffe, the actor “better make sure that all that manly sweat and grease” did not “cause him to slip off her right in front of the camera.”53 Jaffe was not the only ­woman who influenced, often in informal and interpersonal ways, the production of The Best of Every­thing. Most notable of t­ hese w ­ omen was Dusty Negulesco, director Jean Negulesco’s spouse. With an early c­ areer as a Hollywood actor and a subsequent c­ areer as a painter, Dusty likely shared common professional experiences with Jaffe. The connection between the two ­women was certainly a social one; Jaffe was frequently invited to join dinner parties and poker games that Dusty hosted. With similar outlooks, a warm friendship, and a mutual connection to Jean Negulesco, it is probable, but not confirmed, that the two ­women conferred on production plans for The Best of Every­thing. Regardless, they shared common perspectives and expressed similar concerns about the film and its treatment of w ­ omen and, in d ­ oing so, collectively re­oriented its gender politics. In their efforts to save one character, Amanda Farrow (the older, unmarried, career-­driven editor played by Joan Crawford) from particularly egregious misog-

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ynistic treatment, Jaffe and Dusty Negulesco made a formidable team. In her notes on an initial script by Mann Rubin, Jaffe used his treatment of Amanda to underscore his overall sexist attitudes. In this iteration of the script, Rubin wrote a line of dialogue for Amanda that read “I hate w ­ omen,” to which Jaffe responded in a note, “So do you, Mann darling.”54 Separately, Dusty Negulesco observed in a letter to Jean Negulesco that Rubin’s script made Amanda “too Simon Legree–­ ish.”55 Dusty also expressed misgivings about a scene in which Amanda drinks too much and lashes out in an angry tirade over the phone. In her appeal for a more sympathetic Amanda, Dusty provided character analy­sis. “I felt she was that unhappy creature—­the successful-­middle-­aged c­ areer girl,” wrote Dusty, “and she comes back to the office with enough of the edge worn off for you to feel her loneliness (and you also feel the re­spect of the com­pany for her).”56 Dusty concluded by making a direct appeal to her husband: “Please d ­ on’t make a lush out of her” and advised that he cut the scene entirely.57 In the case of Amanda’s villainy, Jaffe and Dusty Negulesco’s critiques had mea­ sur­able effects. In his May 5, 1959 notes to Rubin, Wald advised that ­t here was “no need to paint Miss Farrow as a black bitch; she is merely a c­ areer w ­ oman who is driving and efficient and demands efficiency from the girls” and cautioned that Amanda “should be less of a caricature and ogre.”58 Both the drunk phone call scene and the line of dialogue about Amanda’s hating other ­women ­were struck. ­After screenwriter Edith Sommer took over the script, she had saved the story from the prob­lems Rubin had introduced to Jaffe’s novel. When story editor Julian Johnson reviewed Sommer’s script for Wald, he praised Sommer’s abilities to capture “real New York,” and “real girls; real, natu­ral, honest-­to-­God girls . . . ​who are female, struggling, ambitious, loving, suffering, fighting, winning, losing.”59 Johnson singled out the “smart ­bitter but inwardly tragic Miss Farrow” to illustrate the value of Sommer’s script revisions.60 “Miss Sommer is to be congratulated,” wrote Johnson, “on her fidelity in portraying not a type of a class, but all types.” 61 If Dusty Negulesco helped support Jaffe’s perspectives on character, she helped protect the laudable realism of Sommer’s script that, in turn, remained true to Jaffe’s novel. When Jean Negulesco considered cutting the character of Barbara Lamont, Dusty intervened. Barbara was divorced and supporting both her child and her ­mother when she fell in love with Sidney Car­ter, an unhappily married advertising executive. Due to the intricacy of Barbara’s story line and the character’s seemingly incidental status in the primary plot, Jean Negulesco planned to remove Barbara entirely from the film. Dusty urged Jean to retain Barbara and to expand the story of her affair with Sidney. “I beg of you to make their story what it should be—if only you could explain why Barbara is in the spot she is,” wrote Dusty.62 To Dusty, Barbara and Sidney’s relationship was unique rather than yet-­another boilerplate affair. Barbara was not “just in love with a married man like the rest—­she is REAL in her love—­and so is Sidney (who incidentally is a dream guy).” 63 Dusty’s defense of ­these potentially extraneous characters stressed the appeals of melodrama’s multilayered realism. To make her case, Dusty implicitly called upon her


Jennifer S. Clark

status as a ­woman viewer (someone who understood what constituted a “dream guy,” how rare such a man like that was, and how difficult life could be for w ­ omen). Presumably, ­women audiences would share Dusty’s reaction and would support a film that offered them such aty­pi­cal characters, realistic hardships, and complex moral situations. Much like Dusty Negulesco, Phyllis Levy illustrates the value of Jaffe’s female network of support and its impact on The Best of Every­thing.64 Levy was Jaffe’s college roommate and lifelong friend who, when working as a secretary at Simon and Schuster in the 1950s, fostered the discovery and publication of Jaffe’s book t­ here. She continued to support Jaffe’s ideas during the film adaptation of the novel and offered feedback based on her position of authority both personal (as an unmarried w ­ oman) and professional (as a ­woman with a ­career in publishing). When, for example, Wald considered adding a “happy ending” to the film that revised the novel’s conclusion, Levy intervened. Wald’s alternative ending involved Caroline marrying one of her suitors, ­either Paul Landis, a well-­meaning but boring ­lawyer, or Eddie Harris, Caroline’s former fiancé who marries his boss’s ­daughter for financial security. Levy wrote to Wald to caution him about this revision, which “would absolutely ruin the entire theme of the book.” “It seems to me,” Levy contended, “that Caroline’s life should not be de­cided at the end of the story.” She argued that the ambiguity of Jaffe’s conclusion was too valuable to change: “I think that the unresolved ­t hing at the end—­what ­will happen to Caroline—is dramatically valid for a film as well as for the book. Certain ­t hings have been settled—­Caroline can no longer pretend she may someday marry Paul, and she can no longer accept the romantic dream of her relationship with Eddie Harris. ­Isn’t this optimistic enough for the public?” 65 Levy’s opinion was a power­f ul tool for Jaffe. When dealing with the men who had control over the production of The Best of Every­thing, Jaffe often used it to create a unified front with another ­woman like herself. This common perspective, in turn, suggested the proclivities of a large demographic of young, unmarried professional ­women. To influence a casting decision, Jaffe assured Negulesco that older men appealed to young ­women, as evinced by both her and Levy’s feelings on the subject. To demonstrate to Negulesco that initial screenings of the film ­were a success, Jaffe noted that the reaction of the test audience was overwhelmingly positive and that “Phyllis loved it too.” 66 When Jaffe suggested that the film open to her voice-­over reading the first page of her novel, she described it as a “yummy” idea and indicated that Levy concurred.67 When necessary, Jaffe could also emphasize Levy’s professional status in the publishing world to c­ ounter contentious and potentially litigious situations. At one point, Jaffe challenged in the press Wald’s claims that was responsible for developing Jaffe’s novel. Jaffe’s response angered Wald. To explain why she took such a public stance, Jaffe wrote to him: “I am thinking of my ­f uture as a novelist as well as of the moment. I have to protect myself from reporters who make up nonsense. [Editor] Bob [Gottlieb] and Phyllis agree with me on this completely.” 68

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Jaffe as Celebrity Single Girl Jaffe’s status as a single w ­ oman ensued her success. It helped her create a marketable celebrity persona, but it also connected her to other “ordinary” working w ­ omen whom she saw as an extension of herself. With a single w ­ oman’s perspective, Jaffe asserted her authority as a writer and guaranteed the authenticity of her novel. Once she got to Hollywood, Jaffe called upon that same perspective to predict and interpret what w ­ omen audience would want from the film version of her novel. When a rough cut of The Best of Every­thing was complete, Jaffe watched it with the secretarial pool at 20th Century-­Fox and gauged the film’s success by their reactions. She reported to Negulesco that that the secretaries “all laughed and cried in the right places,” particularly ­because of the film’s “­little realistic touches.” It was, in Jaffe’s estimation, the film’s “absolute fidelity to many lines and situations in the book” that “drew enormous laughs and cries of recognition from the audience.” 69 With this test audience, Jaffe confirmed the success of the film as it aligned with her novel and expressed her authorial authority as a single w ­ oman. Jaffe’s connection to and knowledge of an intended audience granted her unusual status within the filmmaking world. More typically, cultural producers in Hollywood w ­ ere, and continue to be, wealthy, power­f ul, and disconnected from many of the viewers they wish to engage. With the hope that they can bridge this division, producers “actively attempt to cultivate sharper ‘gut’ instincts about what movie audiences w ­ ill like by engaging in activities that audiences are thought to 70 engage in.” But the effort is, at best, uncertain and, at worst, doomed. When Mann Rubin adapted Jaffe’s novel to a film script, he repeatedly failed to satisfy Wald, who was anxious to produce a film that authentically represented single ­women’s lives. Wald provided copious notes and demanded numerous rewrites of the script ­until both men fi­nally had to admit defeat in their efforts to alter Jaffe’s novel. To Wald, ­t hese attempted scripts never met the “­great need for real­ity.” “We should not have a superficial study of girls at work,” Wald cautioned, “but a real study with depth, and I feel Jaffe has this much more than we realized at the beginning.” To Wald, it was Jaffe alone who could provide a story about working w ­ omen that was “more autobiographical than fiction” and that captured “razor-­edge realism” that had eluded both Wald and Rubin.71 Jaffe’s legitimacy as a single working w ­ oman was not just an artistic benefit. It  also created tremendous promotional value, both for Jaffe herself and for 20th Century-­Fox. The studio’s promotional executive, Charles Einfeld, related the good news about the PR groundwork that Jaffe had already laid for them in a letter to publicity director, Harry Brand. “As for the overall publicity and exploitation campaign,” wrote Einfeld, “a lot has happened in connection with the personal publicity on Rona Jaffe.”72 Wald also understood how Jaffe’s self-­promotion worked to the film’s advantage when he wrote to Einfeld about the presold nature of The Best of Every­thing, saying, “Rona Jaffe’s tour and the ensuing publicity helped greatly in creating this happy circumstance.”73 Wald capitalized further on Jaffe’s


Jennifer S. Clark

celebrity in a publicity campaign that called upon a multitude of signifiers around Jaffe as a single w ­ oman: as celebrity author, ordinary working w ­ oman, and inhabitant of her own fictional story world. Wald ordered images that linked Jaffe to location shooting, with “some pictures of her during the filming, watching her book come to life.” He further blurred the lines between Jaffe, the story world of her novel, and Hollywood production by ordering “a shot of the player portraying Caroline leaning against a building like the shot of Rona on the book’s jacket.”74 Wald’s matrix of product placement demonstrates the plasticity of Jaffe’s marketability and the comingled terms of realism and glamour, autobiography and fiction, and character and author that she embodied in her single girl persona. Jaffe found ways to take charge of her single girl celebrity, to assert authority through it, and to authenticate and validate the stories she told ­because of it. Nowhere is this more-­evident, more-­instructive, or more-­satisfying than when she did so in a guest appearance on the inaugural episode of Playboy’s Pent­house (1959– 1961). Jaffe utilized the program, meant to extend Hugh Hefner’s lifestyle-­as-­brand empire to tele­v i­sion, to promote The Best of Every­thing and herself. Undoubtedly, Jaffe was invited to the show as a welcome guest ­because of her associations with the Single Girl, a cultural figure defined by Helen Gurley Brown as a “working-­ girl heroine” who “challenged the sexual double standard and positioned alternative roles for ­women besides caring for a home and ­family.” The Single Girl meshed particularly well with her male counterpart, the Playboy. Even with her sexual liberation and in­de­pen­dence, however, she remained “dependent on her charm and her relationships with men.” With her unapologetic acknowl­edgment of ­women’s sexual desires and her feminine charisma, Jaffe fit the profile. But as a best-­selling author and poised interview subject, she broke a cardinal rule of the Single Girl, which was to not “upset the gender order by becoming too ambitious.”75 The program’s pent­house setting showcased gendered fantasies linked to the 1950s bachelor pad. This single man’s paradise, according to Pamela Wojcik, operated “as a public social space more than a single person’s private domestic space,” displaced domesticity in ­favor of heterosexual masculinity, and served as a “magnet to attract sexually available w ­ omen.”76 Jaffe’s appearance in the epicenter of the Playboy world confirmed its gender politics. As the only w ­ oman being interviewed, Jaffe sat on a couch flanked by men, while Playmates lounged on the floor, served drinks, and lit cigarettes for men all around her. In this setting, Jaffe’s interview took a negative turn and confirmed that Jaffe was the wrong kind of Single Girl whose ambitions had no place in the pent­house. For his part of the interview, Playboy editor A. C. Spectorsky challenged Jaffe to defend her novel as lit­er­a­ture and her choice to write a novel at all, erroneously cited negative reviews of The Best of Every­thing, misidentified the novel’s place on the best seller list, questioned why a “young, attractive single girl” would pursue a writing c­ areer, and doubted w ­ hether men w ­ ere ­really “predatory wolves.” But beyond the generalized misogyny of a self-­proclaimed “rude” interrogator and the obvious and elementary gender rules of Playboy culture, Jaffe generated other, more nuanced ele­ments of anxiety and upset in the men. As her interview

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went on, it sparked heightened reactions from her male interviewers, namely, Spectorsky and Hefner. Their reactive stance suggests that Jaffe’s pre­sen­ta­tion of herself and her work introduced discord into the deeply fantastical and consumerist space of the Playboy’s heteronormative enclave. With a rather obsessive focus on melodrama, Spectorsky and Hefner attempted to discredit Jaffe’s work through melodrama’s feminized terms but ultimately found themselves in a confused state. Jaffe had, in effect, troubled the polarity of realism and melodrama, and clouded its gendered values. This, of course, was her area of expertise and a key agenda in writing The Best of Every­thing. Hefner started down a familiar path by denouncing melodrama and its associations with ­women’s culture. He conflated Jaffe with the characters in her novel and posited that Jaffe channeled her own “feelings about the city” through Caroline Bender. With this assumption, Hefner charged that, like the ­women in her novel, Jaffe was hostile to the Playboy ethos. Hefner linked this hostility to femininity and a feminized culture that, paradoxically, was both a g­ reat threat and of ­little worth. “If the story comes out with any tinge of soap opera about it,” Hefner suggested to Jaffe, it was ­because “all of your characters are involved in some kind of extramarital or premarital or some kind of prob­lem relationship.” Spectorsky chimed in, much to Hefner’s delight, to suggest that “Soap Gets in Your Eyes” should have been the film’s theme song and characterized, incorrectly, that reviews of Jaffe’s novel dismissed it as “five soap operas wrapped up into one.” More than bearing the blight of soap-­operatic tendencies, Jaffe’s work was problematic to Hefner b ­ ecause the w ­ omen characters had “some pretty big prob­lems with men” and that “their prob­lems ­were all men.” With that comment, Hefner acknowledged the realistic heart of Jaffe’s melodrama. The Playboy was forced to confront, even if symptomatically, the hurt and hardships the Single Girl faced. In response to the angry insults lobbed at her, Jaffe defended the quality of her novel and its film adaptation. She rejected the devaluation of feminine culture and challenged anx­i­eties about “over-­feminization” of society. Fi­nally, and most devastatingly, Jaffe challenged the presumed dislocation of feminine culture from real­ ity and its attribution to w ­ omen exclusively. “I think life is one big soap opera,” Jaffe asserted. She called upon her own experiences to identify the predatory ploys of heterosexual men as a source of overwrought emotional display. The Playboy, by extension, was a foremost perpetrator of melodramatic excess. “The next time you ever tell a girl you love her,” Jaffe challenged Spectorsky and Hefner, “stop and say, ‘How would this look like on the printed page?’ I guarantee you’ll stop in the ­middle of the sentence and say let’s have a drink and forget it.” To which Hefner responded, “I surrender.”

Conclusion By the time Rona Jaffe defeated Hugh Hefner on his home turf, she had ample practice in ­handling patriarchal derision of her work. Her appearance on Playboy’s Pent­house, part of the marketing campaign for The Best of Every­thing, came a­ fter


Jennifer S. Clark

a long series of encounters with men in Hollywood. Men who had power to alter Jaffe’s novels did so to suit the economic and ideological investments of a male-­ dominated media industry. As a result, Jaffe’s talents and the progressive ele­ments of her work ­were undervalued. The production pro­cess, in turn, diminished the complexities of melodrama, a genre with long-­standing associations with ­women, for the sake of technological marvel and visual spectacle. As one of the most significant depictions of single w ­ omen during the 1950s, The Best of Every­thing demands feminist analy­sis. Given the masculinist values of the Hollywood film industry, it is tempting to regard the novel, in comparison with the film, as a nobler, even feminist, text. It must be said, however, that Jaffe’s novel, like the glossy film it begat, is not without its flaws. It contains homophobic ele­ ments and Orientalist characterizations. It expresses convoluted messages about the value of marriage. It pre­sents wage ­labor as an unpre­ce­dented opportunity for ­women and a hallmark of their growing in­de­pen­dence. This perspective ignores “the empirical real­ity that Black ­women, immigrant ­women, and poor ­women had been engaged in paid market work in large numbers for many de­cades” preceding the period in which White, middle-­class w ­ omen entered the workforce.77 Looking beyond a single text to its adaptation demonstrates, in feminist terms, how and why The Best of Every­thing means and ­matters. As The Best of Every­thing moved through the stages of development that took it from novel to film, Jaffe and other ­women attended to the pro­cess. Along the way, they provided ­labor, offered their expertise, and applied their persuasive talents, all to shape the film so that it would speak to the experiences of ­women—­even if ­t hose experiences w ­ ere not as universal as Jaffe and her White, middle-­class collaborators ­imagined they ­were. The adaptation pro­cess, therefore, relates a production history that includes the many contributions ­women made to a famed Hollywood film about single ­women. It also confirms, despite the at times troubling politics of Jaffe’s novel, Jaffe’s commitment to honoring the realities of w ­ omen’s lives and validating the complex existence of young, unmarried ­women. Fi­nally, the adaptation pro­cess tells a story of ­women’s culture and community that was built and expressed—at dinner parties, poker games, and screening rooms; through letters and notes; in tele­vi­sion appearances and on-­location shoots—in association with the single girl.

notes 1. ​Rona Jaffe, foreword to The Best of Every­thing (New York: Penguin, 2005), viii. 2. ​Jack Moffitt, “Best of Every­thing Puts Focus on NY ­Career Girls,” Hollywood Reporter, October 8, 1959, 3. 3. ​Shelley Cobb, Adaptation, Authorship, and Con­temporary ­Women Filmmakers (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 11. 4. ​Cobb, Adaptation, Authorship, and Con­temporary W ­ omen Filmmakers, 10–11. 5. ​Jaffe’s name appears once in the film’s opening credits on the bottom of a card that reads, “Screenplay by Edith Sommer and Rubin Mann, Based on a Novel by Rona Jaffe.” 6. ​Simone Murray, “Materializing Adaptation Theory: The Adaptation Industry,” Literature/Film Quarterly 36, no. 1 (2008): 10. 7. ​The iteration of the studio’s name used throughout this essay reflects its existence from the 1935 merger of Fox Corporation and 20th ­Century Pictures u ­ ntil a 1985 merger in which

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the com­pany was renamed “Twentieth ­Century Fox.” For further details, see Peter Lev, Twentieth Century-­Fox: The Zanuck-­Skouras Years, 1935–1965, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013). 8. ​Rona Jaffe, interview by Renee Montagne, Morning Edition, National Public Radio, July 27, 2005. 9. ​Jaffe, interview. 10. ​John Mercer and Martin Shingler, Melodrama: Genre, Style, Sensibility (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), 16–17. 11. ​Williams (“Melodrama Revised,” 44) asserts that the “gloriously overblown melodramas” of director Douglas Sirk, and a “range of other films by Nicholas Ray, Vincente Minnelli, and Elia Kazan,” have been lauded for their “scathing critiques of the ­family and of a repressed and perverse fifties normalcy” during the 1950s. Sirk’s importance is so ­great, according to Gledhill (“Signs of Melodrama,” 7), that, with film scholars’ “discovery” of the director, “a genre came into view.” Laura Mulvey (“All That Heaven Allows: An Articulate Screen,” Criterion Collection, June  10, 2014, https://­w ww​.­criterion​.­com​/­current​/­posts​/­96​ -­a ll​-t­ hat​-h ­ eaven​-­a llows​-­a n​-­articulate​-­screen) argues that e­ very evolutionary stage of film theory since the 1960s has found meaning in Sirk’s melodramatic films of the 1950s. 12. ​Jerry Wald to Charles Einfeld, January 23, 1959, Box 33, Notebook 3, Wald Collection, CAL. 13. ​Harry Brand, “Vital Statistics on The Best of Every­thing,” The Best of Every­t hing Production File, undated, Margaret Herrick Library (MHL), Acad­emy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 14. ​Brand, “Vital Statistics.” 15. ​Brand, “Vital Statistics.” 16. ​Jaffe, forward to The Best of Every­thing, vii. 17. ​Christine Gledhill, introduction to Gender Meets Genre in Postwar Cinemas, ed. Christine Gledhill (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012), 1. 18. ​Ivan Spear, “ ‘How to Marry a Millionaire’ Is Superlative Film Fare,” BoxOffice, November 7, 1953, 24. 19. ​Spear, 24. 20. ​Joseph Mankiewicz to Jean Negulesco, undated, Box 7, Folder 138, “How to Marry a Millionaire—­correspondence,” Jean and Dusty Negulesco Papers, MHL. 21. ​All major studios, which owned the means of film production, distribution, and exhibition, ­were forced by a Supreme Court decision in 1948, commonly known as the ­Paramount Decree, to relinquish the exhibition arm of their com­pany to correct their monopolistic control. This corrective, along with other contributing f­ actors, including competition from tele­ vi­sion, signaled Hollywood’s declining fortunes at the start of the 1950s. 22. ​John Belton, Widescreen Cinema (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), 133. The initial four-­day exhibition was so popu­lar that Fox extended it to the following week, with an estimated attendance of 12,000 ­people in nine days’ time; by March 23, more than 1,200 theater o ­ wners had ordered the equipment necessary to screen CinemaScope. 23. ​Ariel Rogers, Cinematic Appeals: The Experience of New Movie Technologies (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), 38. 24. ​Jerry Wald to Lyle Wheeler, August 13, 1958, Box 33, Notebook 1, Jerry Wald Collection, Cinematic Arts Library, University of Southern California (CAL). 25. ​Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Stephen Rendall (Berkeley: University of California Press), 92. 26. ​Jean Negulesco to Johnny Graham, “re: New York Shots,” May 26, 1959, Box 33, Notebook 1, Wald Collection, CAL. 27. ​Mann Rubin to Jerry Wald, December 15, 1958, Box 33, Notebook 1, Wald Collection, CAL. 28. ​de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, 98. 29. ​Negulesco to Graham, “re: New York Shots.” 30. ​Elizabeth Wilson, The Sphinx in the City: Urban Life, the Control of Disorder, and ­Women (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 7. 31. ​Jaffe, The Best of Every­thing, 1.


Jennifer S. Clark

32. ​Rona Jaffe to Jerry Wald, “Conference Notes,” November 15, 1958, Box 33, Notebook 1, Wald Collection, CAL. 33. ​Jaffe to Wald, “Conference Notes.” 34. ​“Three Coins in the Fountain (Original Trailer),” Turner Classic Movies, October 8, 2020, https://­w ww​.­tcm​.c­ om​/­video​/­579222​/­three​-­coins​-­in​-­the​-­fountain​-­original​-­trailer​/­. 35. ​Jaffe to Wald, “Conference Notes.” 36. ​Rona Jaffe to Jean Negulesco, April 6, 1959, Box 1, Folder 13, Negulesco Papers, MHL. 37. ​Jaffe to Negulesco, April 6, 1959. 38. ​Rona Jaffe to Jean Negulesco, Tuesday, April  14, 1959, Box 1, Folder 13, Negulesco Papers, MHL. 39. ​Rona Jaffe to Jean Negulesco, “Further Information for Girls’ Apartment,” April 28, 1959, Box 1, Folder 13, Negulesco Papers, MHL. 40. ​Jaffe to Negulesco, “Further Information for Girls’ Apartment.” 41. ​Jaffe to Negulesco, “Further Information for Girls’ Apartment.” 42. ​Rona Jaffe, quoted in Jerry Wald to Mann Rubin, “Jaffe’s Criticisms,” November  11, 1958, Box 33, Notebook 1, Wald Collection, CAL. 43. ​Mort Sahl to Jerry Wald, undated letter, Box 33, Notebook 1, Wald Collection, CAL. 44. ​Rona Jaffe to Jerry Wald, April 28, 1958, Box 33, Notebook 2, Wald Collection, CAL. 45. ​Jaffe to Wald, April 28, 1958. 46. ​Rona Jaffe to Jean Negulesco, May 23, 1959, Box 1, Folder 13, Negulesco Papers, MHL. 47. ​Arlie Hochschild, The Managed Heart: The Commercialization of ­Human Feeling (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), 7. 48. ​Rona Jaffe to Jerry Wald, May 29, 1959, Box 33, Notebook 1, Wald Collection, CAL. 49. ​Jaffe to Wald, May 29, 1959. 50. ​Erin Hill, Never Done: A History of W ­ omen’s Work in Media Production (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2016), 167. 51. ​Jaffe to Wald, May 29, 1959. 52. ​Rona Jaffe to Jean Negulesco, March 1959, Box 1, Folder 13, Negulesco Papers, MHL. 53. ​Jaffe to Negulesco, “Further Information for Girls’ Apartment.” 54. ​Rona Jaffe, quoted in Jerry Wald to Mann Rubin, “Notes,” January 26, 1958, Box 33, Notebook 1, Wald Collection, CAL. 55. ​Dusty Negulesco to Jean Negulesco, undated letter, Box 33, Notebook 1, Wald Collection, CAL. 56. ​Negulesco to Negulesco, undated. 57. ​Negulesco to Negulesco, undated. 58. ​Jerry Wald to Mann Rubin, “The Best of Every­thing Notes,” May 5, 1959, Box 33, Notebook 1, Wald Collection, CAL. 59. ​Julian Johnson to Jerry Wald, May 15, 1959, Box 33, Notebook 1, Wald Collection, CAL. 60. ​Johnson to Wald, May 15, 1959. 61. ​Johnson to Wald, May 15, 1959. 62. ​Negulesco to Negulesco, undated. 63. ​Negulesco to Negulesco, undated. 64. ​Joan Gage, “Farewell, Ladies’ Home Journal,” Huffington Post, December  6, 2017, https://­w ww​.­huffpost​.­com​/e­ ntry​/­ladies​-­home​-­journal​_­b​_­5248534; and “Deaths: Phyllis Levy,” Washington Post, February  18, 2001. Jaffe and Levy w ­ ere so close that Levy reportedly served as the inspiration for Jaffe’s short story “Rima the Bird Girl” and for a character in The Best of Every­thing. 65. ​Phyllis Levy to Jerry Wald, June 23, 1958, Box 33, Notebook 1, Wald Collection, CAL. 66. ​Rona Jaffe to Jean Negulesco, September  26, 1959, Box 1, Folder 13, Negulesco Papers, MHL. 67. ​Rona Jaffe to Jean Negulesco, June 22, 1959, Negulesco Papers, Box 1, Folder 13, Negulesco Papers, MHL. 68. ​Jaffe to Wald, May 29, 1959. 69. ​Jaffe to Negulesco, September 26, 1959.

Reclaiming Single W ­ o m e n ’s W o r k


70. ​Stephen Zafirau, “Audience Knowledge and the Everyday Lives of Cultural Producers in Hollywood,” in Production Studies: Cultural Studies of Media Institutions, ed. Vicki Mayer, Miranda J. Banks, and John T. Caldwell (New York: Routledge, 2009), 192. 71. ​Jerry Wald to Mann Rubin, January 7, 1959, Box 33, Notebook 1, Wald Collection, CAL. 72. ​Charles Einfeld to Harry Brand, January 30, 1959, Box 33, Notebook 3, Wald Collection, CAL. 73. ​Wald to Einfeld, January 23, 1959. 74. ​Jerry Wald to Don Prince, February 16, 1959, Box 33, Notebook 3, Wald Collection, CAL. 75. ​Elizabeth Fraterrigo, Playboy and the Making of the Good Life in Amer­i­ca (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 105. 76. ​Pamela Wojcik, The Apartment Plot: Urban Living in American Film and Popu­lar Culture, 1945 to 1975 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 98, 99. 77. ​Mignon Duffy, “­Doing the Dirty Work: Gender, Race, and Reproductive L ­ abor in Historical Perspective,” Gender and Society 21, no. 3 (2007): 314.

chapter 3

Recovering Single Biography jane armstrong tucker, illness, and the single life Elizabeth DeWolfe What is to become of us old maids? —­Jane Armstrong Tucker, February 7, 1881

In 1881, at age fifteen, Jane Armstrong Tucker (1866–1964) longed for a ­great adventure. To her diary she fretted about her lack of direction and lack of a vocational passion.1 As her friends married—­t he expected f­ uture for a middle-­class young ­woman—­she worried about being left ­behind, an old maid.2 Yet hearth and home ­were not the passions and adventures of which she dreamed. A domestic life was not for her, dependent on a husband, a life centered on the narrow confines of home. In 1881, pining over a young man who did not return her interest, she declared herself done with flirting.3 Her subsequent diaries and letters w ­ ere mostly s­ ilent on a romantic life. She never did marry. Jane’s m ­ other, Mary “Mollie” Geraldine Armstrong Tucker (1841–1922), worried for her ­daughter’s ­future. Like her s­ isters Patty, a well-­regarded author, and Mame, an actress in a traveling troupe, Jane, too, left home as a single young w ­ oman. For Mollie Tucker, home provided physical and financial protection and a social role; for Jane and her s­ isters, home provided anything but. Yet, pitting the domestic leisured life of Mollie Tucker against Jane’s urban public life imagines a false dichotomy. Situating this as a case of single versus married and life at home versus life away masks a more complicated Gilded Age dynamic. As historian Sarah Deutsch has written, “public and private simply are not the right words” to understand “how working-­class w ­ omen did conceive of and or­ga­nize themselves spatially into realms of autonomy and de­pen­ den­cy.” 4 To negotiate t­ hese spatial realms, Jane Tucker used illness as a barometer of her in­de­pen­dence, a marker of socioeconomic class, and a tool for financial gain. In recovering Tucker’s single life, we see a blurring of the domestic and the public, suggesting a fluidity to the spatial realm in which Tucker lived. 48

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Both Tucker and her m ­ other presented complicated stories. When Jane and her similarly single ­sisters left the ­family home for autonomous lives, they challenged, indeed discarded, a reliance on a community of intergenerational w ­ omen. The Tucker siblings took their role models, confidantes, and caretakers from their own generation. Jane Tucker’s experience was emblematic of an emerging feminine model tied to increased roles for w ­ omen not just beyond the home but beyond the ­family. Jane adhered to (or loosely embodied) aspects of domestic skills and expectations, yet she used ­t hese cultural values subversively, particularly in her role as an undercover detective. Her m ­ other’s reaction to the loss of her ­daughters was equally complex. Mollie’s unhappy marriage signaled a private failure as a wife, leaving only her role as “­mother” for social definition. Yet as much as she sought to “­mother” her d ­ aughters from afar, including providing frequent advice to return home, she also envied their mobile lives. Mollie’s shifting roles and mixed personal desires complicates our understanding of another group of Gilded Age single ­women—­w idows and ­mothers in strained marriages whose ­daughters left them “adrift,” to borrow Joanne Meyero­witz’s phrase referring to single young ­women beyond the supervision of home.5 But in this case, mature, respectable w ­ omen drifted not from moral purity but rather from their culturally assigned social role. In their choice of an urban, autonomous life, Jane and her ­sisters not only broke the intergenerational bond of ­mother and ­daughter but also negated Mollie’s social role. When Mollie Tucker faced a ­f uture without a husband or her ­daughters close at hand, she very well might have wondered, as her fifteen-­year-­old ­daughter once had, “What is to become of us old maids?” 6 While Jane Tucker avoided the confines of domesticity, she in fact used domestic skills to her financial advantage, providing an in­de­pen­dent livelihood. As a seamstress, her fine sewing and embroidery skills provided the fancy buttons and custom dresses for ­women who had need of multiple changes of clothing, while Tucker made do with worn-­out and repurposed garments. Tucker painted china, providing the delicately decorated porcelain that held tea and dainties for ­women who spent after­noons visiting in parlors. She hustled to find boarders to rent rooms at the f­ amily’s seaside home in Maine, taking advantage of new ideas about leisure time for ­t hose who could afford to vacation or “summer.” 7 Tucker provided the ­labor and goods for leisured-­class w ­ omen to enact the ideals her m ­ other so valued. Domesticity beyond the home provided one motif in Jane Tucker’s life. The second motif was illness. Jane Tucker floated between the once-­affluent, but now faded, genteel class of her parents and the workaday real­ity of a working-­ class life. Her sporadic illness became the rope in the tug-­of-­war between home and away. Tucker, who suffered from digestive complaints, fatigue, and bad teeth, interpreted illness as incon­ve­nience, reflecting a Gilded Age belief in the inherent hardiness of the working class. Her ­mother expressed more dire concerns, borne both of cultural ideas of the weaker stamina of leisured-­class ­women and the sad real­ity of the death of her ­daughter Patty, who died following cancer surgery in 1893.


Eliz a beth DeWolfe

At the end of the nineteenth ­century, illness was a marker of affluence: “Affluent w ­ omen ­were seen as inherently sick, too weak and delicate for anything but the mildest pastimes, while working-­class ­women ­were believed to be inherently healthy and robust.”8 Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre En­g lish describe a late nineteenth-­century cult of female invalidism where “sickness pervaded [leisured class] female culture.”9 It was acceptable, if not expected, for genteel ­women to “retire to bed with ‘sick headaches,’ ‘nerves,’ and a host of other mysterious ailments.”10 Reflecting a growing generational divide, Mollie would have interpreted a homebound invalid ­daughter as a class marker of delicate success; Jane saw the same fate as failure. Mollie would have interpreted an ill, distant d ­ aughter as a criticism of the functional ­family. With the departure of her ­daughters and living in an estranged marriage, her f­ amily very much at sea, for Mollie an at-­home invalid would have provided ballast—­the “invalid” role (albeit unwanted) for the vocationally challenged Jane, and for Mollie a protective role as the caring, healing m ­ other. The invalid provided a reunification of her f­amily. For Mollie, in the shadow of Patty’s death—­a death that occurred away from her m ­ other’s care—­t he place to be ill was home. Jane, however, was determined to care for herself. Working-­class stamina was a source of pride, not insult, and home was not necessarily cure. Yet domestic skills and the perception of illness paved the way for Tucker’s success. That is, Tucker used what she most eschewed to achieve the geographic and financial in­de­pen­dence she craved. Sarah Deutsch writes that the changing economy in the last de­cades of the nineteenth ­century brought legions of single young ­women into the workforce and gave rise to an ideology that “increasingly separated work from home and saw home as the opposite . . . ​of the world outside it.”11 This middle-­class ideology placed working w ­ omen like Tucker in an ambiguous role: “They w ­ ere neither ‘true’ ­women nor ‘true,’—­t hat is, manly—­workers. Nor did it encompass w ­ omen working for wages in the home, ­doing piecework, and bringing waged ­labor into the domestic domain.”12 In Tucker’s case, while she on occasion supplemented her income by bringing waged ­labor into her domestic realm in the form of piecework and private sewing, she also brought domestic skills into the waged domain. For Jane Tucker, ideas about illness and the home intersected and overlapped in her work life. Tucker subverted expectations of middle-­class womanhood in eschewing marriage and in using the skill set of domesticity not to craft a home for husband and offspring but to provide a foundation for her financially in­de­pen­ dent, autonomous life. Further, she combined t­ hose skills with cultural perceptions of middle-­class female invalidism to embark on her greatest adventure, working as an undercover detective. Jane “Jennie” Tucker lived a tomboy’s life. While proper middle-­class girls sewed and served tea, Tucker roamed the fields, woods, and shore of coastal Maine. She dug for clams along the w ­ ater’s edge, watching for the telltale b ­ ubbles that betrayed hiding places in the silty muck; she built roaring bonfires from driftwood and winter-­felled trees; and she rode h ­ orses across meadows, stirring up butterflies and birds. She could fire a revolver and shoot an arrow. Tucker, born on August 21, 1866,

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preferred the com­pany of boys to girls and the outdoors to the indoors. In winter, she skated on frozen ponds, and in spring she climbed trees, dangling from the topmost branches. Her girlfriends ­were horrified; the boys ­were envious.13 Jane Tucker grew up in genteel, upper-­middle-­class comfort in Wiscasset, Maine, t­ oday a charming, quiet village that styles itself the “prettiest village in Maine,” but in Jane’s youth a vibrant town connected to the world by way of the sea.14 Her f­ ather inherited from his own f­ ather a maritime shipping business transporting cotton and a variety of goods up and down the Atlantic Seaboard. The Tucker home contained tufted footstools and a carved billiards ­table, coffered ceilings and silky wall­paper. Oversize gilt-­edged mirrors hung over marble fireplaces; a walnut rococo revival parlor set featured an armchair, two side chairs, and a curved-­back settee, all upholstered in a bold red-­and-­gold fabric. F ­ amily portraits of dark-­suited ancestors hung on the walls. Large win­dows let in the striking Maine light so sought ­a fter by nineteenth-­century artists; heavy drapes insulated the ­family in the winter months when the salty summer breezes turned to icy winter blasts.15 But markets w ­ ere volatile. The cotton industry collapsed during the Panic of 1857, and the Civil War disrupted shipping routes. The shift from sail to steam brought additional trou­bles to a ­family that made its living on the sea. ­Here was Jane Tucker’s early life lesson: fortunes could rise and fall in an instant. As the Tucker clan grew, with six ­children born between 1858 and 1866, and ­family financial resources declined, the Tucker marriage became increasingly strained and the home that was at one time a ­grand ­castle became, especially for Jane’s ­mother, more of a burdensome prison.16 Jane Tucker attended formal schooling sporadically. Illness shadowed her childhood. She survived scarlet fever at age two; she attended school in Wiscasset ­until illness at age twelve kept her home for a year. She spent a year at the Friends A.E. Boarding School in Providence, Rhode Island. Used to rambling at w ­ ill, Tucker did not take easily to the strict routine of the boarding school—­a Quaker jail, she wrote her s­ ister, run by “an old phule [sic].”17 Homesickness swept over Tucker, and she begged her parents to let her return. They refused. Tucker followed her Quaker education with two years in the Boston public school system when the Tuckers relocated to the city temporarily in 1880, followed by study at St. Joseph’s Acad­emy in Emmitsburg, Mary­land, a Catholic institution run by the ­Sisters of Saint Vincent de Paul. Th ­ ere Tucker studied, as her ­mother had in the 1850s, bookkeeping, arithmetic, elocution and grammar, and other academic topics, along with ornamental needlework and domestic economy, a curriculum designed to prepare a young middle-­class w ­ oman for managing her ­future ­house­hold. Tucker graduated in 1883 at the age of seventeen. But a homebound, middle-­class ­f uture did not appeal to Tucker. She despised “damn h ­ ouse­work” and complained to her youthful diaries whenever she was asked to complete a task.18 Cleaning and chores tied her to the home; reading provided an escape. Tucker read widely and kept lists of books completed in her diaries.19 Among her favorites ­were George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, several works


Eliz a beth DeWolfe

by Hawthorne, and Dickens’s David Copperfield. She read Sarah Orne Jewett, Wilkie Collins, and numerous authors l­ ittle remembered t­ oday. Reading transported young w ­ omen like Tucker and suggested, if only for the moment, a world beyond Wiscasset and a world of other pos­si­ble lives. Around the age of fourteen, Tucker read Louisa May Alcott’s ­Little W ­ omen and with Tucker’s fiery temper, desire to “do” something, and tomboy ways, one cannot help but be reminded of Jo March, who also longed for an adventure beyond the domestic sphere and strug­ gled throughout the novel with her equally fiery temper. As historian Barbara Sicherman notes, “For ambitious female adolescents of the Progressive generation, reading could be escape to as well as escape from: in their (day)dreams began possibilities. In a society that expected w ­ omen to be selfless, even the desire to have a self was subversive.”20 If reading opened up Tucker’s imagination, her older s­ isters provided alternative narratives for her ­future. Five years older than Jane, Martha “Patty” Tucker Stapleton provided a pathway for harnessing a restless nature. In 1879, at age seventeen, Stapleton won a young-­authors contest sponsored by the popu­lar magazine Youth’s Companion. A writer from a young age, she used the award as a springboard for a writing life and, despite her parents’ strong disapproval, left Wiscasset for Boston at the age of twenty. In the city, a publishing and literary center, Stapleton learned stenography, worked as a reporter, and continued to write and publish poems and short stories. By 1882, she sought a larger challenge and, still single, moved to Denver, at that time a frontier city with dirt roads and a dearth of w ­ omen. She quickly achieved success. Adopting the pen name Patience Thornton, she edited the society column in the Denver Tribune. Before long she met and married W ­ ill Stapleton, the managing editor of the Denver Rocky Mountain News and, ­later, of the Denver Republican. In addition to her newspaper work, Patty Stapleton continued to find financial and popu­lar success as a novelist and author of short stories, which she published ­under the name Patience Stapleton. She wrote her first full-­length novel, Kady, A Colorado Story (published in 1886), and wrote essays advocating ­women’s suffrage.21 Like her Colorado s­ ister, Mame Tucker, firstborn of the Tucker offspring, lived an in­de­pen­dent life. Mame (born Mary Mellus Tucker in 1858) early on developed an affinity for the stage. Educated at a convent school and then at a finishing school in Farmington, Maine, Mame, like Patty, left home as a young, single w ­ oman, much to the disapproval of her parents. She toured the country with vari­ous traveling acting troupes, including a stint with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show in 1882 and 1883. ­Women writers received a modest respectability; acting on a stage was seen as less decorous. Mame’s parents worried not only about the suspect morality of an acting life but also about the dangers to Mame’s health that the acting life presented. Mame smoked constantly, drank heavi­ly, and eventually became addicted to opiates. She married a fellow actor but divorced five years l­ ater. Despite her failed marriage, Mame refused to return to Maine and a quiet life. Mollie Tucker fretted over her three ­d aughters’ strong-­m inded ways. The ­diaspora of the ­daughters underscored the distance between Captain and Mollie

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Tucker’s nineteenth-­century rural life and that of their urban, mobile ­daughters at c­ entury’s end. What their ­daughters experienced as gain, the parents experienced as loss. Mollie expected her ­daughters to marry and be satisfied with a life caring for a home and raising c­ hildren. While it was not unexpected for sons to move out into the world—­and, indeed, Tucker’s ­brothers had done so—at least one ­daughter in the f­ amily was expected to remain near, if not in, the ­family home to care for her parents as they aged.22 Mollie’s f­ uture security rested in her d ­ aughters’ hands. With a husband twenty-­five years her se­nior, she feared she would end up alone. For Mollie, Jane’s departure was particularly difficult, leaving Mollie in a large, aging ­house with an aging husband in a marriage so estranged that Tucker’s m ­ other contemplated divorce.23 Mollie’s marriage illustrated frustration and loneliness. Mame’s marriage to a spendthrift, intemperate, manipulative husband reflected the prison of financial dependence. Mame advised Jane: “­Don’t get married, I say, it’s too much trou­ble to get a divorce.”24 Jane wanted none of that. Tucker settled in Boston by June 1887, joining legions of young w ­ omen in the city’s workforce.25 Determined to achieve financial security, she held multiple jobs. She worked as a dressmaker at the department store R. H. Stearns, she had a paid role in several plays, and, as mentioned previously, she painted on china—­a popu­ lar and profitable activity for young w ­ omen, although a task repetitive, dull, and demanding patience (not unlike the skills needed for h ­ ouse­work). At night, she gave sewing lessons, taught fancy embroidery, made yards and yards of braid for bonnets, and provided private dressmaking ser­vices. She moved frequently to keep her expenses as low as pos­si­ble—­she named her boarding­house room “Poverty Flat”—­and she had an eye for a bargain. Tucker once traveled all over Boston to buy a new spring jacket and boots, deeming her final purchases “good for the money.”26 Tucker learned quickly to fight for herself. At R. H. Stearns, her work embroidering decorative buttons was difficult and meticulous, and her colleagues w ­ ere not friendly. Jane wrote to her ­mother: “I find you have to have lots of fight and push in you to get up in this world.”27 In 1890, Tucker looked into the f­ uture and saw stenography as a lucrative c­ areer. She enrolled in a local secretarial school and learned to type and take dictation. She excelled and quickly found good employment, initially in Boston at a transportation com­pany (where she took statements from the victims of and witnesses to often gory accidents between ­horses, carriages, passengers, and electric railcars). She loved her city life. As sociologist Erik Klinenberg noted in ­Going Solo: “For city dwellers at the turn of the twentieth c­ entury, being liberated from the tight grip of the f­amily, the constraints of religious traditions, and the surveilling eyes of a small-­town community was exhilarating.”28 Tucker’s surveillance had begun in the home. Jane clashed frequently with her older b ­ rother, William, who held conventional ideas about the proper role of ­women. As early as 1880, William’s eyes surveilled Jane. When William found religion, he lectured his parents and ­sisters on their faults. William accused the then fourteen-­year-­old Jane Tucker of putting powder on her face. This was a “regular


Eliz a beth DeWolfe

lie!!!” she declared, telling her ­sister Mame she was “so mad I ­can’t see!!!!!”29 A de­cade ­later, William still lectured Jane on her dissolute and dangerous life as a “lady of leisure,” regularly reporting his observations to their m ­ other in his letters home.30 Mollie then penned a worried letter to her ­daughter, criticizing Jane’s active work and social life, worrying that Jane’s activities would lead to “dissipation.” Her ­daughter, she feared, was “morbidly restless and seeking excitement” and “on the go all the time.”31 Tucker was busy; she often signed her letters “Hastily, Jane.” But like so many working single ­women at the end of the ­century, Jane Tucker was hardly living the life of leisure her stick-­in-­t he-­mud ­brother believed her to be. Jane hustled from job to job ­because earning a living wage was challenging; she encountered stingy bosses who withheld wages and took credit for Jane’s work. She moved often, like many single young w ­ omen workers, seeking housing that was more affordable, closer to her job, or safer, reporting in one letter home the unwelcome advances of her building’s janitor.32 Deutsch notes how this quest for a better living situation “preoccupied almost all working ­women.”33 Tucker sometimes lived with a roommate and sometimes she lived alone; she searched Boston for the best bargains on clothing, shoes, and other necessities—in part a frugal Yankee, but more pragmatically, as an underpaid worker to whom ­every penny mattered. And as far as fatigue, illness, and aches and pains, as Ehrenreich and En­glish argue, working-­ class ­women “certainly did not have the time or money to support a cult of invalidism. . . . ​A day’s absence from work could cost a ­woman her job, and at home ­there was no comfortable chaise longue to collapse on while servants managed the ­house­hold and doctors managed the illness.”34 The tempo of daily urban life had changed: telephones, electrified streetcars, electricity, innovations that upped the ante and made more work, not less, for ­women.35 Tucker was on the go ­because she had to be. In October 1892, Tucker de­cided to try her luck in New York City. She quickly landed a job with the New York Life Insurance Com­pany but left shortly ­after her hire ­because her boss, as she described in a letter home, was “a regular fiend,” the ugliest man she had ever seen.36 Tucker then went to the Remington typewriting rooms, an office pool where she would be called upon to provide stenography, typewriting, and other office skills to a variety of New York businesses. Her early assignments included a two-­week stint at a musical instrument com­pany. In November, she was called to the luxurious Park Ave­nue ­Hotel to assist a prominent Kentucky businessman, Charles Stoll. ­Hotel staff gossiped about Stoll, sharing with Tucker that he was a wealthy and prominent man. Tucker impressed Stoll; he thought she “was very bright and smart,” and he offered her a permanent job.37 Tucker was delighted. Stoll and his associates had an office near Wall Street where they took care of railroad and other business interests in New York. Tucker snatched some stationery from the Park Ave­nue ­Hotel and wrote her ­mother. Stoll was “a real Southern gentleman, has lots of money & is the kindest nicest man to work for I ever saw.”38 Tucker knew she had landed a plum job. She worked daily from 9:30 to 4:30 as Stoll’s private secretary at a salary of fifteen dollars a week.

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She managed the office while Stoll was away, opening his mail, answering correspondence, and attending to business ­matters in his absence. When he took on a complicated l­ egal case, Tucker added l­ egal skills to her knowledge. Stoll treated her as an equal, a pleasant change from her stingy, mean bosses. E ­ very now and then he took her to lunch at the “nice restaurant” in their office building.39 She felt lucky; her life in New York seemed “just too lovely to be true.” 40 Urban living agreed with Tucker, who loved the excitement of New York. A friend helped her get a room in a boarding­house recommended by the YWCA, “so you know the ­house and ­people are okay.” 41 The boarding­house, on West Sixteenth Street, was clean and attractively kept, and breakfast and dinner w ­ ere included in the six-­dollar weekly rent. A few months ­later, Tucker moved to 135 West Sixty-­ Fourth Street, where she found a comfortable room, even though it was farther away from her employment. Of her Jewish hosts, Tucker was unabashed: “I d ­ on’t care [that they are Jews] for when they live well at all they always have the best of every­t hing. She does her carving at the t­ able and thus far t­ hings have been very nice[;] t­ here are some Jews boarding t­ here but not all and I d ­ on’t care a snap about the p ­ eople provided I am comfortable.” 42 Stoll was a thoughtful employer. One day he closed the office early to take Tucker, the descendant of sea captains, to see the SS City of Paris, a British-­built passenger liner that was the fastest ship on the North Atlantic route. Tucker thought “it was awfully kind of him.” 43 At Christmas, he urged Tucker to take a week off and go home to Maine. Frugal, she would not spare the money but appreciated his offer nonetheless: “I think he is the kind of man that does not get spoiled by your being too willing to work[;] he always seems to appreciate it.” 44 Tucker spent Christmas at her Jewish boarding­house, writing to her ­mother with an inventory of gifts received, itemizing which ones she planned to regift (lilac ­water to a waitress), which gifts she would exchange (a light gray skirt that would get dirty in the city), and noting which of her relatives failed to send her anything at all. Tucker worried about her job. The shaky economy ­rose and dipped in 1893, and Tucker’s fortunes r­ ose and fell in tandem. In April, her luck ran out. Stoll called Tucker into his office and handed her a sheaf of glowing letters of recommendation: the Kentucky businessmen w ­ ere closing their New York office. Stoll wrote: “I have found Miss Tucker to be a bright, energetic and competent young lady, and a valuable assistant as stenographer, type-­writer and clerk, and cheerfully commend her to anyone needing such assistance.” 45 Stoll’s associates w ­ ere just as complimentary: Jane filled her position “with credit to herself & entire satisfaction to us.” She was commended “both as a lady & competent typewriter,” a “first class” stenographer “and one who amply justified any trust reposed in her.” 46 With her strong recommendations and the assistance of the Remington Typewriter office, Tucker quickly found another position at a Wall Street insurance business but left by midsummer, beset by illness. She returned to her Boston physician for treatment and was well enough to travel to the Chicago World’s Fair—­a once-­i n-­a-­lifetime opportunity for Tucker and a rare chance to enjoy the fruits of her considerable ­labor, even though the trip left her in debt. In the fall, Tucker


Eliz a beth DeWolfe

approached the West End Street Railway Com­pany. Her former Boston employers ­were delighted to take her back, and they met her demand for an eighteen-­dollar weekly salary. The uncertain economy caught up with Tucker once again, and her employer informed her that at the end of the year, she would be let go. Tucker and a friend developed a plan to go into business for themselves, providing stenography and typing for l­ awyers. But letters from Mollie continued to urge Jane home. Her m ­ other worried for Tucker’s health; William worried more about his s­ ister’s reputation and respectability, miffed at Tucker’s bold presence in the public sphere. Her ­brother’s complaints reflected a masculine suspicion that ­women inherently tended ­toward moral depravity and that ­women’s illnesses, including Jane’s, w ­ ere variously both cause and consequence of this flaw.47 Tucker dismissed her ­brother, thinking him ­bitter ­because she could not, or would not, spare the money or the time to see him more often than occasional visits to his suburban Boston home, which Jane endured but did not often enjoy, especially once young c­ hildren ­were in the ­house­hold.48 While William may have i­ magined his ­house­hold would serve as a model or inspiration for his s­ ister, Jane had other ideas. During a visit in 1894, Tucker told her sister-­i n-­law Lizzie that she hoped Lizzie would not have more ­children: “I told her I did not believe t­ here was a bit of need of having them and I would make it a point to find out how not to have them. I guess they both had enough of the expense and incon­ve­nience of it. This one is cute and I got real fond of it when I was in Boston but that is enough.” 49 Tucker vehemently defended her activities, her reputation, and her health. She suffered from a variety of complaints but reported t­ hese as incon­ve­niences and told her critical ­family members that she saw Dr. Charles Thayer for an unspecified digestive malady only twice a week, an improvement over her previous every-­other-­ day schedule.50 Her ­mother’s health concerns, however, w ­ ere not misplaced. Tucker was often exhausted. She ate poorly. Although she claimed she was “as healthy as anyone she knew,” Tucker also admitted to not taking care of herself.51 Her diminished financial situation (as well as that of her parents) was a source of constant stress. She wore a tight corset, and Dr. Thayer thought her skirts w ­ ere too heavy.52 Physicians identified any number of activities that w ­ ere believed to subject ­women to risk: heated rooms, improper clothing, tight dressing, and standing for long periods. Some blamed the overstimulation of “lascivious books.”53 ­Others believed the “unimpregnated uterus” caused symptoms such as insomnia, constipation, indigestion, headaches, backaches, and hysterical crying.54 S. Weir Mitchell, and ­others, believed that, for ill ­women, “the root of their sickness was their failure to be w ­ omen, to sacrifice themselves for o ­ thers, and to perform their femi55 nine duties.” The Tucker s­ isters could become ill simply by not living up to womanly expectations. Mollie Tucker strug­g led to understand her ­daughters’ lives. She had married well, settled into a fine home, and raised a f­ amily. Her sons had gone off into the world, William raising his own f­amily in Boston, and Richard working as a prominent astronomer in California. Yet one by one, her d ­ aughters had also left

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home. From Mollie’s perspective, t­ hese unsettled lives had indeed proved dangerous: Jane’s ongoing illness, Mame’s overindulgences,56 and Patty’s death in November 1893 from complications following cancer surgery.57 Patty Tucker’s death hit the f­ amily hard, and Jane, Mame, and Mollie worked out their grief and guilt in a series of letters. Jane and Mame recognized that one of the two surviving ­daughters should return home to Maine to care for their mourning parents. Jane insisted that their ­mother would prefer Mame’s com­pany ­because she had been away for so long; Mame insisted she was the least popu­lar of the Tucker offspring, and her m ­ other only wished her presence in order to try and reform her. Jane, Mame declared, should go. Jane argued that she had a job lined up for the new year that would be foolish to refuse in such difficult economic times. Mame responded that she was the se­nior member of her troupe and much needed. Back and forth they argued, each offering passive-­aggressively to go back to Maine if only to please the other. As the ­sisters battled, Mollie jumped in, telling them both not to bother if they w ­ ere only coming home out of duty. “Darn duty,” Jane grumbled to Mame. “I never said anything about that and never felt it was your duty any more than mine.”58 The hustle and bustle of a working life, an uneven diet, and the press of a vibrant city had its consequences. In addition to her visits to Thayer, Tucker made multiple trips to a dentist to fix a troublesome tooth; when the initial poorly crafted filling fell out, Tucker returned for a very painful root canal. Despite t­hese bouts, Tucker argued that she needed to keep working. She tried to explain to her m ­ other: “You get impatient with me b ­ ecause I ­don’t lead a quieter life when I am sick but it is not in any of us, we are restless and I do believe it is good for us to be active, perhaps [Patty] would not have lived as long as she did if she had not had something to take up her mind.”59 Tucker’s busy life reflected more than simply financial necessity; the Tucker girls ­were doers. Jane wrote: “It ­isn’t in any of us to be quiet.” 60 For Tucker, the thought of becoming a “hopeless invalid,” a not uncommon role for young ­women in the late nineteenth-­century ­house­hold, was worse than death. Patty’s writing, Mame’s acting, Jane’s hustling about—­what their ­mother saw as dangerous and deadly, Tucker and her s­ isters saw as life-­sustaining.61 For the Tucker ­sisters, a shift away from replicating their ­mother’s life was on the one hand reflective of young ­women’s new geographic mobility; but the Tuckers’ drive to be “doers” also reflected a new mindset—­one fiercely in­de­pen­dent, wide-­ ranging, and active. In January 1894, Jane Tucker reluctantly returned to Maine when her ­sister backed out of her promise to go home. Jane was unemployed and beset by vague illness. She dreaded the quiet stillness of a long winter. Mollie thought Jane arrived home “worse than I ever saw her look in her life.” 62 Tucker sat wrapped in a quilt in a makeshift daybed in the dining room, nursing her sore tooth and enduring digestive complaints and bleeding piles.63 Ironically, the illness to which Jane now succumbed had actually provided an escape from the dreaded domestic tasks. She had, however, also become an invalid—­her autonomy now in-­valid as she became the passive recipient of her ­mother’s actions, instead of a central actor herself.


Eliz a beth DeWolfe

Mollie Tucker offered a doting ­mother’s care: Pond’s Extract for the piles, Listerine and ­water for her sore mouth, and sarsaparilla for her blood. “Pretty much all she has earned for the two last years has gone up in doctors’ bills,” Mollie wrote to Mame, “so I guess a year’s rest with all I can do for her ­will pay in the end ­after all.” 64 Mollie would nurse her ­daughter back to health. As Jennifer Tuttle has argued, S. Weir Mitchell’s “Rest Cure” served as a correction to wayward femininity.65 Mollie’s attentions, while short of Mitchell’s more draconian treatment, would work similarly to return Jane’s health and bring her back to an appropriate femininity in the domestic space of the home. But rest was not meant to be. Within two weeks of Tucker’s return home, Charles Stoll sent a series of increasingly urgent letters and tele­grams offering Tucker a new, secret job. Tucker initially declined the mysterious offer from her former New York City employer, citing her illness. She received in reply a stern rebuke from the man she had once described as the best boss she had ever had: “Why, you of all persons, are the last to let a ­little sickness affect your spirits, and you must not do it. You have been exactly like the rest of us—­k nocked out by the infernal demo­cratic administration. Of course you have not made money—­who has? . . . ​Brace up and throw that head back and defy sickness as you have survived the other trou­bles of life.” 66 Buck up, he seemed to advise, and Tucker did. She repurposed an old dress into a stylish new one, declared herself well, and headed off to Washington, DC. The excitement of a new job, and the potential to provide for herself rather than be provided for, had reinvigorated Tucker. Her m ­ other noted Tucker’s much improved health as Jane departed, reporting to Mame that even Jane’s “bowels w ­ ere regular.” Wistfully Mollie noted that she was glad her ­daughter could escape “this hard weather & dull life I lead.” 67 What happens next was unexpected and ironic to say the least. Tucker accepted a position as an undercover detective, and the surveilled became the surveyor. Stoll, a ­lawyer by training, was working for an old friend and fellow Kentuckian, Congressman William C. P. Breckinridge, who in August 1893 was sued by his mistress of ten years for breach of promise, for his failure to marry her as promised. By the winter of 1894, Breckinridge was desperate for information that would give him an advantage in the rapidly approaching trial. Stoll suggested a daring plan: hire a “girl spy,” a detective of sorts, to locate and befriend Breckinridge’s mistress and plaintiff in the suit, Madeleine Pollard, and extract personal information from her that could be useful in court. And Stoll knew just the plucky young w ­ oman to do the job. To complete her mission, Tucker pretended to be a fallen w ­ oman to gain admission to the House of Mercy, a Washington, DC, home for the sexually wayward but repentant, and the hideout of Pollard. Tucker’s recent illness became an asset when the House of Mercy matron evaluated Tucker’s request for sanctuary, reading Jane’s slight physical frame and pale skin as a social marker of genteel sensibility, despite her unfortunate (assumed) sexual error. ­Here Tucker turned feminine illness to her advantage, bidding tears to flow when needed to convince the matron

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to grant her admission. Tucker recalled the scene in her ­later memoir of her adventure: “­Sister,” [Tucker began] “I know the character of this ­house, and b ­ ecause of its character came ­here. . . . ​I, too, have sinned.” ­Here I wept some real, sure enough tears, e­ ither at my own eloquence, or b ­ ecause I was getting so scared and ner­ vous at this lie, that I could not look her in the face, and wanted to get out of sight ­behind my handkerchief . . . ​to compose a tale to fit the occasion. . . . ​I had no idea I could lie so well. As for tears, that is an easy m ­ atter.68

As Ehrenreich and En­g lish have noted, ­women could draw power from the invalid role, using illness for personal gain. Illness, real or feigned, was a way to call attention to oneself and to gain power by being in the center; illness provided a venue for an acceptable outburst of rage or despair; illness allowed one to avoid sexual intercourse or pregnancy.69 But for Tucker, the perception of illness and physical delicacy—­the matron’s ready ac­cep­tance of Tucker’s need to recover from an unfortunate circumstance politely not discussed—­subverted the sick role and turned the once-­surveilled into a surveyor. Tucker was in. In her new role as a penitent, atoning for her fictitious sin, Tucker (undercover as Agnes Parker) performed daily h ­ ouse­hold chores in the dormitory-­like enclave by day; in the eve­ning, she worked to befriend Pollard (who at the House of Mercy used the assumed name of Miss Dudley). In a cruel exploitation of ­women’s friendship, Tucker engaged in heart-­to-­heart talks, pulled out her quarry’s secrets, and reported them to her boss. To connect with the spurned Madeleine Pollard, Jane feigned a similar story of a love affair gone wrong and acted the role she had tried so hard to avoid, performing a simulacrum of domestic femininity in her very unfeminine job. She swept, she sewed, she made beds, she nursed the sick. The perception of illness plus expected domestic skills created Agnes Parker, undercover agent. The House of Mercy matron attempted to keep Tucker and Pollard apart. The matron was well aware of Pollard’s backstory, and from her viewpoint, Pollard, a disgraced mistress who dared to air her sins in a public court, would pollute the genteel but unfortunate Tucker whose only sin, the matron believed, was to be cruelly duped.70 Yet it was Tucker who was duplicitous in her entire scheme to enter the House of Mercy. When the matron appeared ready to deny Tucker’s admission, Jane turned to deceit: “If I was ­going to tell a lie now, it must be a big one; so I r­ ose to the occasion.”71 Tucker was quite clever. To avoid the matron’s disapproving gaze, Tucker in­ven­ted a letter from her “doctor,” admonishing her to be sure to take daily walks in the fresh air.72 The matron readily agreed to this prescription, unwittingly providing an eavesdrop-­free zone for private conversation. Penitents, Tucker included, at the House of Mercy could not leave the building without permission, and permission was rare. Pollard had a unique arrangement at the House of Mercy and could come and go at ­w ill while preparing for the trial.73 Tucker, intuiting the advantage to following Pollard around Washington, DC,


Eliz a beth DeWolfe

declared herself reformed a­ fter but a week of residence and rented a room beyond the House of Mercy—­directly in Pollard’s path to her attorney’s office. To maximize her opportunities to cozy up to Pollard, Tucker, upon her departure from the House of Mercy, offered to or­ga­nize the home’s business rec­ords, a task the matron was all too glad to accept. Tucker now had an excuse to return to and enter the House of Mercy at advantageous moments. For example, she visited Pollard nightly during the trial, making tomato salad with vinaigrette, supplying Kentucky bourbon for hot toddies, and proving a faux-­friendly ear while Pollard vented the day’s court proceedings, and revealed the prosecution’s strategy for ­future witnesses and courtroom maneuvers. Beyond the House of Mercy, Tucker shopped with Pollard for underwear, bought her a gift of a purse, and accompanied her b ­ rother on outings as a gracious (spying) companion when he arrived in Washington to support his ­sister during the trial. Tucker was motherly and sisterly and friendly. And it was all a lie. The trial dragged on for six weeks in the spring of 1894. Breckinridge’s l­ egal team insisted Tucker stay away from the court­house, lest anyone recognize her from her former work with Stoll in New York City and jeopardize her Agnes Parker alter ego. Tucker sent daily typed reports to the ­lawyers, often with suggestions on courtroom strategy. When the prosecution placed an elite Kentucky ­widow on the stand, Breckinridge’s defense ­lawyers treated her with kid gloves. Tucker would not have let social standing get in her way: “Their first ­mistake was in ­handling Mrs. Blackburn so delicately, she did not hesitate to lie and they o ­ ught to have 74 pulled her over the coals.” When Pollard was on the stand, Tucker implored Breckinridge’s ­lawyers to make her mad: “It was the only way to break her solid wall, to get her furious and then she [would lose] her self-­control but they all acted as if they ­were scared to death of her.”75 Tucker had some successes. She introduced a New York newspaper illustrator, Max De Lippman, to Charles Stoll and through De Lippman, Stoll met other journalists, “and by one means and another has just won them over to Col. B’s side. . . . ​Max was all my idea.”76 From information she extracted from a House of Mercy teacher sympathetic to Pollard, Tucker was able to alert Breckinridge’s ­legal team to a surprise witness and ­counter the testimony before the witness could even appear. With glee, Tucker told her m ­ other: “[The prosecution] c­ an’t to this day imagine how [Breckinridge] found it out, I c­ an’t ­either—­ha-­ha.”77 But the l­awyers ignored most of Tucker’s savvy advice, to their detriment and Tucker’s continued frustrations. “I have been,” she told her ­mother with considerable pride, “so darned clever in my work.” 78 Yet her hard work did not pay off. Breckinridge lost and was ordered to compensate Pollard with a payment of $15,000, three times the annual salary of a U.S. congressman. If only, Tucker mused, she and Stoll had directed the case, “it would have resulted very differently.”79 Nonetheless, for Tucker, it was the adventure of a lifetime, and in late May 1894 she submitted her bill to Congressman Breckinridge: $524.50 total, including transportation, and the purchases of a typewriter and gifts for her prey—­Harper’s magazine and vari­ous treats. Breckinridge’s attorneys had reimbursed some of her

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expenses, but the congressman still owed Tucker almost $200, which included a good deal of her salary.80 But Breckinridge never paid the balance, and neither did he pay Pollard, the two adversaries similarly betrayed intimately and financially. Despite the loss, Tucker looked forward. Stoll and Tucker collaborated on a book about her experiences with Pollard. She wrote to her m ­ other, “We are to share the profits and I think t­ here ­w ill be a good lot of money in it, possibly a thousand dollars for me.”81 Published quickly to capitalize on prurient interest in the scandal, and with the hope of priming public support for an appeal of the verdict, The Real Madeleine Pollard provided a lightly fictionalized version of Tucker’s espionage. The New York Herald printed a lengthy extract from the work, perhaps a f­ actor in the poor book sales that followed. Tucker’s work, published u ­ nder her alias Agnes Parker, was a flop, as the scandal of the ­century was replaced with some other politician’s bad be­hav­ior. It was too much of the same, a friend wrote to Mame Tucker, “the trou­ble with all detective stories.”82 To add more insult to financial injury, Tucker’s f­amily was mortified by the public revelation of her adventures. To her ­sister Mame, Tucker relayed the cool ­family reception to her work and offered no apologies: “I’m what I am and ­can’t change my skin. I guess you and I are better satisfied with each other than any of the rest of the f­ amily and we w ­ ill stick to each 83 other even if the ­others ­don’t approve of what we do.” As a final rebuff, neighbors and acquaintances appeared to have disbelieved Tucker’s tale—in the fall, Stoll provided a written statement to assert that Jane Tucker was, in fact, Agnes Parker.84 Tucker continued her entrepreneurial, hasty ways, interspersed with bouts of illness. Following the death of her ­father in 1895, Tucker returned home for an extended period, gravely ill, thought her m ­ other. Mollie, released from the care of her husband, and Jane, released from wage work, together headed west, two single ­women. The answer to the question Jane Tucker posed at age fifteen of what became of “old maids” was geographic mobility and autonomy. In a co-­opting of the prescription male physicians would offer overstressed men to head to a New ­England or western wilderness to hunt, fish, and reconnect with nature, Jane Tucker took on the “West Cure,” “less a specific locale than an idealized space,” in which she could escape from the confines of the parlor and, like men, from urban responsibilities.85 And just as her Washington adventure prompted recovery, in Colorado, Tucker quickly revived and developed an especial fondness for the bicycle, the symbol of the Gilded Age New ­Woman. Jane, wrote Mollie to Mame, “is riding a wheel for all she is worth. She learned to do so sooner than anybody h ­ ere that we know & is as fearless & graceful at that, as in ­every other sport[.] It is ­doing her good, too.”86 Mollie noted that Jane had gained five and a half pounds since arriving out west, looked good, and slept well. She spent most of her day outdoors: “That is what does Jane the most good at home or abroad & to cure Jane we came West.”87 Mollie’s approving nod signaled her satisfaction with witnessing Jane’s return to health. Revived once again, Tucker re-­entered wage work. She sold imported goods from Japan for Vantines, sewing patterns for the McCall Com­pany, and corsets for a New York City manufacturer, frequently arguing with the owner about necessary


Eliz a beth DeWolfe

improvements in his product. She built her own business selling beauty products that she cooked up in her kitchen. She experimented on herself with her Rose Leaf Balm cosmetics—­one scorching treatment left her walking around Boston veiled. “I go around tied up in two thick veils and nobody knows me—­t hat reminds me a ­little of Washington days,” she wrote.88 She even produced a second book; she compiled a cookbook issued by the Demo­cratic W ­ omen of Maine. Her contributions include r­ ecipes for baked-­bean soup, Grand­mother Tucker’s codfish hash, and fried hasty pudding, among other New E ­ ngland fare.89 Hawking feminine beauty as an entrepreneur; selling domesticity for po­liti­cal gains: the public and private, the domestic and the in­de­pen­dent continued to morph and merge in Tucker’s autonomous life. Tucker made use of two expected female roles: the matron of the domestic sphere and the frail female subject to illness, subverting their enactment in the home by drawing on both in the arena of wage work in a public sphere. Her use of both to advance her financial agenda suggests yet another ave­nue, a side street perhaps, for Gilded Age ­women to access the power that comes with geographic mobility and financial in­de­pen­dence. Tucker inherited the ­family home ­a fter the death of her ­mother in 1922 and remained ­t here the rest of her life. She never married. While many in the Gilded Age opined that overwork and hustling about led to female illness, o ­ thers offered a contrary view. Elizabeth Cady Stanton argued that “the source of ill-­health . . . ​ stemmed from society’s denial of w ­ omen’s legitimate needs and abilities.”90 Jane’s ­mother had feared her ­daughter’s excitement-­seeking restlessness would be the death of Jane; it was not. ­There would be no Mitchell-­esque Rest Cure for Tucker or her ­sisters; inverting S. Weir Mitchell’s prescription for an ultimate feminine passivity, Tucker and her ­sisters found meaning, health, and self-­definition in their own active agency. Jane Tucker died in 1964 at the age of ninety-­seven, active and healthy to the end.

notes 1. ​Jane Armstrong Tucker (hereafter JAT), Diary of 1881, January 9, 1881, Tucker F ­ amily Papers (hereafter TFP), Historic New ­England, Boston, MA. 2. ​JAT, Diary of 1881, May 4, 1881, TFP. 3. ​JAT, Diary of 1881, May 9, 1881, TFP. 4. ​Sarah Deutsch, ­Women and the City: Gender, Space, and Power in Boston, 1870–1940 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 288. 5. ​Joanne J. Meyero­w itz, ­Women Adrift: In­de­pen­dent Wage Earners in Chicago, 1880–1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), xvii. 6. ​JAT, Diary of 1881, February 7, 1881, TFP. 7. ​It is in­ter­est­ing to note that Tucker herself was expected to pay room and board when she came home for the summer. She agreed, so long as her parents agreed not to dictate or comment on her activities. 8. ​Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre En­g lish, Complaints and Disorders: The Sexual Politics of Sickness, 2nd ed. (New York: Feminist Press at CUNY, 2011), 41. 9. ​Ehrenreich and En­glish, 50. 10. ​Ehrenreich and En­glish, 51. 11. ​Deutsch, ­Women and the City, 11.

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12. ​Deutsch, 11. 13. ​JAT, “Autobiography,” in Extract and Letters composition book, November 4, 1882, TFP. 14. ​Matthew Reed Baker, “One Last Question: Why Is Wiscasset Called the ‘Prettiest Village in Maine?,’ ” Boston Magazine, January 16, 2018, https://­w ww​.­bostonmagazine​.­com​/n ­ ews​ /­2018​/­01​/1­ 6​/­w iscasset​-­prettiest​-­v illage​-­in​-­maine​/­. 15. ​Images of the exterior and interior of C ­ astle Tucker and a summary of the ­family’s history can be viewed at the website of Historic New ­England, https://­w ww​.­historicnewengland​ .­org​/­property​/­castle​-­tucker​/­. 16. ​The Tucker c­ hildren included Mary “Mame” Mellus Tucker (1858–1899), Richard Hawley Tucker III (1859–1952), Martha “Patty” Armstrong Tucker Stapleton (1861–1893), Matilda Wood Tucker (1863–1863), William Armstrong Tucker (1864–1926), and Jane Armstrong Tucker (1866–1964). 17. ​JAT to Patty Stapleton, November 2, 1879, TFP. 18. ​See JAT, Diary of 1881, passim, TFP. 19. ​See JAT’s diaries from 1885 and 1886, TFP. 20. ​Barbara Sicherman, “Reading and Ambition: M. Cary Thomas and Female Heroism,” American Quarterly 45, no. 1 (March 1993): 76. 21. ​On Patience Stapleton, see Joann Galton, “Patience Stapleton: A Forgotten Frontier Writer,” Colorado Magazine 53, no. 3 (1976): 261–276. 22. ​William Tucker lived in a Boston suburb with his wife and ­children. Richard Hawley Tucker was a noted astronomer working at the Lick Observatory in California. On Richard Tucker’s ­career, see Roscoe F. Sanford, “Richard Hawley Tucker: 1859–1952,” Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 65, no. 382 (1953): 16–18. 23. ​While the f­ amily resided in Boston from 1880 to 1882, Mollie, frustrated and becoming unstable, voluntarily entered the McLean Hospital. See “­Castle Tucker, Country House: 1858– 1890,” Historic New ­England, accessed December  2, 2019, https://­w ww​.­historicnewengland​ .­org​/­property​/­castle​-­tucker​/­. 24. ​Mame Tucker Clayton to JAT, November 28, 1894, TFP. 25. ​In 1890, ­women constituted one-­t hird of Boston’s ­labor force. Deutsch, ­Women and the City, 6. 26. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, April 29, 1888, TFP. 27. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, ca. April 1888, TFP. 28. ​Erik Klinenberg, ­Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone (New York: Penguin, 2012), 34. 29. ​JAT to Mame Tucker, June 12, 1880, TFP (underline in the original). 30. ​The phrase is Jane’s summary of William’s criticism in JAT to Mollie Tucker, ca. January 21, 1892, TFP. 31. ​Jane responded to and quoted Mollie’s concerns in JAT to Mollie Tucker, May  24, 1891, TFP. 32. ​Deutsch, ­Women and the City, 92; JAT to Mollie Tucker, January 25, 1900, TFP. 33. ​Deutsch, ­Women and the City, 92. 34. ​Ehrenreich and En­glish, Complaints and Disorders, 98–99. 35. ​Martha H. Verbrugge, Able-­Bodied Womanhood: Personal Health and Social Change in Nineteenth-­Century Boston (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 109. 36. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, November 12, 1892, TFP. 37. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, November 12, 1892. 38. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, November 12, 1892. 39. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, November 12, 1892. 40. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, November 12, 1892. 41. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, October 15, 1892, TFP. 42. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, November 20, 1892, TFP. 43. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, November 20, 1892. 44. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, December 28, 1892, TFP. 45. ​C. H. Stoll, Letter of Reference, April 22, 1893, TFP.


Eliz a beth DeWolfe

46. ​Letters of Reference, April 22, 1893, TFP. 47. ​Ann Douglass Wood, “ ‘The Fash­ion­able Diseases’: ­Women’s Complaints and Their Treatment in Nineteenth-­Century Amer­i­ca,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 4, no.  1 (Summer 1973): 37. 48. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, May 24, 1891, TFP. 49. ​JAT to Mame Tucker, March 10, 1894, TFP. 50. ​Charles Paine Thayer (1843–1910) was a general physician and surgeon who practiced in Vermont before relocating to Boston in 1878. He was involved in the founding of Tufts Medical School, where he was a professor of general, descriptive, and surgical anatomy. On Thayer, see “Charles P. Thayer, M.D.,” in History of Tufts College, ed. Alaric Bertrand Start ([Medford], MA: Tufts College, 1896), 186–188, Internet Archive, https://­archive​.­org​/­details​ /­historyoftuftsco00tuftuoft​/­page​/­n14. 51. ​JAT to Mame Tucker, November 23, 1893, TFP. 52. ​Thayer’s assessment is reported in JAT to Mollie Tucker, May 24, 1891, TFP. Undergarments, support structures, and skirts could weigh as much as twenty-­five pounds. On the challenges of ­women’s fashion, see Patricia A. Cunningham, Reforming Fashion, 1850–1914: Politics, Health, and Art, exhibition cata­log for exhibit at The Ohio State University, 2000, https://­k b​ .­o su​ .­e du​ /­d space​ /­b itstream​ /­h andle​ /­1 811​ /­4 4673​ /­R eforming ​ _­f ashion​ _­s mall​ .­pdf;jsessionid​= ­C5DE607568F534BAB9ECFABD7382EAAA​?s­ equence​=­2. 53. ​William H. Byford, A Treatise on the Chronic Inflammation and Displacements of the Unimpregnated Uterus (Philadelphia, 1864), 61, https://­archive​.­org​/­details​/­treatiseonchro​ ni00byfo. 54. ​Cited in Wood, “Fash­ion­able Diseases,” 29. 55. ​Wood, 37. 56. ​Mame strug­gled with addictions to alcohol and opiates throughout the 1890s. She died in 1899 in a ­hotel in Portland, Maine. 57. ​“Patience Stapleton Dead,” Daily (Chicago) InterOcean, November 26, 1893. 58. ​JAT to Mame Tucker, December 23, 1893, TFP (underline in the original). 59. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, December 26, 1893, TFP. 60. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, December 26, 1893. 61. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, December 26, 1893. 62. ​Mollie Tucker to Mame Tucker, January 8, 1894, TFP. 63. ​Hemorrhoids. 64. ​Mollie Tucker to Mame Tucker, January 17, 1894, TFP. 65. ​Jennifer S. Tuttle, “Rewriting the West Cure: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Owen Wister, and the Sexual Politics of Neurasthenia,” in The Mixed Legacy of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, ed. Catherine J. Golden and Joanna Schneider Zangrando (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2000), 105. Mame’s fears of returning home to be “reformed” also speak to this point: Mollie desired both to reform Mame’s substance abuse and also to return her ­daughter to the safety of home and a more normative female lifestyle. 66. ​Charles H. Stoll to JAT, January 21, 1894, TFP. 67. ​Mollie Tucker to Mame Tucker, February 19, 1894, TFP. 68. ​Agnes Parker [Jane A. Tucker], The Real Madeleine Pollard (New York: G. W. Dillingham, 1894), 25. 69. ​Ehrenreich and En­glish, Complaints and Disorders, 83, 84, 87. See also Carroll Smith-­ Rosenberg, “The Hysterical W ­ oman: Sex Roles and Role Conflict in Nineteenth-­Century Amer­i­ca,” in Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian Amer­i­ca (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 197–216. 70. ​Madeleine Pollard, in her guise as Miss Dudley, played the role of a teacher at the House of Mercy. The ­sisters and teaching staff, who ate apart from the residents, refused to eat with Pollard. Parker, The Real Madeleine Pollard, 39. 71. ​Parker, 24–25. 72. ​Parker, 27. 73. ​Only the matron and teaching staff knew Madeleine Pollard’s history and understood her special arrangement. The two dozen young female residents knew Pollard as “Miss

R ecov er i ng Si ngl e Biogr a ph y


Dudley,” their part-­time teacher. Prior to Tucker’s arrival at the House of Mercy, Breckinridge’s l­egal team w ­ ere unsure of Pollard’s whereabouts. Tucker’s confirmation that Pollard was at the House of Mercy, and that Pollard and Dudley ­were one and the same, was her first, of several, contributions to Breckinridge’s defense. 74. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, ca. April 3, 1894, TFP. 75. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, ca. April 3, 1894. 76. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, April 1, 1894, TFP. 77. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, April 12, 1894, TFP. 78. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, March 28, 1894, TFP. 79. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, ca. April 3, 1894. 80. ​Bill for Ser­v ices, ca. May 1894, Box 812, Breckinridge ­Family Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, DC. 81. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, April 1, 1894, TFP. 82. ​James F. Kelly to Mame Tucker, June 29, 1894, TFP. 83. ​JAT to Mame Tucker, September 14, 1894, TFP. 84. ​Charles Stoll, Notarized Statement, November 15, 1894, TFP. 85. ​Tuttle, “Rewriting the West Cure,” 107. 86. ​Mollie Tucker to Mame Tucker, March 17, 1896, TFP. 87. ​Mollie Tucker to Mame Tucker, March 17, 1896, TFP. 88. ​JAT to Mollie Tucker, November 16, 1900, TFP. 89. ​Jane Armstrong Tucker, comp., The State of Maine Cook Book ([n.p.: Maine?]: Demo­ cratic ­Women of Maine, ca. 1925); facsimile (Carlisle, MA: Applewood Books, n.d.). 90. ​Quoted in Verbrugge, Able-­Bodied Womanhood, 123.


Familiar Figures r epr esenting and r e f or m i n g t h e s i n g l e  ­wom a n The first part of this collection suggested new methods and texts for studying singleness; this part collects four essays that renovate a classic form of singleness scholarship by reconsidering the world of familiar single figures. Historical and cultural scholarship has often focused on specific single figures that captured the public imagination: “New ­Women,” w ­ omen adrift, and spinsters, to name just a few. While such work brings impor­tant attention to recognized identity categories—­and their shifting contours—it also tends to obscure the lines of implicit connection between single ­women across the social spectrum, privileging groupings by race, age, and class. In revisiting established figures, recovering additional single identities, and broadening the range of w ­ omen addressed, this part and part III begin the crucial work of mapping structural relations between diverse single w ­ omen. This part begins by approaching the iconic figures of their eras as single: the 1950s teenager, the 1920s flapper, the midcentury divorcée, and the con­temporary cook. Pamela Wojcik’s, Martina Mastandrea’s, Kristin Celello’s, and Ursula Kania’s essays re-­present familiar and unconsidered figures from a singleness studies perspective. Wojcik unveils the oft hidden or overwritten transition of a girl into single womanhood. Focusing on the teenager at the center of the Gidget narratives, whose transformation is most often read through girlhood or genre studies as a coming-­of-­age, Wojcik instead reads her as becoming single. Reclaiming the transgressive single m ­ iddle of the film, she finds both heterosexual deflection and homosocial possibility. Wojcik’s work is key in establishing youth as a touch point for singleness studies, introducing both the ways in which the field encompasses “normative” single temporality and the ways in which queer possibility marks ­woman’s entire single life trajectory. Next, Martina Mastandrea utilizes the methods demonstrated in Jennifer S. Clark’s and Andreá N. Williams’s essays, to analyze F. Scott Fitzgerald’s flapper 67


Pa r t I I

stories and film adaptations. Mastandrea turns to scripts, publicity materials, ­production notes, and con­temporary reviews in order to propose new modes of analy­sis for the lost, unviewable film and make pos­si­ble a new reading of Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age characters. The flapper has often been characterized—­and stereotyped—as a shallow, sexualized figure. Mastandrea’s work rethinks dominant readings and cultural dismissals of the flapper, highlighting her singleness and recovering repre­sen­ta­tions of her marital re­sis­tance. She reclaims the radical possibilities and range of twentieth-­century flapper fictions, revising generalizations of Fitzgerald’s frivolous manhunters and exploring the international reach of his defiant single figures. Kristin Celello traces evolving anx­i­eties over the sexualized maternity of the divorced m ­ other across the first half of the American twentieth c­ entury. By examining shifting cultural repre­sen­ta­tions of the single m ­ other, Celello recovers a contentious figure at once legally separated from and bound to the f­ amily. Her work represents an impor­tant intervention into singleness studies, an insistent reminder that ­women of diverse romantic and marital histories often revisit singleness, as widowed, divorced, or separated m ­ others. In conversation with the robust histories of the never married, Celello’s work significantly broadens the network of single figures for the field. Fi­nally, in focusing on the modern genre of “cookbooks for one,” Ursula Kania replaces age and marital status as organ­izing identifiers, bringing single ­women together through their relation to domestic l­abor. As a central domestic practice, cooking carries gendered, romantic, and personal expectations. Kania uses the techniques of critical discourse analy­sis to read, code, and interpret cookbooks targeted at singles, uncovering a transition from singleness as pathology or premarital stage in the 1970s ­toward a tool of self-­care and an act of self-­actualization into the first de­cade of the twentieth c­ entury. Her examination of cookbooks reveals the ways in which evolving messages about singleness permeate twentieth-­century popu­lar culture and claims a broadened basis for single identification. Figural studies (i.e., examining well-­k nown single identities or common ste­reo­ types) offer much to the field, grouping shared single experiences and recovering explicit group identifications and histories. However, any label that divides single ­women into categories of rebellious, exceptional, or failed figures also runs the risk of reinforcing dominant narratives and reducing complex realities. Familiar single categories can oversimplify a broad constituency and obscure social diversity and silenced voices, the longer and recurring temporality of singleness, and the social spectrum of normative and queer. The essays in this part contribute to an effort to nuance and expand upon recognized historical figures. We advocate for the continued interrogation of familiar categories of single possibility, the recovery of unpublished voices, and the recognition of parallels between w ­ omen who did not identify as a group. Single experience is at once socially specific and shared. A variable experience, singleness is both consistently marginalized and unevenly inflected by race, class, age, ability, sex, and sexuality, as the essays collected ­here illustrate.

chapter 4

Becoming Single gidget “betwixt and between” Pamela Robertson Wojcik

In the film Gidget (Wendkos, 1959), in a conversation with her ­mother, the teen girl protagonist Gidget (Sandra Dee) grapples with a sense of being “weird,” a misfit, not yet ready to join the world of adult sexuality. “Mom, ­t here’s something I have to ask you,” she says. “Well, do you find ­t here’s anything weird about me? I mean, gee, I’m serious. ­Here I am, seventeen, the same age as Nan and the rest of ’em. Why ­don’t I like dates?” Asked by her m ­ other (Mary LaRoche) if she likes boys, Gidget says, “Sure, boys are the most fun!” However, she adds that she “­can’t stand it when they start smooching and pawing;” and she pleads, “Level with me, Mom, ­doesn’t that kind of stuff make your skin crawl?” When her ­mother assures her that it “would depend on who [sic],” Gidget avers. “­There it is then. That proves it. I am dif­fer­ent.” Her m ­ other assures her that it is OK she is not a “manhunter” like her friends and proj­ects a f­ uture in which Gidget w ­ ill feel differently, reading her lack of sexual interest in boys as a not yet rather than a never. ­Later, a­ fter Gidget has fallen in love with the surfer Moondoggie (James Darren), she still strug­g les with feelings of failure. Rather than make her feel less “weird,” her newfound desire for Moondoggie makes her feel inadequate and undesirable. She angrily confesses to her parents that she has had to resort to tricks to get a date. Having wheedled her way into a wild beach luau with promises to bring food, and hired another male surfer as a pretend date, to make Moondoggie jealous, Gidget explains to her parents that the leg of lamb she is sneaking out of the ­house is a bribe. “That’s how anxious all the fellas are to take out your darling ­daughter,” she cries. “To get this date to­night, I had to hand over cold hard cash.” When her f­ather asks if this is “what the young man of ­today wants,” Gidget declares, “­You’re so right. The man I’m a­ fter sure does want something e­ lse, and I’ll see that he gets it!” Whereas early on Gidget is disgusted by “smooching and pawing,” she is now ready to give Moondoggie “what he wants.” Her actions—­ bribing men to go on dates with her with “cold cash” and meat—­place Gidget in a world of consumerist sex and prostitution. However, rather than seem a marker 69


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of Gidget’s descent as a fallen ­woman, her actions ­here, albeit exaggerated and desperate, are marked as comedic and within the realm of “normal” manipulative female strategies. In between the ­earlier conversation with her ­mother and the ­later argument with her parents, Gidget has fallen in love with Moondoggie, which makes her desiring and, thus, lacking. Both moments point to a level of crisis and difficulty in Gidget’s conflicted feelings about adolescence. In the first, she is just a girl: in the second, she is a single girl. If, on the surface, Gidget, like any romantic comedy, is about the formation of a c­ ouple—­Gidget and Moondoggie—­the melodrama hidden inside Gidget is about Gidget’s painful pro­cess of experiencing desire and want, of becoming single. If Gidget ultimately attaches to Moondoggie, becoming one of two, part of a ­couple, she must first become undone, to feel desire, and thus lack and incompleteness. This essay examines Gidget as a narrative not of coupling—­ with emphasis on the famous ending when Gidget agrees to wear Moondoggie’s pin—­but of becoming single. Rather than a mere step in a natu­ral progression—­ from childhood to being single to being coupled—­Gidget renders becoming single as work and pro­cess, a becoming that is less about aggregation and growth than a progression requiring a kind of un-­becoming.

Reading Gidget Backward My argument about Gidget ­counters a few tendencies in criticism of the film. One tendency is to dismiss Gidget as a relatively frictionless narrative or “clean” teenpic. Clean teenpics, according to Thomas Doherty, are aimed at the “female trade”; veer away from adult themes such as sex, vio­lence, or vice; and tend to be framed by adult parental values.1 In this reading, Gidget is a clean teenpic b ­ ecause Gidget is not a delinquent and does not drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or have sex. Taken as a “clean” teenpic, Gidget is perceived as the yang to the counterculture’s yin. Gidget is weighed against other teen films, and especially in relation to the male delinquency in Rebel without a Cause (Ray, 1955). According to Peter John Dyer, whereas James Dean in Rebel without a Cause expressed the “disquiet, ner­ vous dissatisfaction and inexpressible longings” of youth, Gidget has “no conviction what­ever in the more topical drama of the barriers between generations.”2 Kirse Granat May similarly pits Gidget against Rebel without a Cause as “sides of a coin in imagining postwar California youth.” May claims that “viewed together, the [two] films suggest a cultural transition, a shift from concerns over . . . ​delinquency to a cele­bration of baby boomer lifestyles.” She suggests that, while Rebel without a Cause “pioneered an archetype” of the brooding male teen, Gidget “highlighted the w ­ holesomeness of youth.”3 Where Rebel without a Cause presented middle-­class youth alienation, generational b ­ attles, and parental deficiencies, Gidget disentangled youth culture from delinquency and provided a more reassuring portrait of the teen relationship with parents. While separating Gidget from narratives of delinquency, some writers link the film to the counterculture, especially in Gidget’s relation to surfing.4 As Matt

Becoming Single


Warshaw explains, surfers in the mid-1950s ­were similar in many ways to the Beats.5 Warshaw states that “both ­were reacting to the self-­satisfied, vaguely anxious, and consumer oriented m ­ iddle class.” 6 As Leanne Stedman argues, midcentury surfing “was a statement of a genuinely alternative form of masculinity.”7 Like the Beats, surfers stood outside 1950s hegemonic ideals of breadwinning, marriage, materialist culture, and white-­collar work. ­Because surfing interfered with many types of work, surfers waited t­ables, worked as lifeguards, fished, and did other itinerant jobs that enabled them to stay on the beach.8 Less intellectual and po­liti­cally aware than the Beats, surf culture challenged the dominant culture most in its emphasis on plea­sure above l­abor. For example, Terry “Tubesteak” Tracy was one of the Malibu rebels who emerged in the 1950s. He built a shack on the beach and lived in it all summer, foregrounding “superabundant leisure, mid-­level hedonism and occasional display of public showmanship that w ­ ere intended to mock the squares.”9 Despite the countercultural image of surfing, and despite the fact that female surfing was still a rarity when the film was released, most critics suggest that “despite her membership in a mildly rebellious surfing clique,” Gidget is a “heroine marked by conformity.”10 In part, this perception of Gidget relates to the mainstreaming of surf culture that occurred in large part due to or at least in conjunction with the popularity of Gidget. As Warshaw notes, Gidget “was the starting point for a nine-­year surf boom that took the sport from a California-­ centric phenomenon to a national craze.” “It ­wasn’t all Gidget’s ­doing,” he argues, “but this loud, young, hard-­charging period in surf history would forever be linked in the popu­lar imagination to a barefoot ingenue with the funny nickname.”11 As the film Gidget coincides with a mainstream boom in surf culture, that culture loses its countercultural status, aligns with teen consumerism, and produces “rebel posing” among “contented sons of suburbia”; thus, Gidget as a character no longer seems to be challenging the status quo.12 Beyond the mainstreaming of surfing, readings of Gidget as clean and conformist especially emphasize the film’s ending, when the seemingly countercultural surfers are shown to be conformist a­ fter all. The Big Kahuna (Cliff Robertson), the eldest of the surfers, who lives in a shack on the beach and follows the waves around the world, decides at the end of the film, u ­ nder Gidget’s influence, to re-­evaluate his bohemian lifestyle and return to the world of work, albeit as a pi­lot and not as a white-­collar desk jockey. Similarly, we discover that Moondoggie is r­ eally Jeff Matthews, a respectable college boy, and that he ­w ill return to college rather than continue surfing when autumn arrives. For Kevin O’Brien and o ­ thers, this neuters the counterhegemonic impulse of surfing and absorbs surfing into the mainstream, showing the surfers’ “inevitable capitulation” to capitalism and ­family.13 As with t­ hose reading Gidget as a conformist clean teenpic, critics tend to focus on the film’s ending as disproving its feminist bona fides. Their readings emphasize the film’s ending twist, when Gidget fi­nally agrees to go on a date with Jeff, a college boy who is the son of her ­father’s friend, and who turns out to be the very same Moondoggie she has been pursuing all summer. Doherty, for example, claims


Pa m e l a R o b e r t s o n W o j c i k

that clean teenpics like Gidget are “resistant to feminist rehabilitation.” He argues that Gidget teases feminism by having a female-­focused narrative, but that “what­ ever feminist fire simmers within Gidget is effectively doused by Mom . . . ​and the conventions of narrative closure.”14 Similarly, Kevin O’Brien, Ilana Nash, Allison Whitney, and Kristen Hatch all argue that Gidget ultimately relinquishes any claim to a feminist point of view. For O’Brien, this ending shows that patriarchy works to produce regulations that Gidget must obey, by subsuming her desires into her ­father’s.15 Nash describes Gidget as demeaned and exploited by her f­ ather. She links Gidget to Nabokov’s Lolita in presenting the “si­mul­ta­neously innocent and sexy ­daddy’s ­little girl,” viewing Gidget as “sexualize[d] and infantilize[d]” and required to seek approval from her f­ ather.16 Whitney claims that the film’s “message” is that one can avoid trou­ble by “relinquishing control of one’s life to paternal regulations and distancing oneself from the symbolic disruptions [. . .] ­Daddy fears.”17 Hatch reads Gidget as a tomboy-­transformation film, in which the “thrill of young ­women’s acting against gender norms,” h ­ ere surfing, is “followed by their transformation into properly submissive and demure ­women,” willing to “submit to male authority” and “domesticate their male counter­parts.”18 Ends-­oriented criticism of Gidget seems to me to miss the mark. Following Raymond Bellour and the princi­ples of structuralist criticism, ends-­oriented criticism tends to focus on the formation of the ­couple as “absolutely central” to “the classical American cinema as a ­whole.” In Bellour’s formulation, the classical Hollywood film proceeds through a series of paired oppositions—­for example, male/ female, rebellious/conformist, night/day—­t hat are resolved by a solution that “in the majority of cases takes the form of a marriage.”19 In the case of Gidget, such ends-­oriented criticism willfully ignores that Gidget gets what she wants—­ Moondoggie—­and that it is the ­father whose desires are subsumed into Gidget’s, as he does not want her dating a surfer. More impor­tant, it fails to address the identifications, pleasures, and appeal of the text for female fans. In resisting an ends-­oriented reading, I am thinking of many feminist and queer theorists such as Tania Modleski and Alexander Doty who suggest the importance of reading the m ­ iddle as containing pleasures, eruptions, re­sis­tances, and excesses that run ­counter to the logic of the end. Modleski, for example, argues against feminist critiques that oversimplify Alfred Hitchcock by focusing on the “male gaze” and ultimate emphasis on masculine mastery and authority in the narratives. Instead, she reads the films as ambivalent about femininity and claims that, in the ­middles, they give “expression to w ­ omen’s feelings of ‘rage, helplessness, victimization, oppression.’ ”20 Doty addresses the “pleasures, and sometimes perverse unpleasures, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and queers get from film and popu­lar culture,” underscoring the way in which nominally straight texts consistently have queer moments, queer spaces, and nonstraight discourses embedded within.21 Rick Altman deftly articulates the prob­lem with ends-­oriented criticism in his own revision of his previous ends-­oriented criticism of the musical. In his analy­ sis of the musical, Altman initially followed Bellour’s template closely and focused on the formation of the c­ ouple. He argued, famously, that the musical worked via

Becoming Single


a dual-­focus structure in which the male and female leads w ­ ere paralleled and compared to each other via alternating matching scenes showing his dressing room, her dressing room, his song with male friends, her song with female friends, and so on. Along with this, each sex was “identified with a par­tic­u ­lar attitude, value, desire, location, age or other characteristic attribute.” Thus, the male character might be associated with leisure, jazz, urbanism, and maturity, whereas the female protagonist might be associated with work, classical ­music, small-­town values, and youth. The formation of the c­ ouple at film’s end resolved the opposition between them and combined their attributes in a “concordance of opposites,” such as a jazz-­ ballet finale that would combine their respective musical styles.22 In a ­later revision of his position, Altman argues that ends-­oriented criticism blinds the critic to much of the text: ­ ere is a sense that endings have the power to transform all that came before. Th In terms of textual analy­sis, the danger lies not so much in the power of an ending to transform a beginning or a m ­ iddle, but in the ever-­present possibility that beginnings or m ­ iddles ­will be forgotten or misremembered, hidden as they tend to be in the shadow of an ending . . . ​thereby robbing them of any potential in­de­ pen­dent importance they may have.23

­ ere, Altman indicates that ends-­oriented criticism makes the critic not only view H the m ­ iddle solely as a prob­lem to be solved by the ending but also disregard the parts that do not fit, that are in excess of the drive ­toward the ­couple, or that run ­counter to the logic of the end. In the case of the musical, in par­tic­u­lar, he notes that attending to the ­middle reveals how much of the narrative is not or­ga­nized around the final c­ ouple but, on the one hand, around wrong c­ ouples (the wrong guy for Ginger, the wrong girl for Fred) and, on the other hand, around homo­ social pairings (the girlfriends and buddies that populate the first half of the narrative). While the wrong ­couples may exist largely to reinforce the right ­couple, the homosocial pairings show the ­labor required to move characters out of a homo­ social and potentially queer world and into heterosexuality. In this sense, the ending, the formation of the heterosexual c­ ouple, is not the ­simple logical outcome of the narrative but the result of a pro­cess of shutting down options, closing off paths, and imposing heterosexual closure on a potentially diverse and queer world. Resisting an ends-­oriented reading of Gidget opens up the possibility of reading similar ambivalences, queer moments, and feminine pleasures that are not fully dependent on the film’s final clinch. As Leroom Medovoi argues, even if we take the ending to be largely conformist, and if we understand Gidget’s rebellion into surfing and “bad girl” sexuality to be only temporary, her rebellion might have appealed to postwar girls: “If, for such mainstream meanings, girls ­were licensed to rebel primarily ­because they thereby drew bad boys back into heterosexual romance, and thus back into the wider orbit of potential marital adulthood, their stories nonetheless opened up impor­tant spaces of repre­sen­ta­tion.”24 It may be the case that Gidget ultimately supports the patriarchal ideal, in having Gidget’s desires mesh with her ­father’s plans, and in having Gidget serve as a taming influence over both the Big


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Kahuna and Jeff, but Gidget does more than merely promulgate a fantasy of rebellion. In showing the difficulty and pain of coupling, Gidget denaturalizes the pro­ cess of acquiescence to the mainstream and allows space for alternative paths.

Gidget in the M ­ iddle Rather than read Gidget back to front, through its ending, I suggest that we read the text in terms of its ­middle. As a teen film, Gidget is necessarily about the ­middle rather than the ending. A condition for the teen film, according to Catherine Driscoll, is “a modern idea of adolescence as personal and social crisis” and a narrative centered on “difficulty.”25 The teen film, in her analy­sis, remains internal to adolescence and does not attend to social markers that more fully transition one to adulthood, such as voting or marriage. She argues that the teen film is “less about growing up than about the expectation, difficulty and social organ­ization of growing up”—­less about the ending, in other words, when one becomes an adult, and more about the pro­cess of becoming.26 “If modern adolescence is a crisis from which the adult subject is supposed to emerge,” Driscoll argues, “teen film is interested in the limits and possibilities of this pro­cess.”27 Attending to the ­middle of Gidget, as signaling adolescence itself, also illuminates the pro­cess of becoming single. It may seem obvious, but being single is not merely the condition of being solo or uncoupled. In general, we do not refer to ­children as single. Shirley T ­ emple plays girls, not single girls. Although Gidget is not initially in a c­ ouple, she is nevertheless not single at the start of the film. In the film’s theme song, Gidget is defined as “sorta teenage . . . ​in-­between,” aligning adolescence with an in-­between status. As an in-­between, Gidget is not yet an adult, and not yet single, but exists in a liminal space. Understood as liminal space, Gidget’s in-­between status can be understood as a period of rebellion or avoidance of conformity, even with the knowledge that one ­will conform eventually. As Medovoi states, many teen films suggest that girls “need to pass through a wild moment, a phase of intelligible and justifiable rebelliousness, before they can be expected to embrace, in their own way, . . . ​domestic values.”28 ­Here, Medovoi echoes Joan Didion’s characterization of young single girls in the 1950s and 1960s as enjoying “The ­Great Reprieve.” Rather than directly and immediately seek marriage, Didion argues, that young ­women wanted instead to “prolong the period when they can experiment, mess around, make ­mistakes,” a “leave of absence” in which they can avoid “the gentle pressure” to marry.29 Though temporary, the “reprieve” Didion describes is nonetheless transitive—­during this period, young ­women grow and change. In Hatch’s analy­sis, Gidget’s tomboy be­hav­ior signals her status as presexual rather than as having a masculine gender identity. Tomboy, in this sense, seems to indicate childlike, rather than in any way masculine. However, I would argue that at the start of the film, rather than being wholly unaware of sexuality, Gidget, or Francine, is actively uninterested in it. As the film opens, Gidget goes to the beach with her friends. When they arrive, they stand at the top of a sand dune to gaze at

Becoming Single


Figure 4.1. ​Gidget refuses to participate in her friend’s masquerade. Digital frame enlargement.

the male surfers below and plan a “maneuver” that “takes technique.” They stop to take off their outer clothing and parade past the male surfers in their swimsuits. As each of the three friends marches, chest forward, showing her figure, Gidget, more flat-­chested than the rest, trots then stumbles. As the other girls pose provocatively on the sand, Gidget flops down and plays with handfuls of sand. When the boys do not look at the girls, Gidget says hopefully, “Maybe they d ­ idn’t notice us!” One girl picks up a ball to stage a game intended to draw the male surfers’ gazes. Only Gidget takes the ball game seriously, and she is scolded by her friends for d ­ oing so. Fi­nally, getting no traction from the boys, Gidget asks, “Who needs ’em?” and puts on her mask and snorkel to go swimming, while her friends abandon the beach to go on a “manhunt” at a dif­fer­ent beach, without Gidget. In this scene, the film highlights the mechanisms of female masquerade, to make it strange. We see Gidget’s friends pose unnaturally on their towels, stretching their breasts to the sky, to attract attention. Their efforts to attract the male gaze seem both obvious and desperate. The male surfers also see the girls’ actions as masquerade: when the ball is thrown near the boys, one of them asks Moondoggie if he is g­ oing to fall for “that jail-­bait caper.” Rather than view Gidget as a failure, we are made to view her friends’ posing as weird and unnatural. Gidget refuses to participate in her friends’ masquerade and opts to play like a child, playing ball and eventually g­ oing snorkeling by herself. Privileging Gidget’s point of view, the friends dis­appear from the narrative and the beach for the rest of the film.


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Borrowing from Robin Bern­stein, we can see Gidget’s sexual innocence as less an absence of knowledge than “claims of holy obliviousness.” Bern­stein argues that like racial innocence, “sexual innocence is not a state of absence (asexuality or presexuality) but is instead a state of deflection: a constantly replenishing obliviousness that c­ auses sexual ­matters to slide by without sticking.”30 Rather than unknowing or somehow unaware of sexuality, Gidget does not have her own sexual desires and thus opts out of sexual expression. Gidget knows about sexuality but finds it “icky” and unappealing, and thus deflects it. As Medovoi suggests, rather than assume that the “manhunters’ ” pursuit of men is normal, and thus view Gidget as aberrant or a failure, Gidget “allows for the expression of female dissatisfaction with being paired off.”31 One way that Gidget mobilizes feelings of female dissatisfaction is through the casting of Sandra Dee. Now misremembered largely via the musical Grease (Kleiser, 1978) as “lousy with virginity,” at the time of Gidget, Dee’s image was much more complexly sexual.32 Prior to Gidget, Dee would have been known from The Reluctant Debutante (Minnelli, 1958), in which she plays a seventeen-­year-­old who resists her stepmother’s efforts to find her a wealthy suitor, and instead pursues a drummer with a reputation for leading girls astray; and The Restless Years (Käutner, 1958), in which she plays the sexually curious, illegitimate d ­ aughter of the town outcast. One week ­after Gidget was released, Dee would appear in Imitation of Life (Sirk, 1959) as Susie, the privileged White girl who seeks to seduce her ­mother’s lover, and ­later that year in A Summer Place (Daves, 1959), in which she engages in a cross-­class romance that leads to teen pregnancy. As Georgeanne Scheiner argues, rather than prudish and virginal, “Dee’s film characterizations are often quite erotic, and her virginity is a source of g­ reat anguish and ambivalence in her film roles.” Scheiner views Dee not as blandly conformist but as producing a new type, “a teenage girl conflicted about her emerging sexuality.”33 Dee’s casting brings to the fore the ambivalent, even contradictory feelings about sexuality that Gidget experiences. As with Dee’s casting, the film’s reception may have been filtered through girls’ knowledge of the best-­selling novel Gidget: The ­Little Girl with Big Ideas, by Hollywood screenwriter Frederick Kohner (based on his ­daughter Kathy’s experience as the sole female surfer in Malibu for two summers). Gidget’s sexual feelings are foregrounded in the novel. Her first-­person narration is partly about surfing and also, suggestively, the story of her coming into sexual desire. Gidget describes herself as “­really quite cute” and notes that she has “a c­ ouple of r­ eally sexy-­looking bathing suits,” but says that “the only t­ hing that worries me is my bosom.”34 She mentions reading the novel From ­Here to Eternity (1951) for the sixth time, “meaning the dirty passages,” describes feeling “hot inside just thinking about” surfing, writes “long and passionate” letters to a crush, and has “thoughts so startlingly romantic and biological that they surprised and shocked me.”35 Gidget also explic­ itly invokes Françoise Sagan’s books Bonjour Tristesse (1955) and A Certain Smile (1956), comparing her own story to “­t hose French novels from Sexville.”36 Gidget reads A Certain Smile three times while stuck home with tonsillitis and employs a strategy learned from that book to make Moondoggie jealous.

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The film adaptation does not make explicit Gidget’s sexual feelings, but neither does it wholly obscure them. Gidget makes a preliminary step into sexual feeling when she first experiences surfing. A ­ fter her friends leave the beach and Gidget goes snorkeling, she gets caught in some kelp and begins to drown. Rescued by Moondoggie, who paddles out to her, Gidget lays passively on her stomach on the surfboard while Moondoggie surfs her to shore. Despite having nearly drowned and remaining flat on her stomach, when Gidget gets home, she exclaims to her parents, “You ­can’t imagine the thrill of shooting the curl! It positively surpasses ­every living emotion I’ve ever had!” Initially, however, Gidget’s sublimated sexual feeling is not yet tied to desire for another, just for the “living emotion” of it. Coming into desire, and thus becoming single, requires pain. When Gidget’s mom promises that Gidget w ­ ill feel desire one day, she promises “magic,” but then tells Gidget that she ­will know “as surely as if ­you’ve been hit on the head by a sledgehammer.” Sure enough, when Gidget first realizes she is in love with Moondoggie, following a second rescue from being tangled in kelp and nearly drowning, we see her lying down in Kahuna’s hut with a cold cloth on her forehead, covered in a blanket; then she sits up and reels, gripping her head as if dizzy and in pain. Realizing her desire for Moondoggie and subsequent jealousy, as he goes off on a date with another girl, she describes her feeling to Kahuna as being like “she was hit by a sledgehammer.” In line with Altman’s argument about the musical, Gidget’s journey to Moondoggie is preceded by two alternative paths.37 In one, Gidget nearly forms a wrong ­couple with the Big Kahuna. Her effort to make Moondoggie jealous at the luau fails when the boy she has hired as a pretend date, unaware of the object of her affection, hires Moondoggie to replace him. Then, Gidget lets Moondoggie believe he has been hired to make the Big Kahuna jealous. Gidget goes with the Big Kahuna to a beach ­house, in what comes dangerously close to a rape scene, in which Kahuna ­either plays along to scare Gidget or legitimately tries to seduce her. This scene ends with Moondoggie punching Kahuna, initiating the break between the two men and Kahuna’s return to ­labor, as well as Moondoggie’s expression of love for Gidget. In the other alternative path, Gidget also has a homosocial relationship that teases lesbianism with her friend Betty Louise (Sue George), nicknamed B.L. As Altman suggests, musicals and romantic comedies often situate the characters in homosocial worlds, then move the characters away from same-­sex friends as they move ­toward the opposite sex. Thus, in Gidget, Moondoggie moves away from the homosocial world of surfing, as he reclaims his identity as Jeff Matthews and prepares to return to college. Gidget, similarly, separates from the “manhunters.” However, the slightly butch B.L. haunts the edges of Gidget long a­ fter the other girlfriends dis­appear. She is, mysteriously, at Gidget’s ­house when the other girls pick Gidget up to go to the beach, and stays ­behind with Gidget’s mom. While Gidget’s friendship with B.L. could be taken as a presexual childhood form of homosociality, B.L. does not dis­appear from the narrative as Gidget begins to join the male surfers and discovers her love for Moondoggie. Instead, her role intensifies once Gidget becomes single and comes into sexual desire. She is the only female


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Figure 4.2. ​B.L. helps Gidget increase her bust size. Digital frame enlargement.

friend we see with Gidget a­ fter the failed manhunt, and a­ fter her first appearance, she is seen exclusively in Gidget’s bedroom. Pinned, but with an absent beau, B.L. allows for the possibility that one can be queered and homosocial even a­ fter heterosexual coupling. She is available to help Gidget practice surfing in her bedroom, rocking the bedframe below as Gidget surfs on top, and she helps Gidget mea­sure her chest as she attempts to increase her bust size through exercise. While the wrong-­couple narrative serves to bring Gidget and Moondoggie together, and must be shut down, the queer narrative points t­ oward nonheterocentric possibilities and complicates any sense of Gidget’s capitulation to normativity. If the main point of Gidget ­were to pair Gidget and Moondoggie, ­t here would not be such a successful multimedia franchise of Gidget texts. ­After Gidget: The ­Little Girl with Big Ideas, Kohner wrote an additional five novels—­Cher Papa (1959), The Affairs of Gidget (1963), Gidget in Love (1965), Gidget Goes Parisienne (1966), and Gidget Goes New York (1968)—­plus two novelizations of films. ­After the original Gidget film, t­ here are two main feature-­fi lm sequels, Gidget Goes Hawaiian (Wendkos, 1961) and Gidget Goes to Rome (Wendkos, 1963); two TV series, Gidget (1965) and The New Gidget (1986–1988); and three made-­for-­TV movies between 1969 and 1985. A focus on the ending of Gidget and on the formation of the ­couple assumes a finality to being coupled that the franchise itself resists. Gidget requires the near-­ constant uncoupling of Gidget and Moondoggie in order to be sustained across its transmedia story arc.38 Both the novels and the films show Gidget straying from

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Moondoggie, ­either ­because they have broken up or ­because she finds herself in new environs. Each of the two main feature-­fi lm sequels, Gidget Goes Hawaiian and Gidget Goes to Rome, for example, begins with Gidget and Moondoggie as a ­couple but has them break up near the start of the film, engage in more mutual wrong coupling, and only re­unite at the very end. Tellingly, each of ­t hose films, though set in distant locales, begins with a shot of the Malibu beach where Gidget first meets Moondoggie. In both sequels, this opening includes a shot of an official State of California sign that reads “California Welcomes You,” with an unofficial handwritten sign nailed below it that reads, “We ­don’t! Beach bums only. Have surfboards—­w ill travel” that is signed by multiple surfers. Neither of t­ hese signs appears in the original film. This return to the beach serves to remind us of the origin story, certainly, but also serves to rewind and relocate us in a transitional space that is linked to the liminal status of youth. As Driscoll suggests, it is not only the case that summer and especially the beach invoke a sense of “freedom from social constraint,” but also that summer holidays are a “transitional space between school years and thus between one age and the next,” a state of being betwixt and between and, in the case of Gidget, a state of being single.39

acknowl­edgments This chapter is excerpted from Gidget: Origins of a Teen Girl Media Franchise (New York: Routledge, 2021).

notes 1. ​Thomas Doherty, Teen­agers and Teenpics: The Juvenilization of Movies in the 1950s (Philadelphia: T ­ emple University Press, 2002), 160, 152, 159. 2. ​Peter John Dyer, “Youth and the Cinema,” Sight and Sound 29 (1959–1960): 29–30. 3. ​Kirse Granat May, “Gidget without a Cause,” in Golden State, Golden Youth: The Californian Image in Popu­lar Culture, 1955–1966 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002), 67–68. 4. ​See Brian L. Gillogly, “Guest Editorial: Happy 54th Gidget!,” Journal of Popu­lar Culture 44, no. 4 (2011): 681–683. 5. ​Matt Warshaw (The History of Surfing [San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2010]) and Gillogly both compare the novel Gidget: The L ­ ittle Girl with Big Ideas to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, arguing, respectively, that Gidget outsold On the Road and placed above it on the best-­ seller list. I cannot find any evidence of this. Gidget appears on the Los Angeles Times best-­ seller list for four weeks from October 27 to November 17, 1957. On the Road does not appear on the same list at all. On the Road is listed for five weeks from October 27 to November 10, 1957, on the New York Times best-­seller list, ranging between number 11 and number 15, whereas Gidget does not appear at all. While Gidget hits number 8 in the Los Angeles Times, it does not seem accurate to claim that it beat On the Road since the books never appear on the same best-­seller list. See the list of New York Times best sellers for 1957 at http://­w ww​.­hawes​ .­com​/­1957​/1­ 957​.­htm, accessed July, 2018. 6. ​Warshaw, History of Surfing, 133. 7. ​Leanne Stedman, “From Gidget to Gonad Man: Surfers. Feminists, and Postmodernisation,” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology 33, no. 1 (1997): 81. 8. ​Warshaw, History of Surfing, 111.


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9. ​Warshaw, 117. Tubesteak is a likely model for the Big Kahuna in Gidget and was the one who nicknamed Kathy Kohner, the real-­life Gidget. 10. ​Warshaw, 156; May, “Gidget without a Cause,” 76. 11. ​Warshaw, History of Surfing, 156. 12. ​Warshaw 162. 13. ​Kevin O’Brien, “Gidget: Surfing the Illusory Wave of Change,” Popu­lar Culture Review 6, no. 2 (August 1995): 84. 14. ​Doherty, Teen­agers and Teenpics, 160–161. 15. ​O’Brien, “Gidget,” 86–87. 16. ​Ilana Nash, “ ‘Nowhere Else to Go’: Gidget and the Construction of Adolescent Femininity,” Feminist Media Studies 2, no. 3 (2002): 341–342. 17. ​Allison Whitney, “Gidget Goes Hysterical,” in Sugar, Spice, and Every­thing Nice: Cinemas of Girlhood, ed. Frances Gateward and Murray Pomerance (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2002), 69. 18. ​Kristen Hatch, “­Little Butches: Tomboys in Hollywood Film,” in Mediated Girlhoods: New Explorations of Girls’ Media Culture, ed. Mary Celeste Kearney (New York: Peter Lang, 2011), 77–78. 19. ​Janet Bergstrom, “Alternation, Segmentation, Hypnosis: Interview with Raymond Bellour,” Camera Obscura 3 (1979): 88. 20. ​Tania Modleski, The W ­ omen Who Knew Too Much: Hitchcock and Feminist Theory (New York: Methuen, 1988), 4. 21. ​Alexander Doty, Flaming Classics: Queering the Film Canon (New York: Routledge, 2000), 14. 22. ​Rick Altman, The American Film Musical (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), 24, 27. 23. ​Rick Altman, “From Homosocial to Heterosexual: The Musical’s Two Proj­ects,” in The Sound of Musicals, ed. Steven Cohan (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 19. 24. ​Leroom Medovoi, Rebels: Youth and the Cold War Origins of Identity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), 49. 25. ​Catherine Driscoll, Teen Film: An Introduction (Oxford: Berg, 2011), 12, 11. 26. ​Driscoll, 66. 27. ​Driscoll, 104. 28. ​Medovoi, Rebels, 304, 314. 29. ​Joan Didion, “The ­Great Reprieve,” Ma­de­moi­selle, February 1961, 103. 30. ​Robin Bern­stein, Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights (New York: New York University Press, 2011), 8, 41. 31. ​Medovoi, Rebels, 304. 32. ​ Grease, directed by Randal Kleiser, Paramount Pictures, 1978. 33. ​Georgeanne Scheiner, “ ‘Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee’: Beyond a White Teen Icon,” Frontiers: A Journal of ­Women Studies 22, no. 2 (2001): 90. 34. ​Frederick Kohner, Gidget: The ­Little Girl with Big Ideas (New York: G. P. Putnam’s, 1957), 10. 35. ​Kohner, 66, 17, 61, 139. 36. ​Kohner, 3. 37. ​Medovoi, Rebels, 299. 38. ​In the TV series Gidget, Moondoggie is away at Prince­ton; while Gidget wears his ring around her neck, she regularly dates other boys. The TV movie of the week Gidget Grows Up (Sheldon, 1969) repeats the pattern of the movie sequels, as Gidget and Moondoggie break up and engage in wrong coupling before reuniting. In the TV series The New Gidget (1986–1988) and the TV movies of the week, Gidget Gets Married (Swackhamer, 1972) and Gidget’s Summer Reunion (Bilson, 1985), Gidget and Moondoggie are married and no longer teens; Gidget’s teen niece becomes the focus of the romantic plot. 39. ​Driscoll, Teen Film, 30.

chapter 5

F. Scott Fitzgerald and “The Sinking Ship of ­Future Matrimony” the unmarried flapper in lit­er­a­ture and on screen Martina Mastandrea It is the unmarried flapper who interests us: she seems to have so good a time. —­W. L. George

This essay uses singleness as a category for analy­sis to investigate three flapper tales by F. Scott Fitzgerald and their cinematic translations. Situating ­t hese 1920s texts in the social and cultural context within which the unmarried American flapper came to be articulated and manipulated by popu­lar media, it argues that, if Fitzgerald challenged the stigma attached to nonmarriage, s­ilent cinema mostly reinforced it. This essay aims to reassess the meaning of young, educated, White, middle-­to upper-­class ­women’s singleness in post–­World War I American society by taking into consideration how writers and filmmakers portrayed female characters questioning—­rather than chasing—­marriage in the Roaring Twenties. Flappers dominated the public debate in the Jazz Age de­cade: the American press constantly reported on their unpre­ce­dented demand for economic, social, sexual, and marital in­de­pen­dence.1 In fact, flappers’ decision not to marry was furiously discussed and elaborated on by con­temporary commentators and writers, among them Fitzgerald, who contributed to both the fictional and the nonfictional discourse surrounding the modern girls of the 1920s. ­Because the flapper was more sexualized in comparison to the singly blessed w ­ omen who had chosen singleness in the nineteenth c­ entury, the main academic focus has been on the impact of her groundbreaking, casual attitude about premarital intercourse. The fictional repre­ sen­ta­tion of the unmarried flapper in Fitzgerald’s short stories “Myra Meets His 81


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­ amily” and “The Offshore Pirate” and the novel This Side of Paradise, unlike in F their film adaptations, demonstrates that singleness was both a temporary and a permanent possibility for the era’s w ­ omen. With her rebellious, cynical, and hedonistic attitude, the flapper figure stands as one of the most enduring symbols of “postwar disillusionment” and “liberation” of the American 1920s.2 The de­cade’s “revolution in manners and morals” epitomized by the flapper was acknowledged as early as 1931 by social commentator Frederick Lewis Allen. His “con­temporary” retrospective, Only Yesterday, addressed the young ­women’s attempt to define and exercise a newly gained in­de­pen­dence by taking into consideration their liberating clothes, provocative makeup, wild dances, fast cars, heavy smoking, and illegal drinking. From Allen’s “informal history” of the 1920s onward, a consistent focus on “the im­mense change in ­women’s dress and appearance” has read the “number of inches between the hemline and the ankle” as the prime index of revolutionary change.3 If social historians the likes of Burl Noggle or Paula Fass examine the flapper’s contribution to the cultural revolution in terms of fashion and leisure-­time activities, most scholarship has neglected one of the most distinctive characteristics of the female icon of the Jazz Age: her singleness.4 Moving past the tendency to understand flapperhood as a temporary state, and flappers as sexualized figures, singleness needs to be explored as one of the narrative indicators of w ­ omen’s emancipation from social pressures in the 1920s. Bookended by the crises of World War I and the Wall Street crash of 1929, the Roaring Twenties are often portrayed as the time of a lighthearted and consumerist lifestyle, when American p ­ eople—­and ­women in particular—­cared ­little for social reform and po­liti­cal contribution to the community, and much for personal appearance, self-­gratification, and leisure-­time activities. If, as Paula  S. Fass maintains, “the twenties seem to lend themselves to caricature,” so does the flapper, whose persona has become indivisible from the popu­lar perception of this era.5 When one thinks about American flappers, the image that teases the popu­lar as well as the historical imagination is of frivolous, narcissistic, flirtatious young w ­ omen disinterested in politics. Considered an easy target for the promotion of consumer goods, the flapper was and still is defined mostly through her use of clothes, props, and cosmetics: “When one thinks of the flapper,” an ad for the 1924 film The Perfect Flapper reads, “the accompanying idea is clothes-­clothes-­clothes.” 6 According to Kathleen Drowne, “The most impor­tant detail to remember when examining and assessing the flapper’s role in the lit­er­a­ture and culture of the Jazz Age . . . ​is that she amounts to nothing more than a collection of ste­reo­t ypes that coalesced around young ­women during the ­great social and cultural turbulence that followed World War I.”7 The collection of ste­reo­t ypes includes the belief that flappers ­were constantly husband hunting, using flirting as their chosen weapon. This can be read as a result of the fact that ­women’s ventures into the economy during and ­after the war had upset a model of sex roles, threatening the economic basis for male dominance.8 As more ­women started to work and take new roles in society, the assumption that men ­were their only providers was shattered and

F i t z g e r a l d a n d “ ­F u t u r e   M at r i m o n y ”


American dating norms revolutionized. An embodiment of postwar ­women’s new social and sexual freedom and rebellion against traditional courtship convention, the flapper became the target of blame, criticism, and derision. Since her appearance in the mid-1910s, she became a staple in jokes and comic cartoons in American newspapers; highly representative of the time was a line from the satirical column “Smile a While with Tom Sims,” reading: “In Boston, a robber ran from a flapper. A single man, no doubt.”9 Scholars have accepted the image of the Jazz Age d ­ aughter as being “in perpetual motion in pursuit of her man—­a lmost any man,” conceding that she was freer than the Victorian w ­ oman only “­because she intended to marry.”10 Laura Mihailoff maintains that, “although she was freer in her sexuality and public conduct among men than her ­mother, the flapper had no intention of challenging the role of w ­ omen in society or abandoning the path t­ owards marriage and motherhood.”11 Patricia Erens equates the flapper with a girl who wanted “to raise a ­little hell before she settled down to married life.”12 Fass’s seminal book The Damned and the Beautiful devotes more than twenty pages to marriage relationships of the time, discussing, in par­tic­u­lar, the changing patterns in marriage rate and marriage age, but does not take into consideration singleness as a lifestyle option. In her claim that “in large part, the sexual revolution of the twenties was not a revolt against marriage but a revolution within marriage,” the emphasis should be put on the words “in large part.”13 As Fass states in her book’s introduction, she chose to analyze “only one segment of the youth population,” that is, the “white, urban, middle-­class college youth,” while “rural and working youths, blacks and immigrants, exposed to dif­fer­ent institutional influences, may well have behaved and believed differently than the young ­people [she] portrayed.”14 In fact, w ­ omen of any class, race, or ethnicity who chose not to marry or remained unmarried have been left out of her investigation. Set in the United States between the two world wars, three works by Fitzgerald offer portrayals of young single ­women who, borrowing from Bella DePaulo’s book title, “still live happily ever ­after” or reject unwanted marriage proposals imposed by their families.15 Questioning the con­temporary images of the flapper and public discourses surrounding single lives, Fitzgerald’s characters Eleanor, Myra, and Ardita resist a society that pushed ­women into husband hunting and early matrimony. Rather than understanding singleness as a precursor to marriage, this essay understands it as a valued choice in Fitzgerald’s flapper stories. Seeking to deconstruct the ste­reo­t ypes of flappers as gold diggers and husband hunters, the following pages investigate Fitzgerald’s depiction of singleness and how it was written, rewritten, and reinterpreted for the screen to shed light on what it meant to choose singleness in the 1920s. Fitzgerald’s flapper stories, some of which he quickly sold to Hollywood ­after magazine publication, offer glimpses of single ­women’s lives that can be used as a lens for assessing the social construction of bachelor w ­ omen and their literary and cinematic repre­sen­ta­tion during the Flapper era. Although in the public’s mind the typical Fitzgerald heroine is the pretty, young, rich flapper who dreads responsibility, craves stability, and marries for security


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(such as Rosalind Connage in This Side of Paradise, Judy Jones in “Winter Dreams,” and Daisy Buchanan in The ­Great Gatsby, to name a few), the spokesman for the Jazz Age represented a number of young w ­ omen who challenged the idea that marriage was the main goal in a girl’s life. Hollywood studios bought t­ hese stories as soon as they appeared in print, arguably b ­ ecause they captured the spirit of 1920s flappers, and, consequently, of their most targeted audience. Once the stories ­were adapted for the screen, however, the heroines mostly lost their fictional counter­ parts’ defiant attitudes ­toward conventional marriage. Prompted by Sara Ross’s claim that “once the term flapper was introduced, the social construction of its meaning relied on complex interactions among dif­fer­ent popu­lar media,” an analy­ sis of the most uncharacteristic Fitzgerald heroines in print and on screen ­provides new insights into the unmarried flapper in the immediate postwar, postsuffrage, years.16 As Rudolph M. Bell and ­Virginia Yans note, singleness is a “social construction carry­ing dif­fer­ent meanings within dif­fer­ent cultures and within dif­fer­ent historical eras.”17 Cultural products of their era, “Myra Meets His ­Family,” “The Offshore Pirate,” and This Side of Paradise, as well as their film adaptations, offer a key to understanding how American unmarried womanhood was debated outside of f­ amily and domestic roles across dif­fer­ent media.

Of Golden C ­ ouples and Unmarried Flappers From the very beginning of his professional c­ areer, when reviews categorized his first novel, This Side of Paradise, as a “flapper book,” ­u ntil his premature death, when obituaries remembered him as the “protagonist and exponent of the flapper age”—­rather than as the author of The ­Great Gatsby or Tender Is the Night—­t he name F. Scott Fitzgerald remained inextricably bound to the figure of the flapper.18 One just needs to browse the titles of the interviews Fitzgerald gave in the 1920s—­“Fitzgerald, Flappers and Fame” (1921), “What a ‘Flapper Novelist’ Thinks of His Wife” (1923), “Has the Flapper Changed? F. Scott Fitzgerald Discusses the Cinema Descendants of the Type He Has Made So Well Known” (1927)—­and of reviews of his books, such as “The Flapper’s Tragedy” and “Mr. Fitzgerald Sees the Flapper Through” (both 1922), to appreciate the extent to which the author’s name was indissolubly linked with the character type that made him famous.19 Fitzgerald’s characters came to define the flapper image. But the 1920s female types he contributed to creating are often misconstrued and ste­reo­typed.20 The two most common oversimplifications of the Fitzgerald girl are the fact that she is in or relentlessly seeking a romantic relationship, and that she is based on his wife, “the first American flapper,” Zelda Sayre, an interpretation that the Fitzgeralds themselves encouraged. “The golden c­ ouple” famously used their relationship for self-­promotion: to put it in Ruth Prigozy’s words, Fitzgerald’s “fame and marriage coincided.”21 Interviews given by Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald in the early 1920s on the subject of flappers fed into the intertwining of fact and fiction; the former is reported as saying: “I prefer this sort of girl. Indeed, I married the heroine of my stories,” and the latter: “I love Scott’s books and heroines.

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I like the ones that are like me! That’s why I love Rosalind in This Side of Paradise.”22 Just as her alleged alter ego Rosalind leaves Amory Blaine in the book, Sayre (who had met Fitzgerald during World War I while he was stationed outside her birth town in Montgomery, Alabama) broke the engagement with the aspiring writer a year before their marriage, afraid he could not support her financially. “It was one of ­those tragic loves doomed for lack of money, and one day the girl closed it out on the basis of common sense,” Fitzgerald would explain years ­later.23 Sayre eventually agreed to marry Fitzgerald when This Side of Paradise was accepted for publication. Con­temporary studies on Fitzgerald, such as Siobhan Lyons’s 2016 essay, continue to draw close parallels between Fitzgerald heroines and his wife. This prolific search for “some ele­ment of Zelda in Fitzgerald’s female characters” contributes to the idea that Fitzgerald was one of the authors most capable of portraying the flapper’s attitude ­toward marriage in his fiction.24 In the following pages, I argue that Fitzgerald was just as capable of representing her move away from marriage. His glamorously tormented marriage to a ­woman who was widely known as the model for his flapper characters has contributed to establishing the belief that the Fitzgerald flapper necessarily follows Zelda’s marital capitulation on the page, preventing readers from appreciating ­those Fitzgerald heroines unwilling to make long-­term commitments.25 The irresistible drive to find biographical echoes in Fitzgerald’s characters has led scholars to focus on t­ hose flappers who choose marriage for economic security or as a ticket to escape small-­town conventionality. In Fitzgerald’s New ­Women, Sarah Beebe Fryer describes the author’s heroines as “young ­women who dream of a greater degree of liberation and financial autonomy than is actually within their grasp. . . . ​They marry for security, so they naturally predicate their se­lection of prospective husbands in part upon a man’s financial prospects.”26 While this may be true for some of Fitzgerald’s most popu­lar heroines such as Rosalind Connage (This Side of Paradise), Gloria Gilbert (The Beautiful and Damned), or Daisy Fay (The ­Great Gatsby), who are broadly known to be based on his wife, a variety of neglected female characters in his books and short stories rebel against marriage and/or decide to look for self-­f ulfillment outside of it.27 The marketing of the Fitzgeralds’ overfictionalized marriage has necessarily steered most scholars to neglect his unmarried characters in ­favor of married or soon-­to-­be-­married flappers. Calling attention to the misrepre­sen­ta­tion of Fitzgerald’s most famous female character, in 1961 John O’Ha­ra defined the flapper as “a society girl who had made her debut and ­hadn’t found a husband.”28 This quotation is revealing in two senses: first, it shows how singleness was a trait strongly associated with the flapper type in the 1920s; second, it frames unmarried flappers in terms of their eventual matrimony—­young ­women who had not found a husband yet. But some of Fitzgerald’s lesser-­k nown fiction is populated by flappers who are rebelling against rather than awaiting marriage. Far from creating interchangeable flappers in a perpetual search for husbands, Fitzgerald’s fictional treatment of his female characters showed


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how young w ­ omen responded differently to the dilemmas of marriage during the Jazz Age.

Eleanor, Myra, and Ardita: The Unmarried Flapper from the Page to the Screen Film studios saw in Fitzgerald’s youthful unmarried flappers, dramatized in his early novels and Saturday Eve­ning Post short stories, both a commodity to be sold and a demographic market to be sold to. Cynthia Felando observes that “it was in the early 1920s that the film industry first started to speak about the profitability of appealing to youth in the audience by depicting youth onscreen . . . ​ to represent youth was the most effective method for selling to youth.”29 The most prominent depictions of modern youth in ­silent Hollywood ­were movies about flappers. But, transferred into a more conservative medium, the Fitzgerald unmarried flappers lost part of their rebellious impulse and defiant attitude ­toward marriage. In 1927, Fitzgerald responded to a question from Motion Picture Magazine on “the cinema descendants of his original brain-­daughter, the flapper.” In the role of “flapper historian” whose works had been adapted, by then, into four flapper films, he explained that “on the screen is represented e­ very phase of flapper life,” adding that “just as the screen exaggerates action, so it exaggerates type.”30 Fox’s 1920 reinterpretation of Fitzgerald’s Myra, a girl who rejects many opportunities to marry, as a “husband hunter” ­w ill serve as a fitting example of how ­silent cinema mirrored and perpetuated the prevailing marital norms. Largely unfamiliar to t­ oday’s readers, the three tales of young, unmarried flappers analyzed in this chapter, Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise, and his Saturday Eve­ning Post stories “Myra Meets His ­Family” and “The Offshore Pirate” ­were all bought by the studios immediately a­ fter their publication in 1920 and marketed as flapper vehicles. While the now-­canonized The ­Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night ­were commercial failures at the time of publication, This Side of Paradise made the Publishers Weekly best-­seller list twice, and the two short stories w ­ ere published in the most popu­lar American magazine of the 1920s. The fact that ­silent Hollywood bought the rights to ­these works opens up possibilities to study images of single lives that reached (or ­were supposed to reach) both the reading and the moviegoing public, broadening the perspective to include the flapper’s forms of single re­sis­tance. Although one of ­t hese ­silent movies was never filmed and the other two are presumed lost, surviving and long-­forgotten materials related to t­ hese cinematic adaptations reveal invaluable information on how Fitzgerald’s contemporaries (and Fitzgerald himself) reread and reinterpreted his unmarried female characters for a dif­fer­ent medium. ­These three screen adaptations have escaped critical inquiry b ­ ecause their film prints are presumed lost or the adaptations have never been filmed, but their script and reception materials are surviving traces of the social, po­liti­cal, and historical

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context in which they w ­ ere produced. In addition to proving significant as a social rec­ord of 1920s Amer­i­ca, long-­buried information on ­t hese films becomes documentary evidence of how filmmakers reinterpreted Fitzgerald’s repre­sen­ta­tions of defiant young ­women who de­cided to live, even if temporarily, outside the traditional married state. It also suggests that Hollywood in the 1920s read Fitzgerald through marital marketing. Advertised by Fitzgerald himself as “a novel about flappers,” This Side of Paradise is the book that made the twenty-­three-­year-­old writer famous overnight, also thanks to its realistic, and for the first time serious, treatment of liberated girls and their dating habits. The novel tells the story of “romantic egotist” Amory Blaine and the many modern girls he meets from his early adolescence to his twenties.31 Shortly ­after the book’s publication the New York Times Book Review described the female characters in This Side of Paradise as “girls, whose ideas of the modern development of their sex” embraced the fact of being kissed “by young men whom they have no thought of marrying.”32 Other reviewers hinted at the book’s description of the g­ reat, then-­current American phenomenon, the “petting party,” as well as its portrait of an intergenerational clash: “None of the Victorian m ­ others—­a nd most of the ­mothers ­were Victorian—­had any idea how casually their ­daughters ­were accustomed to be kissed.”33 As Beth  L. Bailey observes, in the twentieth ­century, “Sex became the central public symbol of youth culture, a fundamental part of the definition that separated youth from age. ‘Petting’ and ‘necking’ ­were the major conventions youth contributed to courtship in the years between World War I and the sexual revolution of the 1960s.”34 Rejecting the idea that ­these dating rituals necessarily had to end in marriage, the Jazz Age d ­ aughters displayed an uninhibited ac­cep­tance of sexuality. Marcia Meadow, the protagonist of what has been described as Fitzgerald’s “first true flapper story,” which was sold to Hollywood even before its appearance in the Saturday Eve­ning Post, summarized the pragmatic, postwar, disillusioned philosophy of flapperdom as: “ ’At’s all life is. Just ­going round kissing ­people.”35 The treatment in This Side of Paradise of the four “objects of Amory’s infatuation,” Isabelle Borgé, Clara Page, Rosalind Connage, and Eleanor Savage, is what led an enthusiastic reviewer to proclaim that “the new youth” had fi­nally found “a voice in fiction.”36 The New York Call argued the quartet was made of “girls living in a period they do understand but do abhor, and they are ­going a bit ahead of their time. Liberty, personal, is the ­t hing they covet.”37 All four girls question marriage in the novel. The “doughty warrior” Isabelle “­wouldn’t think of marrying” and breaks up with Amory a­ fter refusing to kiss him.38 The young ­w idow Clara proclaims she would “never marry again. I’ve got my two c­ hildren and I want myself for them.”39 Rosalind, the character based on Zelda Fitzgerald who eventually breaks up with Amory ­because he cannot support her financially, confides to her ­sister, “Sometimes when I’ve felt particularly radiant I’ve thought, why should this be wasted on one man.” 40 “Radiant,” in this case, may be read as young. When Rosalind utters ­these words as a nineteen-­year-­old,


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she has “been disappointed in man a­ fter man as individuals”—­but has been taught that “the education of all beautiful ­women is the knowledge of men”—­ and she is moments away from coming out in society. That last confession to her young ­sister suggests that the debutante sees marriage as “the end of youth; it removed one from youth culture and from the dating system,” however disappointing it is.41 But in that list of four modern girls “who covet personal liberty,” it is the last who is one of Fitzgerald’s most in­ter­est­ing characterizations of con­temporary female singleness. Eleanor is presented as an eighteen-­year-­old ­woman from old Mary­land stock, with all the typical visual and narrative indicators of flapperhood: “a slender figure,” “bobbed hair,” and the tendency to lead “innocents . . . ​into paths of Bohemian naughtiness.” 42 When Amory first sees her, she is sitting on top of a haystack, singing verses from Verlaine and reciting Poe’s “Ulalame.” One passage, in par­tic­u­lar, is significant in understanding this young flapper’s questioning of marriage. Eleanor and Amory are riding ­horses into the woods by the moonlight and she decides to talk b ­ ecause it was “perhaps the last time in her life that she could be rational”: “Rotten, rotten old world,” broke out Eleanor suddenly, “and the wretchedest ­t hing of all is me—oh, why am I a girl? Why am I not a stupid—­? Look at you; ­you’re stupider than I am, not much, but some, and you can lope about and get bored and then lope somewhere e­ lse, and you can play around with girls without being involved in meshes of sentiment, and you can do anything and be justified—­and ­here am I with the brains to do every­t hing, yet tied to the sinking ship of f­ uture matrimony. If I w ­ ere born a hundred years from now, well and good, but now what’s in store for me—­I have to marry, that goes without saying. Who? I’m too bright for most men, and yet I have to descend to their level and let them patronize my intellect in order to get their attention.” 43

The typically nineteenth-­century concept that ­women ­were intrinsically dif­fer­ent from men, in their anatomy, physiology, disposition, and intelligence, started to lose ground at the beginning of the 1900s.44 By the time Fitzgerald published This Side of Paradise in 1920, references to sex differences in intelligence, consistently used in the Victorian era as a justification for forcing men and w ­ omen into dif­fer­ ent social roles (the “division of l­abor” being that men produced, w ­ omen reproduced) w ­ ere ­going out of style in psy­chol­ogy. As Cynthia Ea­gle Russett notes, “By the 1920s higher education for ­women and coeducation of the sexes ­were no longer controversial issues; they had become part of the birthright of the m ­ iddle class”—­t hat is, the flapper class.45 Yet, in 1922, newspapers regularly equated flapperhood with vapidity and stupidity. A Chicago doctor asked readers of North Dakota’s Bismarck Tribune: “Who ever saw a flirty flapper wearing eyeglasses?” 46 In Indiana, the South Bend News-­Times takes the characterization of the flirting and vapid flapper further: “Now and then, a man calls on an intelligent girl, just as a form of ­mental exercise, so that he can all the more enjoy the relaxation of flirting around with a l­ ittle flapper the rest of the time.” 47

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The words of wealthy, educated Eleanor seem to embody the 1920s flapper struggling t­oward singleness in a society that still considered ­women intellectually inferior and expected them to assume roles subordinate to men—or better, to husbands. Anticipating Daisy Buchanan’s famous line in The ­Great Gatsby when she finds out she has given birth to a baby girl (“I hope s­ he’ll be a fool—­t hat’s the best ­t hing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful ­little fool”), Eleanor protests that her options are l­imited by her gender, further complicated by American society’s unequal expectations.48 Longing for a more meaningful role than that of wife, she feels trapped in a time in which ­women ­were expected to have one socially approved activity—­entertaining men in order to secure a husband. Eleanor takes to the extremes her feeling of restlessness and dissatisfaction in having to “marry into a dinner-­coat.” 49 Once she finishes her conversation with Amory, he tries to kiss her, but she draws away her ­horse, arguably seeing in Amory the personification of just such a “dinner-­coat.” To prove she is not afraid of death, she rides “breakneck for the end of the plateau” ­toward a cliff, but at some ten feet from the edge she changes her mind, flinging herself sideways off her h ­ orse before it plunges over. When they arrived home, “at her door they started from habit to kiss good night, but she could not run into his arms.” They said the last goodbye, “hating each other with a ­bitter sadness.”50 Shortly a­ fter his debut novel’s publication, reviews complimented Fitzgerald’s ability to represent characters that ­were the embodiment of true-­to-­life American flappers. The St. Louis Post-­Dispatch wrote: “Young Mr. Fitzgerald . . . ​seems to know the young girl of ­today exceedingly well.” The review continues by mentioning that “moving picture magnates have already offered $25,000 [equivalent to more than $320,000 t­oday] for the film rights.”51 This passage is telling in two re­spects. First, only a few days ­after its publication, This Side of Paradise had already caught Hollywood’s attention. Second, reviewers immediately realized what made Fitzgerald’s early work so appealing to young audiences and, consequently, to film studios: flapper characters who corrected the deliberately distorted and homogenized portraits offered by the press and the majority of movies. As another critic underlined, in representing “the flapper standards,” Fitzgerald was taking inimitable “photo­graphs from life,” making it easier for ­women readers to identify with his characters.52 Nan Enstad argues further that readers not only identify b ­ ecause they are “like” a character, but also “­because they can associate the desire of the character with one of their own—so they come to desire with or on behalf of the character” (or what Elizabeth Cowie calls “structural relations of desire”).53 The Fitzgerald flapper became a favored figure of lit­er­a­ture and cinema ­because, borrowing Liz Conor’s words, through her emancipation, “she embodied the modern with its quest for recognizable feminine types.”54 Vividly representing young ­women’s dissatisfaction with their imposed role as wives-­to-be, Eleanor was one of t­ hese types. Fitzgerald’s ability to create what another newspaper called “truthful sketches of girls” that could solicit the flapper audience’s identification did not pass


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unnoticed by film studios. In 1923, Famous Players purchased the rights to This Side of Paradise for $10,000 and asked its author to write a screen treatment of his “novel about flappers.”55 In a note to his book’s treatment, Fitzgerald pointed out: “The spirit of the picture should be that of the book—­t he affairs of youth taken seriously.”56 This sentence might have been a veiled allusion to t­ hose newspapers and magazines that played an impor­tant role in both chronicling and shaping the image of the single flapper by depicting her as a childish and self-­absorbed girl, who only plays at rejecting marriage. Equating flappers’ decision not to marry with immaturity, Sheila Kaye-­Smith attacked some of her female contemporaries by saying that their “schoolgirlish contempt of natu­ral emotions is just as bad as early Victorian prudery.”57 Judge Ben  B. Lindsey, a relatively progressive reformer who established the juvenile court system and advocated for companionate marriage, assured the readers of his book The Revolt of Modern Youth that ­every one of the girls who had “gone wrong in their high-­school days” who appeared before him “­later became good wives and m ­ others.”58 According to Conor, the flapper’s childishness, joy rides, cocktails, and visits to the “flicks” created anxiety among her elders that sexual plea­sure would become her favored object, and that her hedonistic immaturity would ultimately disqualify her from the traditional roles of maternity, marriage, and domesticity. One ­commentator remarked that such young w ­ omen found “the bread and meat of marriage [a] poor substitute for the choco­lates and flowers of courtship.”59 In opposition to his contemporaries, rather than criticizing the fact that flappers diverted themselves “with the liberatory pleasures available to the young unmarried w ­ oman in an increasingly informal, commodified, leisure scene,” Fitzgerald gave them a voice, in This Side of Paradise as well as in his synopsis for the film adaptation.60 In the latter, he envisaged restricting the focus primarily to Rosalind and Eleanor, depicting them as mature in their dating and marital choices, in opposition to the media’s generally biased image of flappers as childish and frivolous. Although the film was never made, the available synopsis of the screen story provides an insight into Fitzgerald’s intentions for the filmic transposition of his debut novel, telling us something more about the creation of his characters. The treatment places the two flapper girls, Eleanor and Rosalind, in their historical and social context and plays with ste­reo­t ypes and types. Fitzgerald reinterpreted the unmarried flappers in the terms of an age they helped to create: a girl who de­cided not to marry was not “wild” but simply au­then­tic, real. A few months before Fitzgerald wrote the synopsis, the new magazine The Flapper: Not for Old Fogies had published a manifesto for “the new fashioned girl,” proclaiming: “Let them sing of the girls of the long, long ago. . . . ​Let them praise ­t hose back numbers who turned in their toes and panted and fainted when MEN would propose, but I’ll cast my vote . . . ​for the girl self-­reliant, bright, snappy and REAL.” The fact that, in a text contrasting the “old fashioned” to the “new fashioned” girl, the two words highlighted in block letters are men and real seems to suggest that the true flapper was the one who relied on her in­de­pen­dence rather than on marriage.61 The “au­t hen­ tic” girl, the 1922 article implies, was not the one who conformed to “old fogy men”

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and Victorian values regarding marriage, but the one who embraced the freedom of marital choice. In the same year in which This Side of Paradise was published, several flapper short stories by Fitzgerald appeared in the Saturday Eve­ning Post, the most popu­ lar American magazine of the time, with a weekly circulation topping 2.75 million. “Myra Meets His F ­ amily,” Fitzgerald’s second story to appear in the slick magazine (March 20, 1920), tells the complicated love story between flapper Myra Hastings and millionaire Knowleton Whitney. Warned by a friend about the girl’s reputation as a “husband hunter,” Knowleton decides to put Myra to the test by introducing her to his eccentric f­ amily—­hired actors—­with the idea of terrorizing her. Myra first proves her affection for Knowleton by enduring all his mythical ­family’s oddities and then, once she finds out the trick, punishes her fiancé by staging a fake wedding ceremony and leaves him on a train directed t­oward what he believes is their honeymoon. John A. Higgins has argued that “Myra Meets His F ­ amily” is significant to Fitzgerald studies only in its portrayal of the importance of money: “If one lacks it, one must seek it by any means, even a mercenary marriage—as Daisy Fay ­will—­for it is the golden key to happiness.” 62 With its b ­ itter ending, on the contrary, “Myra” contests the idea that mercenary marriage is the key to happiness, reflecting Fitzgerald’s satirical contempt t­ oward the newspapers’ compulsive suggestion that unmarried flappers ­were mere husband hunters in disguise. In fact, the very man who accuses Myra of being a husband chaser eventually reveals himself to be the one who is marrying for money and status. The significance of “Myra” seems rather to lie in its presenting a flapper who chooses self-­respect and singleness rather than marrying for economic reasons. From the beginning of the story, it is clear that Fitzgerald is characterizing Myra as the typical flapper. The story opens by introducing “the Myra,” whom “­every boy who has attended an Eastern college in the last ten years has met half a dozen times”: “When Myra is young, seventeen or so, they call her a wonderful kid; in her prime—­say, at nineteen—­she is tendered the subtle compliment of being referred to by her name alone; and a­ fter that she is a ‘prom trotter’ or ‘the famous coast-­to-­coast Myra.’  ” 63 This introduction depicts Myra as a representative of a specific type, a flapper stock character who likes to experiment with her youth and sexuality. As Bailey notes, the new postwar system of dating “added new stages to courtship and multiplied the number of partners (from serious to casual) an individual was likely to have before marriage.” 64 Introduced as a generic, quin­tes­sen­ tial flapper with an uninhibited dating life, Myra is paradigmatic of the modern form of courtship in a time when more and more young w ­ omen ­were looking for fun and rejecting (or postponing) the dullness of marriage. Fitzgerald continues to pre­sent his flapper type by showing her “standing in a group of sophomores just in from Prince­ton or New Haven, trying to decide ­whether to dance away the mellow hours at the Club de Vingt or the Plaza Red Room. Afterward one of the sophomores w ­ ill take her to the theater and ask her down to the February prom—­and then dive for a taxi to catch the last train back


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to college.” 65 Fitzgerald represents Myra’s singleness and liberated be­hav­ior with men, showing that dating does not necessarily lead to marriage—­sometimes it is quite the opposite. Reporting a conversation between Myra and a married friend, Fitzgerald plays with expectations for young w ­ omen: “I wish,” began Myra as they sat down exquisitely, “that I’d been a senorita or a ma­de­moi­selle or something. Good grief! What is t­ here to do over h ­ ere once ­you’re out, except marry and retire!” Lilah Elkins had seen this form of ennui before. “Nothing,” she replied coolly; “do it.” “I c­ an’t seem to get interested, Lilah,” said Myra, bending forward earnestly. “I’ve played round so much that even while I’m kissing the man I just won­der how soon I’ll get tired of him.” 66

Again seizing on a story of a flapper rebelling against the “sinking ship of f­ uture matrimony,” Hollywood purchased “Myra” one month a­ fter its appearance in the Post.67 The story’s “essayistic opening,” a device Fitzgerald used in several of his short stories to make the reader identify with the character from the first page, apparently had a certain appeal to Hollywood filmmakers, especially if the character was a “typical” flapper.68 In his 1920 short story, Fitzgerald had carefully painted Myra as representative of a specific type of girl; as Prigozy noted, “She is part of a class or group of young w ­ omen,” namely, the quin­tes­sen­t ial flappers, “never boring, looking for fun.” 69 The “strong, willful, selfish, beautiful, alluring, in­de­pen­dent and ruthless young ­woman” that, as Kirk Curnutt notes, “the clamoring editors wanted” was also what the film studios wanted, as evidenced by the fact that, within two years, Fitzgerald managed to sell four of his Post flapper stories to the movies.70 Hollywood, however, saw Myra’s wildness as a prelude rather than an alternative to marriage. Although the story’s 1920 film adaptation is now presumed lost, four pages of the scenario by Joseph Franklin Poland preserve its opening scenes and intertitles. From the very beginning, the film adaptation acts as a conservative force, presenting a negative screen image of the flapper and her sexual relations, rendering Myra a prob­lem to be solved. Audiences watching the film in the early 1920s would have read an introductory subtitle that stressed the flapper’s rapacious need to marry: “­There exists an erroneous belief that in the game of love, man is the pursuer, w ­ oman the fugitive. Absurd! From the first w ­ oman down to the twentieth ­century flapper Eve’s ­daughters, while pretending to flee, have relentlessly pursued their male victims.”71 Masculinity, according to etiquette columns of the time, generally translated into “dominance,” and femininity into “submission.” By convention, the era’s men pursued w ­ omen and asked for the date. As ­Bailey points out, “In a time of rapid change and confused sex roles, t­here was satisfaction in the clearly defined roles etiquette offered.”72 Although ironic, this subtitle suggests the extent to which, in 1920, men felt that w ­ omen w ­ ere menacing their dominance by performing roles that should properly be considered

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“masculine.” Myra’s cinematic repre­sen­ta­tion suggests that the hypervisible flapper figure and her willingness to challenge imposed roles ­were proving to be a social threat to masculinity and con­temporary dating practices. ­After having pointed out her “male victim,” the “flapper Eve’s ­daughter” follows him ­toward his cave by keeping among the trees: Takes her in his arms and kisses her—­t his is just what she has wanted—­and her arms go around him in a tight grip so that when, alarmed at what he has done, he tries to get away, she ­w ill not let him—he realizes now that she considers him her property and he is crushed—he drops his arms from her, and she puts her arm proudly through his—­t hen . . . ​he walks in a subdued manner, like a typical married man, while she holds triumphantly to his arm—­she has caught her man.73

Zelda Fitzgerald observed in a 1922 article on flapperdom that the Jazz Age girl “flirted b ­ ecause it was fun to flirt.”74 In the 1920s, however, t­ here was a tendency to interpret flappers’ game of flirtation as having the sole purpose of procuring a husband, rather than understanding it as a sign of their rejection of imposed Victorian habits, postponing marriage, or simply having fun. Newspapers reported frequently on modern girls’ flirting promiscuity, often associating it with their flippancy and predatory search for a man. As con­temporary reviews reported, the rest of the film adaptation broadly adhered to the source text, except its conclusion: Fox predictably de­cided to change the original conclusion to afford a Hollywood-­style happy ending, with Myra deciding to forgive Kent (as he was called in the film) and marry him.75 In fact, the title of the original short story, in which a girl decides not to marry a man b ­ ecause he deems her a ste­reo­t ypical men’s predator, is forcefully turned into The Husband Hunter. If, in Fitzgerald’s short story, an in­de­pen­dent and resourceful w ­ oman decides to take revenge and break f­ ree from a man who typecast her as a gold-­ digging flapper, her filmic counterpart is sentimentalized and characterized as being ready to forgive and forget anything, as long as she can get what e­ very girl was expected to long for in the 1920s: a rich husband. Fox revisited Fitzgerald’s in­de­pen­dent and resistant heroine, turning her into the “typical” flapper longing for marriage. Equally revealing are the titles of the de­cade’s most famous flapper films starring Clara Bow, Mantrap (1926) and Get Your Man (1927), implying that, using flirting and her performed in­de­pen­dence as treacherous weapons, the unmarried flapper was constantly on the lookout for a spouse. In transforming Fitzgerald’s complex, unmarried flapper into the typical gold-­ digging man hunter, Fox’s film suggests that single ­women embodied collective anx­i­eties about the dissolution of marriage. By changing the title of the film adaptation from “Myra Meets His ­Family” into the more conservative and predictable The Husband Hunter, Fox played an impor­tant role in manipulating a literary character who rejected marriage for a large audience. If the issue of the Post including “Myra” mostly catered to middle-­class and native English-­language readers, The


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Husband Hunter reached spectators of e­ very social class and dif­fer­ent nationalities in a time when formal global distribution of magazines did not exist. The 1920 film adaptation was shown from New ­Castle, Pennsylvania, to Bryan, Texas; from Brazil to Australia.76 The screen version of “Myra” not only entertained the “middle-­ brow reading audience” of the Saturday Eve­ning Post—­the demographic long ascribed to Fitzgerald by the scholarship—­a nd the patrons of the metropolitan movie palaces, but also far more mass audiences, including t­ hose who could only afford to pay cinema tickets by bartering goods.77 Distorted images of the Fitzgerald flapper w ­ ere consistently shown in cinemas of small towns such as Bemidji, Minnesota; St. Johnsbury, Vermont; Columbus, Indiana; Ottawa, Kansas; and many more.78 As Liz Conor observes, “Through her visual style, the Flapper spanned modernity’s global commercial and repre­sen­ta­tional networks.”79 The film adaptation was shown not only in small towns and big cities throughout the United States but also abroad, becoming instrumental in disseminating the dominant public image of the unmarried flapper “pursuing her male victims” to the United Kingdom, Mexico, Brazil, and Australia.80 “The Offshore Pirate,” another flapper story by Fitzgerald published in the Saturday Eve­ning Post (May 29, 1920) and quickly adapted for the ­silent screen, interestingly rewrites the “victim role” of The Husband Hunter’s opening. The story deals with Ardita Farnam, a young, upper-­class flapper on a private yacht off the Florida coast who strongly refuses her ­uncle’s request to meet Toby Moreland, the son of a friend of his. While she is left alone on the yacht, the pirate of the title, Curtis Carlyle, makes his appearance in com­pany with six thugs/musicians who are fugitives from justice; ­after several escapades, he manages to win Ardita’s heart. In the end, it is revealed that Carlyle is Toby and that his entire story was in­ven­ted to win the flapper over. Impressed by his imagination, Ardita forgives the boy, and the story—­t his time—­closes with a happy ending. In “The Offshore Pirate,” Fitzgerald portrays the con­temporary cultural urge to force flappers to marry, the stigma of singleness, and the pervasive ideology of marriage and ­family per­sis­tently residing in popu­lar consciousness. The story’s plot development revolves around Ardita’s resolution to refuse the man her ­uncle tries to force on her. At the very beginning of the story, the elder Farnam challenges Ardita’s choice of romantic partners. He tries to convince the young, unmarried flapper to renounce what he calls her “libertine” lifestyle and proposes she meet with the more acceptable and conventional choice, the wealthy Toby. Ardita gives her u ­ ncle’s suggestion an unequivocal answer: “I absolutely refuse to meet any darn old col­o­nel or any darn young Toby.”81 ­After she meets Carlyle, she confides in him, on one of the three days they spend together on the yacht: “I d ­ idn’t know what I wanted,” adding: “I went from man to man, restless, impatient, month by month getting less acquiescent and more dissatisfied. . . . ​The ­family ­were wild. . . . ​They tried to marry me off.” ­After she refuses the first arranged marriage, the flapper starts to have “utter disregard for other p ­ eople’s opinions,” builds an “enormous faith” in herself, and “live[s] as she like[d] always.”82 But Ardita’s pursuit of modern life and uninhibited ac­cep­tance of sexuality, in­de­pen­dent from parental and

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other authoritarian control, is short-­lived: the man her ­uncle has chosen for her soon ends her freedom. Metro Pictures Corporation purchased the rights to this flapper story even before it was published in the Post.83 In contrast with The Husband Hunter, the film adaptation pre­sents a dif­fer­ent sort of heroine, the “contradictory flapper.” Lori Landay defines the significance of the contradictory flapper films for the construction of femininity in ­t hese terms: “On one hand the narrative of the flapper film explores ­women’s liberation from Victorian restrictions, and seems to represent an emerging alternative or even oppositional culture, on the other it contains female in­de­pen­dence within the traditional confines of romance and marriage.”84 With a film plot adhering closely to the source text, the presumed lost The Off-­Shore Pirate was released by Metro Pictures the following year on January 31, 1921, widely advertised as a flapper film concerning “an in­de­pen­dent girl who is determined to have her own way—­even in matrimonial ­matters.”85 The caption for an image from the film, likely included in a title card, reports the heroine asserting her in­de­pen­dence by telling her ­uncle: “I’ll marry whom I please.”86 Sharing characteristics with the serial-­movie queens, the cinematic Ardita manifests athletic talents (she jumps from diving boards, rows boats, saves men from drowning, and so on); she belies “lady-­like” be­hav­ior (she smokes, drives roadsters full speed, for example); and, just like her fictional counterpart, refuses a marriage proposal imposed by her ­family, which implies, as Shelley Stamp notes in her study of serial heroines, that “only ­women who renounced familial and marital obligations could pursue such unconventional endeavors.” But just like the silent-­era serials, The Off-­Shore Pirate offered what Stamp calls “an alarmist tale in which in­de­pen­dence is always circumscribed by the shadow of danger, the determinacy of familial ties, and the inevitability of marriage.”87 The Off-­Shore Pirate, like many flapper films of the de­cade, carried a reassuring ele­ment. In Gwenda Young’s words, it represented the “containment of the flapper by marriage”: the “fast flapper is ultimately revealed to be a highly moral girl whose youthful vitality w ­ ill presumably be tamed by a respectable marriage.”88 Given Hollywood’s concern in representing the transition from flapper to wife, the films based on Fitzgerald’s flapper stories ultimately reinforced traditional moral values symbolized by a wedding and a predictable life to come.89 However, if, in the story, Ardita is tricked into marrying the man her u ­ ncle wants, in the film, she knows who Toby is from the beginning. This major change that the scenarist Waldemar Young made to Fitzgerald’s story is perhaps the best example of Ardita’s agency in the film: she knows from the beginning about the deception planned by her u ­ ncle and the Morelands. Shortly a­ fter Toby takes over the command of the yacht, the audience sees him tossing Ardita a cigarette with his initials. At the end of the film, it is revealed that she had instantly noticed the “T. M.” but de­cided “to see the ­t hing through to the finish.” When her u ­ ncle joins the two protagonists, contrary to the source text, they do not need to explain the w ­ hole story; “Ardita declares with a laugh that she knew it all along—­ever since the pirate gave her the cigarette with the initials on it.”90 Another catchphrase included in


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the pressbook underlines the contrast between the film and the source story: in the adaptation, it is Ardita who “outwits [Carlyle/Toby] at his own game of high-­ handed buccaneering.”91 While in the short story the heroine is, in Michael Nowlin’s words, “seduced and humiliated” by Toby’s scheme, in the film, according to the American novelization, Ardita tells Toby: “I’m ­going to know e­ very time you lie to me.”92 This sentence, which likely appeared in an intertitle, shows even more agency on Ardita’s part than her novelistic counterpart, who slightly submissively says in the source text: “I want you to lie to me just as sweetly as you know how for the rest of my life.”93 The Off-­Shore Pirate film made the story of Ardita fighting to marry “whom she pleases” accessible to a broader and more varied public than the one that could read the Saturday Eve­ning Post. The film was shown in working-­class theaters such as the Regent in Baltimore, bringing the flapper story to ­people of dif­fer­ent races and cultural backgrounds.94 This implies that, while Fitzgerald’s original short story mainly reached a White, homogeneous readership through the pages of the Saturday Eve­ning Post, once adapted and reinterpreted for the screen, it extended the scope of its audience.95 To some of the young African American ­women who watched The Off-­Shore Pirate, Ardita, or “the girl who outwits” men, as a Regent Theatre ad read, held out the possibility to assert their own marital choice.96 Whereas in the 1920s, young Black ­women ­were not afforded the same rights and privileges afforded to their White peers, they might share their desire to imitate on-­screen flapper heroines and aspire to singleness.

Conclusion Commenting on Fitzgerald’s flapper fiction in 1923, a con­temporary reviewer stated: “If the up-­and-­coming American girl is looking for an advocate to encourage her in­de­pen­dence of spirit, thought and action, she can do no better than seek out F. Scott Fitzgerald, the fascinating novelist who has done more than any living man to interpret the genus ‘flapper.’ ”97 Single and paired, in print and on screen, Fitzgerald’s flappers ­were ­adopted as the role models of the younger generation. ­Today, his relatively neglected single stories and the materials surrounding their screen versions deserve attention as fictional traces of White and middle-­class w ­ omen fighting against socially constructed and imposed roles in the 1920s. While Fitzgerald’s mostly White and middle-­class heroines hardly represent the diverse experiences of single ­women of the period, their cinematic counter­parts played instrumental roles in disseminating across Amer­i­ca and exporting abroad an image of “American ­women on their own” that was dif­fer­ent from the one created in newspapers of the time. Although the remediated adaptations of Fitzgerald’s single lives resulted in a more conservative and comforting repre­sen­ta­tion of singleness, they rec­ord the profound social change of 1920s Amer­i­ca’s “manners and morals” as personified by the unmarried flapper. The ultimate goal of this essay has been to demonstrate the usefulness of singleness as a category for analy­sis to complicate the dominant female types produced in

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the Roaring Twenties. Writing in a de­cade in which, despite the revolution in manners and morals, choosing singleness still mattered enormously, Fitzgerald demonstrated through his modern flapper characters that singleness was both a temporary and a permanent possibility for the era’s ­women. In 1926, film critic Iris Barry stated: “We are beginning to realize that a w ­ oman who i­sn’t well—­I mean who ­doesn’t feel she is ­doing the best that’s in her—­inside marriage, is best out of it. But it’s hard to get p ­ eople to admit this, even if they believe it, for ‘popu­lar opinion’ is against them.”98 In This Side of Paradise, ­d aughter of the Jazz Age Eleanor thought if she w ­ ere “born a hundred years from now,” it would be all “well and good.”99 Yet, exactly a c­ entury ­later, Iris’s, as well as Eleanor’s, Myra’s, or Ardita’s, words still resonate. In the twenty-­first c­ entury, the decision not to get on board the “sinking ship of f­uture matrimony” is still stigmatized.100 But the success of books on con­temporary singleness indicates a growing popu­lar interest in single lives that may soon be reflected in a more well-­rounded understanding of the unmarried w ­ oman, around which anx­i­eties and excitement have been coalescing for centuries.

notes Epigraph: W.  L. George, “World Is Cruel to Flappers, Says British Novelist,” Washington Herald, January 9, 1922, 5. 1. ​See, for example, “Where Is the Girl of ­Today Bound?,” New York Times, June 3, 1921, xxi; Hugh L. McMenamin, “Evils of ­Woman’s Revolt against the Old Standards,” Current History, October 27, 1927, 30–32; Mimi, “Sub Rosa: Is Business Girl Luckiest?,” Eve­ning Star, October 29, 1927, 26. 2. ​Gillman M. Ostrander, “The Changing Values of a New Generation,” in The Roaring Twenties, ed. Philip Margulies (New York: Greenhaven, 2004), 114; Paula  S. Fass, The Damned and the Beautiful: American Youth in the 1920s (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 291. 3. ​Frederick Lewis Allen, Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the Nineteen-­Twenties (New York: Harper and B ­ rothers, 1931), 103; Gilman M. Ostrander, A Profile History of the United States (New York: McGraw-­Hill, 1961), 363. 4. ​Burl Noggle, Into the Twenties: The United States from Armistice to Normalcy (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1974), 161–165, 120–129; Fass, The Damned and the Beautiful, 291–326. 5. ​Fass, The Damned and the Beautiful, 17. 6. ​Quoted in Ross, “Hollywood Flapper,” 60. On flappers as the prime targets of advertising, see Juliann Sivulka, “Historical and Psychological Perspectives of the Erotic Appeal in Advertising,” in Sex in Advertising: Perspectives on the Erotic Appeal, ed. Tom Reichert and Jacqueline Lambiase (New York: Routledge, 2003), 46–47. 7. ​Kathleen Drowne, “Postwar Flappers,” in F. Scott Fitzgerald in Context, ed. Bryant Mangum (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 247. 8. ​Beth L. Bailey, From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-­Century Amer­i­ca (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988), 104–105. 9. ​“Smile a While with Tom Sims,” Perth Amboy Eve­ning News, May 4, 1922, 6. The term flapper was first used in E ­ ngland as a synonym for pre-­debutante. H. L. Mencken introduced the term to U.S. mass media in 1915 with his essay “The Flapper” in The Smart Set, the magazine he coedited with George Jean Nathan. Four years l­ater, The Smart Set printed Fitzgerald’s first professional publication, “Babes in the Woods” (1919). 10. ​Sumiko Higashi, Virgins, Vamps and Flappers: The American S­ ilent Movie Heroine (Montreal: Eden Press, 1978), 105, 112.


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11. ​Laura Mihailoff, “Flappers,” in Encyclopedia of ­Children and Childhood: In History and Society, ed. Paula S. Fass (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004), vol. 2, 363. 12. ​Patricia Erens, “The Flapper: Hollywood’s First Liberated ­Woman,” in Dancing Fools and Weary Blues: The ­Great Escape of the Twenties, ed. Lawrence R. Broer and John Daniel Walther (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Press, 1990), 134. 13. ​Fass (The Damned and the Beautiful, 66, 70) reports that the marriage rate in the United States r­ose between 1890 and 1920, and more younger persons w ­ ere married. According to Fass, birth control provides the key to the increase in early marriage a­ fter 1890, as “contraception had released ­women from imposed roles and allowed freer sexual relations.” But if this is true for married ­women, it is even more so for unmarried young ­women. 14. ​Fass, 8. 15. ​Bella DePaulo, How Singles Are Ste­reo­typed, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever A ­ fter (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2006). 16. ​Sara Ross, “The Hollywood Flapper and the Culture of Media Consumption,” in Holly­ wood Goes Shopping, ed. David Desser and Garth S. Jowett (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 61. 17. ​Rudolph M. Bell and V ­ irginia Yans, “Introduction,” in ­Women on Their Own: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Being Single, ed. Rudolph  M. Bell and ­Virginia Yans (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2008), 3. 18. ​F. Scott Fitzgerald, “How I Would Sell My Book If I ­Were a Bookseller,” in F. Scott Fitzgerald in His Own Time: A Miscellany, ed. Matthew  J. Bruccoli and Jackson  R. Bryer (New York: Popu­lar Library, 1971), 168. In 1923, Fitzgerald claimed he had learned This Side of Paradise was a flapper book from George Jean Nathan’s review of the novel. See also Arnold Gingrich, “Salute and Farewell to F. Scott Fitzgerald,” in Bruccoli and Bryer, F. Scott Fitzgerald in His Own Time, 477. 19. ​Frederick James Smith, “Fitzgerald, Flappers, and Fame”; “What a ‘Flapper Novelist’ Thinks of His Wife”; Margaret Reid, “Has the Flapper Changed?”; Henry Seidel Canby, “The Beautiful and Damned: The Flapper’s Tragedy”; John Peale Bishop, “The Beautiful and Damned: Mr. Fitzgerald Sees the Flapper Through,” all in Bruccoli and Bryer, F. Scott Fitzgerald in His Own Time, 243, 258, 277, 317, 320. 20. ​See Rena Sanderson, “­Women in Fitzgerald’s Fiction,” in The Cambridge Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald, ed. Ruth Prigozy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 143. 21. ​Ruth Prigozy, “Introduction: Scott, Zelda and the Culture of Celebrity,” in The Cambridge Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald, ed. Ruth Prigozy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 1. 22. ​Smith, “Fitzgerald, Flappers, and Fame”; “What a ‘Flapper Novelist’ Thinks of His Wife.” 23. ​F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-­Up, ed. Edmund Wilson (New York: New Directions, 1945), 77. 24. ​Siobhan Lyons, “Romanticising the Dark Ghosts of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald,” in Looking Back at the Jazz Age: New Essays on the Lit­er­a­ture and Legacy of an Iconic De­cade, ed. Nancy von Rosk (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016), 46. 25. ​Public and academic fascination with the Fitzgeralds’ relationship is evinced from the space the “golden ­couple” is given in recent TV series such as Z: The Beginning of Every­ thing (2015–2017) and in scholarly essays such as Prigozy’s “Scott, Zelda, and the Culture of Celebrity” and Sarah Churchwell’s “The Most Envied ­Couple in Amer­i­ca in 1921: Making the Social Register in the Scrapbooks of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald,” in First Comes Love: Power ­Couples, Celebrity Kinship and Cultural Politics, ed. Shelley Cobb and Neil Ewen (New York: Bloomsbury, 2015). 26. ​Sarah Beebe Fryer, Fitzgerald’s New W ­ omen: Harbingers of Change (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1988), 4. 27. ​Since the 1970s, feminist criticism has started to focus on Fitzgerald’s female characters and on his attitude ­toward ­women as an author. But ­t here has been a tendency, and ­there still is, to focus on female characters from his novels (see David Fedo, “­Women in the Fiction

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of F. Scott Fitzgerald,” Ball State University Forum 21, no. 2 [Spring 1980]: 26–33; Fay T. Greenwald, “Fitzgerald’s Female Narrators,” Mid-­Hudson Language Studies 2 [1979]: 116–133; Fryer, Fitzgerald’s New W ­ omen) or from his most anthologized short stories, such as “Winter Dreams” and “The Rich Boy,” whose protagonists are rich girls with conflicting needs for marriage and safety, who end up as domesticated wives (see Jan Hunt and John M. Suarez, “The Evasion of Adult Love in Fitzgerald’s Fiction,” Centennial Review 17, no. 2 [Spring 1973]: 152–169; Mary A. McCay, “Fitzgerald’s ­Women: Beyond Winter Dreams,” in American Novelists Revisited: Essays in Feminist Criticism, ed. F. Fleischmann (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982), 311–324. 28. ​John O’Ha­ra, Assembly (New York: Random House, 1961), 19. 29. ​Cynthia Felando, “Hollywood in the 1920s: Youth Must Be Served,” in Hollywood Goes Shopping, ed. David Desser and Garth  S. Jowett (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 84, 90. 30. ​Reid, “Has the Flapper Changed?,” 279–280. 31. ​F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise, ed. James L. W. West III (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 9. Book 1 of the novel is titled “The Romantic Egotist” ­a fter its protagonist. 32. ​“White College Men,” in F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Critical Reception, ed. Jackson  R. Bryer (New York: Burt Franklin, 1978), 21. 33. ​Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise, 61. 34. ​Bailey, From Front Porch to Back Seat, 80. 35. ​F. Scott Fitzgerald, Flappers and Phi­los­o­phers, ed. James  L.  W. West III (1920; repr., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 65. 36. ​“A Novel about Flappers for Phi­los­o­phers”; and “The New Youth Finds a Voice in Fiction,” in Bryer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 20, 7. 37. ​Maud Davis Walker, “This Side of Paradise,” in Bryer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 30. 38. ​Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise, 90, 81. 39. ​Fitzgerald, 137. 40. ​Fitzgerald, 162. 41. ​Bailey, From Front Porch to Back Seat, 42. 42. ​Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise, 209–215. 43. ​Fitzgerald, 218–219. 44. ​See Cynthia Ea­gle Russett, Sexual Science: The Victorian Construction of Womanhood (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1989), 12. 45. ​Russett, 171. 46. ​“Recommends Flirting,” Bismarck Tribune, October 26, 1925, 1. 47. ​“Reflections of a Bachelor Girl,” South Bend News-­Times, May 31, 1922, 8. 48. ​F. Scott Fitzgerald, The ­Great Gatsby, ed. James  L.  W. West III (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 21. 49. ​Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise, 220. 50. ​Fitzgerald, 222. 51. ​“Good After­noon! Have You a L ­ ittle P.D. in your Home?,” in Bryer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 2. 52. ​The Ringmaster, “The Literary Show: Some Auction and Some Novels,” Town Topics, September 30, 1920, 15–16. 53. ​Nan Enstad, “Ladies of L ­ abor, Girls of Adventure: Working W ­ omen, Popu­lar Culture, and ­L abor Politics at the Turn of the Twentieth ­C entury” in Class: The Anthology, ed. Stanley Arono­witz and Michael Roberts (Oxford: Wiley-­Blackwell 2018), 98–99. Elizabeth Cowie, Representing the W ­ oman: Cinema and Psychoanalysis (Baskingstoke: Macmillan,1997), 7. 54. ​Liz Conor, “The Flapper in the Heterosexual Scene,” Journal of Australian Studies 26, no. 72 (2002): 44. 55. ​A review of Flappers and Phi­los­o­phers, a collection of short stories that Fitzgerald published six months ­a fter This Side of Paradise, reads: “The most in­ter­est­ing studies in his book of short stories are his sketches of girls. Prob­ably no more recent pieces of writing are as truthful and as characteristic. What Mr.  Fitzgerald believes girls are, or could become is


M a r t i n a M a s ta n d r e a

what most young fellows, who possess what is called background, think they are or could become” (in Bryer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 55). 56. ​Quoted in Aaron Latham, Crazy Sundays: F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood (London: Secker and Warburg, 1972), 40. 57. ​Sheila Kaye-­Smith, “The New ­Woman,” Living Age, November 5, 1929, 356. 58. ​Ben B. Lindsey and Wainwright Evans, The Revolt of Modern Youth (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1925), 71–72. 59. ​Conor, “The Flapper in the Heterosexual Scene,” 47. 60. ​Conor, 44. 61. ​“The New Fashioned Girl,” The Flapper, June 1922. 62. ​John A. Higgins, F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Study of the Stories (Jamaica, NY: St. John’s University Press, 1971), 20. 63. ​Fitzgerald, “Myra Meets His ­Family,” in West, Flappers and Phi­los­o­phers, 229. 64. ​Bailey, From Front Porch to Back Seat, 6. 65. ​Fitzgerald, “Myra Meets His F ­ amily,” 229. 66. ​Fitzgerald, 230. 67. ​“Witnesseth this agreement made the 28th day of April, 1920, by and between F. Scott Fitzgerald . . . ​a nd Fox Film Corporation . . . ,” Matthew J. and Arlyn Bruccoli Collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC. 68. ​Fitzgerald’s flapper stories made into films, respectively, in 1921 and 1924 (“The Offshore Pirate” and “The Camel’s Back”) pre­sent the same type of introduction and the same typified character. 69. ​Ruth Prigozy, “Fitzgerald’s Flappers and Flapper Films of the Jazz Age,” in A Historical Guide to F. Scott Fitzgerald, ed. Kirk Curnutt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 140. 70. ​K irk Curnutt, “F. Scott Fitzgerald: Professional Author,” in A Historical Guide to F. Scott Fitzgerald, ed. Kirk Curnutt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 57. In addition to “Myra Meets His ­Family” and “The Offshore Pirate,” Fitzgerald sold the cinematic rights to “Head and Shoulders” (1920), which was released on August 16, 1920, as The Chorus Girl’s Romance, and “The Camel’s Back” (1920), which was released on January 12, 1924, as Conductor 1492. 71. ​Joseph Franklin Poland, The Husband Hunter: Photoplay in Five Parts, Moving Image Section, Motion Picture and Tele­v i­sion Reading Room, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, 1. 72. ​Bailey, From Front Porch to Back Seat, 115. 73. ​Poland, The Husband Hunter, 4. 74. ​Zelda Fitzgerald, “Eulogy on the Flapper,” Metropolitan Magazine 55 (June 1922): 38–39. 75. ​Matthew A. Taylor, “The Husband Hunter (Fox): Farcical Development of Fitzgerald’s Comedy Drama,” Motion Picture News, September 25, 1920, 2497. 76. ​“Nixon Theatre,” New ­Castle News, October 18, 1920, 13; “We Would Like to Introduce a New Screen Beauty: Eileen Percy,” Ea­gle, October 11, 1920, 3. 77. ​A 1922 advertisement in an Arizona local newspaper informed its readers that “good squash, eggs, chickens, tomatoes, potatoes and wheat” ­were accepted as payment for cinema tickets. “To­night,” Coconino Sun, January 6, 1922, 6. 78. ​“Rex To-­Day,” Bemidji Daily Pioneer, January  5, 1921, 3; “A Picturization of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Famous Story,” Caledonian Rec­ord, October 28, 1920, 6; “The Screen,” Republic, 1 November 1920, 4; “Pastime: ­Today Only,” Ottawa Herald, April 22, 1921, 3. 79. ​Conor, “The Flapper in the Heterosexual Scene,” 46. 80. ​“The Husband Hunter,” Kinematograph Weekly, April  21, 1921, 730. The film was released in Mexico as Un Lio Matrimonial (A matrimonial mess) and in Brazil as The Caçadora de Maridos (The hunter of husbands). See María Luisa Amador and Jorge Ayala Blanco, eds., Cartelera Cinematográfica, 1920–1929 (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México, Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos, Coordinación de Difusión Cultural, 1999), 98; and “O Film da Semana,” Para Todos 4, no. 177 (1922): 8.

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81. ​Fitzgerald, “The Offshore Pirate,” in West, Flappers and Phi­los­o­phers, 7. 82. ​Fitzgerald, 24–25. 83. ​“The Agreement Made on May 27, 1920 by and between Metro Pictures Corporation and F. Scott Fitzgerald,” Matthew J. and Arlyn Bruccoli Collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of South Carolina Libraries, Columbia, SC, 1. 84. ​Lori Landay, “The Flapper Film: Comedy, Dance, and Jazz Age Kinaesthetics,” in A Feminist Reader in Early Cinema, ed. Jennifer M. Bean and Diane Negra (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002), 225. 85. ​Laurence Reid, “The Off-­Shore Pirate,” Motion Picture News, March 21, 1921, 1989. The word off-­shore was hyphenated in the movie title. 86. ​J.E.D. Meador, Viola Dana in The Off-­Shore Pirate by F. Scott Fitzgerald, pressbook, Metro Pictures, 1921, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, 3. 87. ​Shelley Stamp, “An Awful Strug­gle between Love and Ambition: Serial Heroines, Serial Stars, and Their Female Fans,” in ­Silent Cinema Reader, ed. Lee Grieveson and Peter Kramer (London: Routledge, 2004), 212. 88. ​Gwenda Young, “1925: Movies and a Year of Change,” in American Cinema of the 1920s: Themes and Variations, ed. Lucy Fischer (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2009), 151. 89. ​See Drowne, “Postwar Flappers,” 252. 90. ​Meador, Viola Dana in The Off-­Shore Pirate, 2. 91. ​Meador, 9. 92. ​Michael Nowlin, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Racial ­Angles and the Business of Literary Greatness (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 27; Ralph H. Leek, “The Offshore Pirate: Story Version Written for Screenland,” November 1920, 44. 93. ​Fitzgerald, “The Offshore Pirate,” 35. 94. ​“Display Ad 9,” Afro-­American, July 22, 1921, 8. The Regent was the biggest theater in Baltimore for African American audiences. Originally seating 500 persons, a few months before The Off-­Shore Pirate’s release, the theater had expanded its seating capacity to 2,250. Amy Davis, Flickering Trea­sures: Rediscovering Baltimore’s Forgotten Movie Theaters (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2017), 105. 95. ​During the 1920s, the Saturday Eve­ning Post not only was a “White” mass-­circulation magazine that reflected the pro-­business and consumerist values of White middle-­class Americans but also openly criticized and satirized the New Negro movement and published articles that embraced the pseudoscientific racist theories of famous eugenicists of the time. See Kathleen Drowne and Patrick Huber, The 1920s (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2004), 176; George Hutchinson, The Harlem Re­nais­sance in Black and White (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1995), 127; Suzanne del Gizzo, “Ethnic Stereotyping,” in F. Scott Fitzgerald in Context, ed. Bryant Mangum (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 226. 96. ​“Display Ad 9.” 97. ​“Metropolitan Offers Story of Jazz Set: The Beautiful and Damned Taken from Story by Scott Fitzgerald,” Atlanta Constitution, January 28, 1923, 3. 98. ​Iris Barry, Let’s Go to the Movies (New York: Payson and Clarke, 1926), 65. 99. ​Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise, 219. 100. ​DePaulo (How Singles Are Ste­reo­typed, 2) defines this stigmatizing phenomenon as “singlism.”

chapter 6

Neither Betwixt nor Between divorced ­mothers in the united states, 1920–1965 Kristin Celello

When the tele­v i­sion series Mad Men debuted in the summer of 2007, tele­v i­sion critics immediately noted the show’s attention to historical detail, which at times bordered on obsession.1 Early in the first season, when the writers wanted to signal that ­t here ­were cracks in the facade of the main characters’ story­book marriage, they introduced the character of Helen Bishop (Darby Stanchfield), a divorced ­mother of two young ­children. Betty Draper (January Jones) first learns that Helen ­will be moving in to the “­little Dutch colonial down the street” while chatting with her friend Francine (Anne Dudek). Francine casually remarks that she cannot imagine having to worry about finances at this stage in her life, but then more meaningfully observes, “But that’s not even the worst of it,” to which Betty readily agrees.2 Their conversation ends on this ambiguous note, leaving the viewer to won­ der if the “worst of it” is for Helen, for the neighborhood, or possibly even for Betty’s and Francine’s own marriages. The next episode pre­sents several answers. Betty invites Helen to her d ­ aughter’s birthday party, although her assembled friends are mildly scandalized by this decision. Helen, it soon becomes clear, has walked into a proverbial minefield, not just ­because she is ­running late and is the only ­mother dressed in pants. A divorced ­mother, the show suggests, does not have a place in this suburban tableau. Helen does not belong with the leering men drinking cocktails in the living room, nor does she fit in with the ­women gossiping about her home life in the kitchen. Before long, Francine’s husband, Carlton (Kristoffer Polaha), has cornered Helen in the hallway. With some effort at sincerity, he tells her: “I know your situation . . . ​and my heart breaks for that ­little boy.”3 Helen initially pretends to be receptive to his offer of being a male role model in her son’s life. Soon, however, she cuts to the ­actual heart of the ­matter: that Carlton is propositioning her and that she has heard it all before. Helen escapes to the backyard, where she smokes companionably with Don Draper (Jon Hamm), another outsider. One of Betty’s friends sharply calls 102

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her attention to the fact that Helen and Don are together in the yard, prompting Betty to send Don (who the audience knows is a philanderer) out on an errand. Betty would rather have her husband leave their ­daughter’s birthday party than run the risk of having him become too friendly with a divorced ­mother, especially one who works for a living and has the audacity to show up at a summer birthday party with a pre­sent wrapped in Christmas paper. Perhaps Helen’s deviations from the suburban norm would not have raised Betty’s suspicions if she had attended the party with a husband. But the fact that she was also single, and thus seemingly more sexually available than the other w ­ omen in attendance, was too much for Betty to bear. True to the tele­vi­sion show’s reputation for historical accuracy, t­ hese two scenes speak to a real source of anxiety in the midcentury United States: the growing presence of the divorced ­family, in general, and previously married but now “single” ­mothers, in par­tic­u­lar. As pressing as t­ hese issues ­were at the time, they have been largely ignored in the historiography. Most histories of marriage and parenting in the twentieth-­century United States focus on intact middle-­class families, while studies that discuss divorce and child custody primarily explore their evolving ­legal status.4 Works that consider the historical experiences of single ­women most frequently assume that such w ­ omen w ­ ere unmarried and childless.5 Th ­ ose that do turn their analytical lens on single ­mothers tend to consider w ­ omen whose circumstances (­whether an out-­of-­wedlock pregnancy or the loss of a husband by desertion, death, or divorce) have left them impoverished and in contact with the welfare state.6 This chapter seeks to remedy the relative absence of the divorced f­ amily from the history of American f­amily life.7 As a work of social and cultural history, it uses an analy­sis of novels and films, magazine and newspaper articles, academic writing, and advice books to explore how and why upper-­and middle-­class divorced ­mothers—­represented and real-­life Helen Bishops—­came to challenge the popu­ lar imagination in the United States from the 1920s into the 1960s.8 It argues that at a time in which gender responsibilities ­were often sharply delineated, and ideas about proper maternal be­hav­ior ­were in transition, the growing presence of divorced m ­ others forced the American public to grapple with questions about gender roles, parenting, and sexuality. It also suggests that the divorced ­family was a focus of social commentary well before the so-­called divorce revolution of the 1970s, when the rise of no-­fault divorce contributed to a spike in the divorce rate and prompted conservative fears about the f­ uture of the American ­family.9 This chapter additionally calls for a broader understanding of singleness, as well as of motherhood, to include the previously married. Divorced m ­ others ­were neither betwixt nor between singleness and nuclear ­family life. They ­were decidedly “single,” as in legally unmarried. Like other unmarried ­women, they often faced economic and social vulnerability, and they sometimes defied, while also being constrained by, the gender status quo. ­Because the vast majority of divorced ­mothers retained primary custody of their c­ hildren, the presence of their offspring served as a per­sis­tent reminder of their previous marital and sexual experiences.10


Kristin Celello

Divorced ­mothers, together with unwed and widowed ­mothers, ­were the antithesis of the c­entury’s ­earlier “­women adrift,” to borrow from historian Joanne  J. Meyero­w itz, in that their familial situations frequently rooted them in place.11 Divorced m ­ others also ­were generally left out of the fervent discussions about proper mothering that ­were widespread from the 1920s through the 1960s. Despite this exclusion, they ­were nevertheless influenced by, and participated in, ­t hese conversations. Diverse repre­sen­ta­tions of divorced m ­ others evolved as their ranks grew over time, though ste­reo­t ypes about their position and be­hav­ior remained. Portrayals of childless divorcées as sexually suspect, and even predatory, ­were not uncommon in late nineteenth-­century and early twentieth-­century lit­er­a­ture, film, and popu ­lar magazines.12 In the early de­cades of the twentieth ­century, divorced ­mothers aroused an even broader suspicion, as w ­ omen who potentially placed their own plea­sure and interests above ­t hose of their ­children and society at large. The sexual threat of the divorced ­mother was pronounced, as the trope of her “stealing” unsuspecting suburban husbands (or being propositioned by them) emerged and flourished at midcentury. As the number of divorced m ­ others increased, they often bristled at t­ hese repre­sen­ta­t ions and sought to rehabilitate their images, although their efforts often remained constrained by class, race, and gender assumptions. An analy­sis of the evolving repre­sen­ta­tions of the divorced ­mother, therefore, broadens and complicates understandings of singleness, motherhood, and the larger American familial experience from the 1920s u ­ ntil the mid-1960s. The divorced ­mother became a social prob­lem in the early twentieth ­century. By this time, many Americans w ­ ere aware that their nation had one of the highest divorce rates in the world.13 Social scientists knew that childless ­couples ended their marriages at far higher rates than t­ hose with c­ hildren in this time period; even in the late 1930s, close to two-­t hirds of divorced c­ ouples did not have any offspring.14 Yet t­ hese statistics did not assuage growing concerns among vari­ous constituencies, from religious leaders to social scientists to journalists, about parents who divorced. Instead, ­t hese groups launched intense, and often contentious, debates about the larger emotional, cultural, social, and po­liti­cal ramifications of the emerging divorced f­ amily. ­Because ­mothers usually retained child custody, their actions received par­tic­u­lar scrutiny. One of the most potent anx­i­eties surrounding divorce in the first three de­cades of the twentieth ­century was the effect that parents’ marital dissolution had on their c­ hildren. Did a “good” m ­ other remain unhappily married, or did she make the decision to part ways with her husband? What sort of life should she build with her c­ hildren if she did choose divorce? How desirable was remarriage? The answers ­were not straightforward. Even t­ hose commentators who strongly condemned or sought to curtail parental divorce understood that it was difficult to limit the individual freedom of parents and, more concretely, to leave ­children in undesirable home environments. Novelists in the 1920s and 1930s also embraced the drama surrounding the divorced f­amily. Sociologist James Harwood Barnett noted in his 1939 survey of “divorce novels” published between 1858 and 1937: “Chronologically ­t here was a

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shift in public interest from concern over the fact of divorce, to the effects of divorce on ­children” during ­t hese de­cades.15 ­There ­were literary antecedents to this trend. Henry James’s novel What Maisie Knew (1897) was one of the first books to broach the subject. The novel is notable as a technical exercise in point of view—­the story is told through Maisie’s eyes from when she is a young child ­u ntil she is a ­teenager—as well as a condemnation of the foolish adults in Maisie’s life. Edith Wharton, in turn, exposed the not-­so-­benign neglect of a wealthy, frequently divorced ­mother in The Custom of the Country (1913). Embedded in the story of the social-­climbing Undine Spragg’s four marriages and three divorces is the sad tale of Undine’s son, Paul Marvell, the product of her second u ­ nion. While most of Wharton’s novel focuses on the foibles of adults, the story takes a turn in the last chapter, which unfolds from Paul’s point of view. Vari­ous characters in the latter parts of the novel remark on Undine’s negligence t­ oward her son; at one point, it is reported that he cannot identify his m ­ other in a photo­graph.16 But ­things grow even worse once the ­mother and son are re­united ­after her (re)marriage to Elmer Moffatt (Undine’s first and fourth husband), ultimately leaving Paul enraged and in tears.17 In her study of the use of divorce as a literary device, scholar Kimberly A. Freeman observes that, by ending the novel in this manner, “Wharton reminds her readers that this is not just a satire of modern American marriage and/or divorce, but that t­ here is a serious and tragic consequence, the isolation and emptiness of the ­children such marriages produce, proving that both marriage and divorce are social, not simply individual decisions.”18 But if nine-­year-­old Paul is the tragic “victim” of parental divorce, his selfish, social-­climbing ­mother is clearly the party who is responsible for his trou­bles. (Paul’s ­father and Undine’s second husband, Ralph, had e­ arlier taken his own life a­ fter learning that Undine not only had been previously married but also intended to take custody of Paul.) Throughout the popu­lar divorce novels of the 1920s and 1930s, a variety of divorced m ­ others wreak havoc on the lives of their offspring, e­ ither by putting their own well-­being and desires ahead of t­ hose of their c­ hildren or by encouraging them, especially their ­daughters, to emulate their marital profligacy. In some instances, the c­ hildren suffer fates even worse than that of Paul Marvell. In The Kenworthys, a 1925 novel by Pulitzer Prize–­winning author Margaret Wilson, for instance, Jim Kenworthy’s ex-­wife, the new Mrs. Veile, has retained custody of their son, Bronson, in spite of the fact that she is too busy campaigning for suffrage and performing war work to pay much attention to him. Jim regrets that he did not fight harder for custody of Bronson, but his ex-­wife w ­ ill not change their arrangement, and he does not have the funds to wage a ­battle in court. Finding the situation with his ­mother and stepfather intolerable, Bronson runs away, falls ill, and ultimately succumbs to pneumonia. Jim dies soon thereafter. While the novel portrays Jim as noble, if weak, Mrs.  Veile is a caricature of a self-­absorbed ­woman—­referred to by one character as a “damned slimy ­little viper”—­who is evidently lacking in maternal instinct.19 In both novels and films, many divorced m ­ others seemingly changed husbands “like last year’s hat,” often seeking to pass their blasé, and occasionally mercenary,


Kristin Celello

attitudes about marriage on to their ­children.20 Such was the case of Katherine Flanders (played by Hedda Hopper), the ­mother of Kitty Flanders in the 1927 ­silent film adaptation of Owen Johnson’s novel ­Children of Divorce, which also starred Clara Bow, Esther Ralston, and Gary Cooper. Both the book and the film tell the story of three friends—­beautiful, cautious Jean Waddington (Ralston); flirtatious, carefree Kitty (Bow); and debonair, charming Ted Larrabee (Cooper).21 Jean and Kitty first become acquainted when their divorced parents leave them to be cared for at a convent; when the two girls meet Ted, they learn that his parents have also divorced. Jean, harboring what the novel describes as “an abiding blind revolt against this incomprehensible t­ hing called Divorce which robbed her of her childhood,” vows that she w ­ ill provide happiness and familial stability for her f­ uture ­children by marrying for life.22 In a divergence from the book, however, the film zeroes in on Kitty’s ­mother. As the three main characters become young adults, Katherine does her best to ensure that her “society debutante” ­d aughter snags a wealthy husband. The title card explains: “­After five divorces Mrs. Flanders has lost interest in marriage—­except as a ­career for Kitty.”23 Kitty is attracted to a young prince named Vico, but he, too, is looking to marry for money. Following her m ­ other’s training, Kitty cynically rebuffs Vico’s heartfelt proposals, explaining: “You’d make a marvelous second husband—­ but y­ ou’re too much of a luxury for a poor girl’s first venture!” She elaborates: “I have to marry for money. . . . ​My ­mother has drilled that into me—­for years.”24 At the same time, Jean becomes reacquainted with Ted, who is e­ ager for them to tie the knot. But she wants to take ­things slowly, lecturing, “Marriage is too serious a ­t hing to rush into blindly!” While Ted tries to be patient and to earn Jean’s trust, he cannot resist the temptations posed by the scheming Kitty. A ­ fter one “last night” of drunken revelry planned by Kitty, he wakes up to find that she is his wife. Jean is aghast when she learns the news but cannot do anything about it. When Ted suggests divorce, Kitty quips, “Well, I’ve been taught to change husbands—­but not that fast.”25 Three years ­later, Ted, Kitty, and their young ­daughter, as well as Jean and Vico, all find themselves in Paris. As the old friends re­unite, Kitty admits, “I was a selfish ­little fool, Jean! Our marriage has made all of us wretchedly unhappy.” Kitty now knows that love is more impor­tant than money, but she and Vico can never be together b ­ ecause his religion prohibits him from marrying a divorcée. Ted similarly contemplates ending his marriage, but Jean rebuffs him. To put herself out of Ted’s reach, she resolves to marry Vico. When Kitty hears the news, she commits suicide. On her deathbed, she blames her actions on her childhood, “without a home, or love—or anything.” Her m ­ other had essentially abandoned Kitty in her youth, then forced her to marry for money rather than love. The repercussions of Katherine’s poor parenting reverberate throughout the rest of Kitty’s short life. Only by d ­ ying, and thus allowing Ted and Jean to marry without the stigma of divorce, does Kitty guarantee that her ­daughter avoids a similar fate. Note that the novel ­Children of Divorce has quite a dif­fer­ent ending. By its conclusion, Ted and Kitty have divorced, with Ted securing custody of their d ­ aughter

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by paying Kitty a hefty sum. Jean, who has married Vico, is trapped in a loveless ­union by his refusal to consider a divorce on religious grounds and by his insistence that he must continue his noble f­ amily line. The differences between the book and film versions (both of which came out the same year) are telling. The focus on Kitty’s ­mother in the movie suggests that a scheming and frivolous divorced ­mother would be easily recognizable as a “type” to audiences. Furthermore, Kitty’s decision to end her life in order to make for a Hollywood-­style “happy” ending for the ­others proves that she had some maternal value, even if Jean ultimately replaces her as a ­mother. Her actions ensure that her ­daughter would be neither a “child of divorce” nor a “motherless child”—­both pitiable in their own way. While the novel’s ending is bleak and offers l­ittle hope for the nation’s familial f­ uture, the film ends with the suggestion that w ­ omen choosing to marry for love, and for life, would lead to better days ahead. Clodi Armande Dolores Dillon Wishart Prince Lewis, the heroine of Everett Young’s novel Custody ­Children (1926) makes a similar, if less dramatic, decision. Herself the product of a tumultuous childhood involving divorce, remarriage, and her f­ ather’s suicide, Clodi marries Matt Wishart and they have a son named Bruce together. But Clodi ­will not give up her flirtatious ways, and the ­union falls apart. She marries and divorces two more times, while Matt fights in World War I and eventually marries a nice French w ­ idow with a d ­ aughter. In time, Clodi comes to see that Matt’s new ­family is the best place for Bruce, and she blames her childhood experiences for her inability to be a good ­mother. She reflects: “I ­haven’t—­sort of—­stuck. And it’s seemed to me, looking back over every­t hing, that my parents, my bringing up have had something to do with that.”26 She decides to relinquish any custody claims on their son, effectively ending her involvement in his life. Rather than being a sad outcome, however, Clodi’s decision is portrayed as a necessary and even honorable choice. Like Kitty Flanders, Clodi chooses to end the cycle of divorce in which one generation’s marital decision-­making wreaks havoc on the next one. By removing herself from Bruce’s life, she enables him to have a more stable, and presumably more successful, f­ uture. During the interwar years, a more “modern” approach to motherhood, emphasizing expert-­driven child-­rearing techniques and m ­ others pursuing interests outside of the f­ amily, slowly challenged a Victorian-­era idealization of ­mothers who dedicated their lives to their offspring and would sacrifice anything for them.27 On the one hand, divorced ­mothers resided outside of ­t hese conversations, which assumed that ­mothers ­were married (or possibly widowed). On the other hand, they ­were very much a part of the dialogue, as evidenced by the interpretations of their experiences in popu­lar culture. Divorce was, a­ fter all, inextricably linked to the definition of “modern” marriage.28 But if divorce was an acceptable choice for modern childless c­ ouples (and not all Americans agreed that it was), the stakes ­were dif­fer­ent once a ­couple had ­children.29 Divorced ­mothers fared so poorly in novels and films that sought to chronicle their experiences ­because the fact of their motherhood held them to a higher standard. It is telling that Clodi, for instance, is redeemed only by giving up her son. This sacrifice, however, was dif­fer­ent than that


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of m ­ others whose sons had died in World War I.30 Clodi only becomes a heroine by denouncing her right to call herself a ­mother to a living child, rather than continuing to emphasize her maternal status, like the ­mothers of the casualties of war. Divorced m ­ others ­were certainly aware of their uncomfortable position in American society and started to add their voices to the public conversation in the early 1930s. ­These years witnessed the rise of what one scholar at the time called the “divorce confessional.”31 The proliferation of such autobiographical narratives was so pronounced, in fact, that Scribner’s ran a trend piece exploring why the “ex-­ married” ­were so willing to spill their stories.32 Always published anonymously, ­t hese articles purported to be firsthand accounts of how vari­ous individuals navigated the issues surrounding bad marriages, the decision to dissolve their ­unions, and life ­after divorce. They personalized divorce for readers by focusing on lived experience instead of expert opinion or religious moralizing. The anonymity of the authors furthered this pro­cess by suggesting that the readers’ neighbors, relatives, or acquaintances could have written each article. ­Women wrote the majority of ­t hese pieces; their ­children figured prominently in their tales. ­Because ­these articles ­were written by and for the ­middle and upper classes, they emphasized the psychological aspects of divorce almost to the exclusion of the financial difficulties that often accompanied divorce. They offered wildly varying takes on maternal obligations in the face of marital breakdown.33 Some ­mothers, for instance, discussed how c­ hildren influenced their decision not to divorce. The author of “Who Gets the ­Children?” de­cided that she would have more influence over her ­children if she stayed married to her moralistic, controlling husband than if she divorced him. She explained: “­After deciding that what I want most is genuine re­spect and love from my c­ hildren, I could do nothing e­ lse but remain in our ­family as they want it—­undisturbed by withdrawal of anybody. Although this has seemed a big price to pay for gaining my heart’s desire, I am now convinced that the reward is worth the cost.”34 Throughout the piece, the author stressed her modernity—­mentioning that she liked to smoke cigarettes and to read authors such as Walter Lipp­mann and Ernest Hemingway—in spite of her husband’s disapproval of her lifestyle and reading choices.35 She thus claimed that her decision to stay married was in a dif­fer­ent vein than that of the self-­sacrificing Victorian m ­ others of the previous generation.36 The authors of one group of confessional pieces fully believed that the decision to divorce had been damaging to their offspring. The m ­ other who wrote “Divorce and the Child,” for example, told a sad tale in which she and her ex-­husband had obtained a “cooperative divorce,” but their son had nevertheless suffered. Many of his prob­lems, the author readily acknowledged, w ­ ere b ­ ecause she placed her desire 37 for her own “good life” over his wants and needs. As a result, she admitted, their son’s life was “pretty much ruined.” While unrepentant about choosing her own happiness over their son’s, she nevertheless conceded that he might have been better off if she and his ­father had remained married.38 Another author, who reflected on the ten years following her divorce, was more explicit in her regrets. She had ended her marriage b ­ ecause her husband was an alcoholic and she wanted to

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protect their son from his be­hav­ior. With the benefit of hindsight, however, she had reached the conclusion that “almost any f­ ather is better than none. He need not be admirable.”39 Furthermore, her life as a divorced m ­ other was “far from a fulfilled and happy one” b ­ ecause “in her innermost consciousness she is aware that she has failed where she most hoped to succeed.” 40 Divorce and ­children, she suggested, ­were incompatible. For ­every divorce confessional that was laced with regret, however, ­t here was one that argued divorce was a better option than being unhappily married or living with parental friction. In a “heartening” story in Parents’ Magazine, for example, a “­Mother of Two” explained that she and her ex-­husband had intended to be married for life. Yet they ultimately de­cided to end their loveless ­u nion. She explained: “We loved our ­children. We did not know what lay ahead for them, if we divorced. But we did know that a marriage without love on both sides would wreck them too, for it would wreck us.” 41 Unlike the divorced m ­ other who felt that she had harmed her son by putting her own desires ahead of his well-­being, this ­mother believed that her decision to end her marriage had been beneficial to her c­ hildren. She elaborated: “In essence our ­children have had to accept the fact that we love our own lives more than we love them. This has appeared cruel outwardly. But inwardly, ­because our hunger for the good life has been sent into inner channels, in a search to find pattern and meaning and integrity to our lives, it has brought them an active, meaningful peace, a kind of fighting peace.” 42 Divorce confessionals, therefore, served as a venue for divorced m ­ others, albeit ­t hose with a g­ reat deal of race and class privilege, to debate parenting, plea­sure, and individual freedom. But they did not solve many of the contradictions inherent in being divorced while being a m ­ other as well. Divorced ­mothers largely dis­appeared from public conversation in the United States in the early 1940s, as other familial concerns, such as the proliferation of “war marriages” (hasty ­unions that had the potential to end in divorce) and fears about the “latchkey ­children” of ­mothers working in war­time industries, took center stage.43 A notable exception is James  M. Cain’s novel Mildred Pierce (1941), which introduced several themes related to the experiences of divorced ­mothers that would become more pronounced in the postwar years. In the novel’s opening pages, Mildred throws her unfaithful husband, Bert, out of the h ­ ouse. Her friend and neighbor Lucy Gessler, on hearing the news, informs Mildred: “Well, ­you’ve joined the biggest army on earth. ­You’re the g­ reat American institution that never gets mentioned on Fourth of July—­a grass ­w idow with two small ­children to support.” 44 Bert is unemployed, the country is in the early grips of the ­Great Depression, and neither Mildred nor Lucy thinks that he ­will contribute financially to the f­ amily now that the marriage is over. But ­family economics are not Mildred’s only prob­lem. When Bert’s former business associate, Wally Burgan, hears that she and Bert have split up, he pays Mildred a visit. She expresses surprise at his sudden interest in her, but Mrs. Gessler again diagnoses the situation, explaining: “The morals they give you credit for, you’d be surprised. To him you ­were a red-­hot mamma the second he found out about you.” Mildred asks: “About what?” to which


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Lucy exclaims: “Grass ­w idow! From now on, ­you’re fast.” 45 In other words, men like Wally assumed that previously married ­women ­were sexually available to them (and, indeed, Mildred does have a brief affair with him). It is also telling that in both the book and the 1945 film adaptation starring Joan Crawford—­which are other­w ise quite dif­fer­ent in terms of key plot points—­ Mildred pays for embracing her sexuality as a divorced m ­ other. She is swept off her feet by polo player Monty Beragon, and the two go on a trip and become lovers while her d ­ aughters, Veda and Ray (named Kay in the film), are with their ­father. On her return from their getaway, Mildred learns that Ray is desperately ill. The doctors do their best to help her get better, but the l­ittle girl dies soon thereafter. The strong implication is that Mildred has let her personal sexual plea­sure intrude on her maternal obligations, for which her younger ­daughter pays a steep price. Divorced m ­ others exercised sexual agency, in other words, at not only their own peril but also that of their c­ hildren. Following in the footsteps laid out by Mildred Pierce, questions about finances and sexuality drove the renewed public conversation about divorced ­mothers in the postwar years. Demographic changes helped to fuel this development, as did the growing desire of ­these ­women to take control of their own image. ­After reaching an all-­time high immediately ­after the war, the nation’s divorce rate slowed and then slightly declined in the 1950s.46 This downward trend, however, did not produce optimism. The fact remained that the number of divorces in the United States was still higher than before the war.47 Furthermore, Americans became increasingly aware of a shift in exactly who was getting divorced. Specifically, between 1945 and 1965, the ranks of divorced parents swelled considerably. “Divorce in families with c­ hildren is more common than is generally realized,” declared one report in 1950.48 A frequently cited figure held that approximately 7 million American c­ hildren ­under the age of eigh­teen lived in single-­parent ­house­holds (although reporters usually did not disaggregate ­t hese numbers to differentiate between ­children affected by divorce, separation, and death, and ­t hose born out of wedlock).49 By the early 1960s, two-­thirds of marital dissolutions involved ­children, a relatively unsurprising outcome, given that Americans w ­ ere both marrying and having c­ hildren at younger ages than in previous de­cades.50 As in the past, most ­children whose parents divorced—­about 90 ­percent—­lived with their m ­ others.51 As their ranks grew, public conversations about divorced ­women started to shift, focusing less on criticizing their choices, although such criticisms lingered, and more on acknowledging their difficulties and supporting them during a difficult time. One significant development in this vein was the emergence in the late 1940s of advice books for w ­ omen contemplating and g­ oing through the divorce pro­cess. Following in the tradition of the divorce confessionals of e­ arlier de­cades, t­ hese books often included firsthand accounts of m ­ others who divorced. But, in line with the midcentury focus on therapy and expertise, they strove to be more analytical and less opinionated than ­earlier pieces.52 Furthermore, while the confessionals and divorce novels most frequently featured narratives about the well-­to-do, how

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to maintain a semblance of a middle-­class lifestyle animated ­t hese works. ­These books thus served multiple roles, normalizing the experience of divorce for m ­ others while nevertheless emphasizing the practical and emotional difficulties that lay ahead. The authors of ABC of Divorce bluntly stated: “If y­ ou’re looking to be freed from home ties by a divorce, give up the idea if you have ­children.”53 Eve Jones, author of Raising Your Child in a Fatherless Home, elaborated: “Only the single ­mother ­faces a situation which is greatly dif­fer­ent from the one she would face if she ­were not single.”54 One of the earliest advice books for single m ­ others, which set the tone for much of the guidance that followed in the subsequent de­cade, was Elbrun Rochford’s ­Mothers on Their Own (1953), a book “especially for the w ­ oman who is a ­mother and who must also act virtually as a ­father, the ­woman who is the home maker and also the breadwinner.”55 Writing from her own experience as a single ­mother of two ­daughters, Rochford offered step-­by-­step instructions for ­widows and divorcées on topics as wide-­ranging as finding housing and employment, providing emotional support to one’s c­ hildren, and having (or, pointedly, not having) sexual intercourse before remarriage. While she opened the book noting that one in five ­children in the United States had absentee ­fathers, Rochford clearly assumed that her par­tic­u­lar readers had lived comfortably while they w ­ ere married, and that they would aspire to preserve some of t­ hose trappings even now that they w ­ ere single. At a time in which many w ­ omen who received welfare and inhabited public housing ­were separated from their husbands or w ­ ere divorcées, it is worth noting that this advice highlighted growing class differences within the ranks of single m ­ others in the United States.56 Financial advice aimed at divorced m ­ others, therefore, tended to assume that they w ­ ere relatively well educated and easily employable, and that they had some resources at their disposal. Rochford’s recommendation for getting back on one’s feet financially, for example, included selling possessions (she even included a sample classified ad that included selling “Furs, formals, sportswear, dresses, and jewelry”), seeking loans, and—as a last resort—­civic aid from churches and other charitable organ­izations.57 Rochford advised m ­ others with young c­ hildren that they should find a way to work from home, perhaps setting up a day care or a dress shop, making and selling artwork or crafts, or d ­ oing “white-­collar” work such as typing or copywriting.58 Most impor­tant, if a ­mother did have to leave home to work, Rochford instructed: “Try for work that is not too tiring. Noisy factory jobs and jobs that seem to have standing-­room only should be avoided. You cannot expect to be much of a ­mother if you are a wreck when you go home at night.”59 She expected, in other words, that her readers would have the luxury of avoiding jobs usually associated with the working class. Her ideal divorced m ­ other was able to provide for her ­family, while also having the time and energy to care for her ­children in accordance with postwar middle-­class standards. Rochford was not alone in such assessments. In their pamphlet The One-­Parent ­Family (1959), Anna W. M. Wolf and Lucille Stein, who ­were both staff members of the Child Study Association of Amer­i­ca, similarly argued that it was prob­ably


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best for newly single ­mothers to remain in the home. They advised: “The call of an old job and former associates may seem strong at first but perhaps this is only a temporary lure, and one which would not permanently equal the satisfaction of homemaking.” 60 Wolf and Stein conceded, however, that some single m ­ others might have to find full-­time employment. If this was the case, they held, a m ­ other “should go with a clear conscience and make the best plan for her ­children during the day that she can.” 61 This valorization of homemaking was particularly striking ­because many middle-­class ­mothers, w ­ ere, in fact, entering the workforce in the 1950s. The assumption, however, was that this work, which was often part-­ time, was supplemental to their husbands’ earnings, rather than breadwinning in its own right.62 Divorced m ­ others often shouldered the double burden of being the primary financial providers for their families while not being spared the expectation that they would remain their c­ hildren’s principal caregivers as well. Even as single parenting became more common in the 1950s and early 1960s, and divorced ­mothers did what they could to maintain middle-­class lifestyles for their ­children, they nevertheless lamented that they felt like outsiders. Indeed, divorced m ­ others often felt openly ostracized from their former friends and neighbors. Much of this exclusion had to do with the fact that a divorced ­woman’s ­children w ­ ere a reminder of her previous sexual history. As one expert explained the situation: “To herself the divorced ­woman may seem an ‘extra,’ out of place, socially superfluous. To her friends she may seem a dangerous temptation to bored husbands.” 63 Mrs. Ann Kelman, a divorced m ­ other of three from Palo Alto, California, discussed feeling left out in Newsweek. “I ­didn’t realize what a social outcast I would be a­ fter I was divorced,” she told a reporter, “I got the impression . . . ​ that nearly e­ very other w ­ oman thought I was trying to steal her husband.” 64 This fear of divorced w ­ omen’s sexuality, in fact, was what had prompted Elbrun Rochford to recommend that single ­mothers abstain from sexual intercourse outside of marriage, arguing that w ­ omen who had such dalliances “messed up their lives.” 65 Divorced ­mothers in the 1950s and 1960s used a variety of strategies to remedy their exclusion from the nuclear f­ amily mold and to rehabilitate their images. One popu­lar choice was remarriage. A 1963 report in the New York Times found that two-­t hirds of divorced w ­ omen and three-­quarters of divorced men in the United States and E ­ ngland would eventually remarry.66 The goal h ­ ere was not the serial remarriages of the wealthy divorced m ­ others in the divorce novels of the 1920s and 1930s but rather the reconstitution of a stable nuclear ­family unit that “looked” like other families, even if stepparenting posed its own challenges. Other divorced parents created and sought out self-­help organ­izations, most notably Parents without Partners. Founded by a small group of divorced parents in Greenwich Village in 1957, just five years ­later, Parents without Partners boasted sixty-­five chapters and a membership of more than fifteen thousand single m ­ others and f­athers.67 Tellingly, however, the group strug­gled with a gender imbalance, despite its commitment to helping single m ­ others and ­fathers equally. The organ­ization simply attracted a lot more w ­ omen than men. Some commentators theorized that this was ­because divorced ­mothers, as the usual custodial parents, ­were more in need of

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support than w ­ ere single f­ athers.68 They w ­ ere also more in the public eye. Whereas many ex-­husbands could blend back into society as “childless” bachelors, divorced ­mothers had fewer mechanisms with which to decrease their visibility and to ­counter ste­reo­t ypes about their position in American ­family life. Journalist and divorced ­mother Irene Kampen was acutely aware of the divorced ­mother’s dilemmas. In her comedic memoir Life without George (1961), Kampen actively sought to change their public image. Hearkening back to the portrayals of divorced ­mothers in the interwar years, she explained: “I’ve seen enough movies and read enough books to know that divorced ­women are Cynical and ­Bitter. They live in exquisite apartments where they entertain Other W ­ omen’s Husbands. If the divorced w ­ oman happens to have a child it is thin and pale, and it is kept hidden away at private schools and summer camps.” 69 But Kampen’s life with her teenage ­daughter, her ­house­mate Evelyn (another divorced ­mother), and their two Siamese cats defied this par­tic­u ­lar ste­reo­t ype. Kampen portrayed their lives as generally ordinary, as she and Evelyn strug­gled to juggle work, community engagement, and precocious ­children. Their shared home was not a convent: both Kampen and Evelyn dated—­often set up by well-­meaning friends with disastrous men—­but they did not prey on their friends’ husbands. Aware of how their situation might challenge the prescribed gender roles for middle-­and upper-­class White ­women, Kampen depicted herself and Evelyn as hopeless with “male” activities like home and car repair. Yet in the end, she declared that, for ­every time in which they could have used husbands, they ­were just as happy without them. Kampen’s humorous tone, however, deftly undercut any sense of threat to the nuclear ­family or suggested queerness inherent in such a proclamation. Kampen’s version of the comedic divorced ­mother, in fact, achieved some cultural prominence with the 1962 debut of The Lucy Show, Lucille Ball’s eagerly anticipated follow-up to I Love Lucy. Loosely based on Life without George, The Lucy Show once again paired Ball with Vivian Vance, who had played Ethel on I Love Lucy. Vance’s character, also named Vivian, became one of, if not the first, divorced ­mother who was a recurring character on a tele­vi­sion show. But even though audiences would have known that Lucy herself had divorced and remarried in the early 1960s, the producers must have de­cided that having two divorced characters would not sit well with the viewing public. Lucy’s character, therefore, became a ­widow. Thus, while Vance’s character did occasionally make quips about her ex-­ husband, the fact of her divorce was peripheral to the comedic hijinks that ensued on the show.70 From the 1920s through the early 1960s, therefore, divorced ­mothers became increasingly familiar figures in the United States, especially as their numbers grew in the general population a­ fter World War II. From the self-­absorbed and neglectful maternal figures of interwar divorce novels to the conscientious breadwinners in advice books of the 1950s, t­ hese ­women alternatively embodied and defied maternal norms and ideals. They ­were single, in that they ­were no longer married, but the social expectation was that the best divorced ­mothers would put the fact of their motherhood before any other status. Repre­sen­ta­tions of divorced mothering


Kristin Celello

highlighted the challenges and dilemmas they faced, while also serving to normalize their experiences, however incrementally, in a time known for its valorization of ­family togetherness. Neither betwixt nor between, the growing visibility of divorced ­mothers both reinforced and challenged what Americans thought they knew about motherhood and the ­family in ­t hese de­cades.

notes 1. ​See, for instance, Alessandra Stanley, “Smoking, Drinking, Cheating and Selling,” New York Times, July 19, 2007. 2. ​ Mad Men, episode 2, “Ladies Room,” directed by Allen Taylor, written by Matthew Weiner, aired July 26, 2007, AMC. 3. ​ Mad Men, episode 3, “The Marriage of Figaro,” directed by Ed Bianchi, written by Tom Palmer, aired August 2, 2007, AMC. 4. ​The lit­er­a­ture on marriage and parenting is voluminous and varied. Key works that inform my thinking include Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era (New York: Basic Books, 1988); Ralph LaRossa, The Modernization of Fatherhood: A Social and Po­liti­cal History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997); Julia Grant, Raising Baby by the Book: The Education of American ­Mothers (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998); Jessica Weiss, To Have and to Hold: Marriage, the Baby Boom, and Social Change (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000); Ann Hulbert, Raising Amer­i­ca: Experts, Parents, and a C ­ entury of Advice about C ­ hildren (New York: Vintage, 2003); Susan J. Douglas and Meredith W. Michaels, The Mommy Myth; The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined ­Women (New York: F ­ ree Press, 2004); Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, A History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage (New York: Viking Adult, 2005), pt. 3; Rima Apple, Perfect Motherhood: Science and Childrearing in Amer­i­ca (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2006): Kristin Celello, Making Marriage Work: A History of Marriage and Divorce in the Twentieth-­Century United States (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009); Christina Simmons, Making Marriage Modern: ­Women’s Sexuality from the Progressive Era to World War II (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); Rebecca L. Davis, More Perfect Unions: The American Search for Marital Bliss (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010); Rebecca Jo Plant, Mom: The Transformation of Motherhood in Modern Amer­i­ca (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010); Anastasia C. Curwood, Stormy Weather: Middle-­Class African-­American Marriages between the Two World Wars (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010); and Nicholas L. Syrett, American Child Bride: A History of Minors and Marriage in the United States (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016). On divorce, see Elaine Tyler May, ­Great Expectations: Marriage and Divorce in Post-­Victorian Amer­i­ca (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Robert Griswold, ­Family and Divorce in California, 1850–1890: Victorian Illusions and Everyday Realities (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982); Michael Grossberg, Governing the Hearth: Law and the ­Family in Nineteenth-­Century Amer­i­ca (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), chapter 7; Glenda Riley, Divorce: An American Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991); Mary Ann Mason, From F ­ ather’s Property to ­Children’s Rights: The History of Child Custody in the United States (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996); J. Herbie DiFonzo, Beneath the Fault Line: The Popu­lar and ­Legal Culture of Divorce in Twentieth-­Century Amer­i­ca (Charlottesville: University Press of ­Virginia, 1997); and Hendrik Hartog, Man and Wife in Amer­i­ca: A History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000). 5. ​This lit­er­a­ture is much less developed. See, for instance, Lee ­Virginia Chambers-­Schiller, Liberty a Better Husband: Single W ­ omen in Amer­i­ca (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984); Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements: Working W ­ omen and Leisure in Turn-­of-­the-­ Century New York (Philadelphia: T ­ emple University Press, 1986): Joanne  J. Meyero­w itz, ­Women Adrift: In­de­pen­dent Wage Earners in Chicago, 1880–1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988); Karin Wulf, Not All Wives: ­Women of Colonial Philadelphia (Ithaca,

N either Betw ixt nor Betw een


NY: Cornell University Press, 2000); Ariela  R. Dubler, “ ‘Exceptions to the General Rule’: Unmarried ­Women and the ‘Constitution of the ­Family,’ ” Theoretical Inquires in Law 4 (2003): 797–816. Popu­lar treatments include Betsy Israel, Bachelor Girl: 100 Years of Breaking the Rules—­A Social History of Living Single (New York: HarperCollins, 2002); Rebecca Traister, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried ­Women and the Rise of an In­de­pen­dent Nation (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016), esp. chap. 2; Joanna Scutts, The Extra W ­ oman: How Marjorie Hillis Led a Generation of ­Women to Live Alone and Like It (New York: Liveright, 2018). 6. ​Relevant works include Linda Gordon, Pitied but Not Entitled: Single M ­ others and the History of Welfare (New York: F ­ ree Press, 1992); Rickie Solinger, Wake Up ­Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race before Roe v. Wade (New York: Routledge, 1992); Regina Kunzel, Fallen ­Women, Prob­lem Girls: Unmarried M ­ others and the Professionalization of Social Work, 1890– 1945 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993); Premilla Nadasen, Welfare Warriors: The Welfare Rights Movement in Amer­i­ca (New York: Routledge, 2004); Annelise Oreleck, Storming Caesar’s Palace: How Black ­Mothers Fought Their Own War on Poverty (Boston: Beacon Press, 2006); Anna R. Igra, Wives without Husbands: Marriage, Desertion, and Welfare in New York, 1900–1935 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006); Lisa Levenstein, A Movement without Marches: African American ­Women and the Politics of Poverty in Postwar Philadelphia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009). 7. ​Note that divorce, in at least a ­limited form, has been ­legal in the United States since the colonial era. By the 1920s, divorce was a widespread phenomenon across social classes and was understood, too, as a major social prob­lem. ­Because the overwhelming majority of my sources deal specifically with legalized divorce, rather than desertion or separation, I do the same ­here. 8. ​To identify novels and films that portrayed the experiences of divorced m ­ others and their ­children, my starting point was James Harwood Barnett, Divorce and the American Divorce Novel 1858–1937 (1939; repr., New York: Russell and Russell, 1968), as well as James Harwood Barnett and Rhoda Gruen, “Recent American Divorce Novels, 1938–1945: A Study in the Sociology of Lit­er­a­ture,” Social Forces 26 (March  1948): 322–327. I used the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Lit­er­a­ture to find magazine articles; the Proquest Historical Newspapers database for newspaper coverage; and vari­ous other databases, such as JSTOR, to identify work on the subject in the social sciences. Coverage of divorced families in magazines, newspapers, and academic writings also pointed me in the direction of further relevant novels, films, advice books, and so forth. 9. ​This term is borrowed from Lenore  J. Weitzman, The Divorce Revolution: The Unexpected Social and Economic Consequences for W ­ omen and C ­ hildren in Amer­i­ca (New York: ­Free Press, 1985). 10. ​On custody, see Mason, From F ­ ather’s Property to C ­ hildren’s Rights. 11. ​Meyero­w itz, ­Women Adrift. 12. ​See, for instance, my discussion of the 1930 film The Divorcée in Celello, Making Marriage Work, 13–15. 13. ​Steven Mintz and Susan Kellogg, Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American ­Family Life (New York: ­Free Press, 1989), 109. 14. ​Walter Francis Willcox, The Divorce Prob­lem: A Study in Statistics (1891; repr., New York: AMS Press, 1969), 34; C. A. Ellwood, “Is the American F ­ amily to Die?,” Delineator, February 1909, 229; Ray E. Baber, Marriage and the F ­ amily (New York: McGraw-­Hill, 1939), 488. 15. ​Barnett, Divorce and the American Divorce Novel, 138–139. ­There ­were novels, notably Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, that considered parental separation. Th ­ ese fall outside the historical definition of a “divorce novel,” however, ­because the ­legal act of divorce is not a plot point. 16. ​Edith Wharton, The Custom of the Country in Novels, ed. R.W.B. Lewis (1913; repr., New York: Library of Amer­i­ca, 1985), 889–890. See also 845–846, 865, 878. 17. ​Wharton, 1011. 18. ​Kimberly A. Freeman, Love American Style: Divorce and the American Novel, 1881–1976 (New York: Routledge, 2003), 84. Single ­women and single ­mothers appear frequently in Wharton’s work. Fifteen years a­ fter the publication of The Custom of the Country, she


Kristin Celello

explored the effects of divorce on ­children in even greater depth in The ­Children. The novel follows the exploits of seven ­children (four full siblings—­t he products of two separate couplings of their parents; one half sibling; and two stepsiblings) as they futilely try to avoid being separated by their vari­ous relatives. In this case, the parents—­including Joyce Wheater, the ­children’s ­mother—­are largely absent from the narrative, although their neglect of the ­children is seemingly more benign than Undine Spragg’s treatment of Paul. Edith Wharton, The ­Children (1928; repr., New York: Virago Press, 1985). 19. ​Margaret Wilson, The Kenworthys (New York: Harper and B ­ rothers, 1925), 87. 20. ​Alma Sioux Scarberry, Too Wise to Marry (New York: John H. Hopkin & Son, 1935), 234. 21. ​Owen Johnson, ­Children of Divorce (Boston: ­Little, Brown, 1927); ­Children of Divorce, directed by Frank Lloyd (Paramount Pictures, 1927), viewing print available at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, viewed by the author on August  14, 2009. The film has since been remastered and is now available on DVD and through video streaming ser­v ices, including Amazon Prime, in the United States. 22. ​Johnson, ­Children of Divorce, 31. 23. ​ ­Children of Divorce. 24. ​ ­Children of Divorce. 25. ​ ­Children of Divorce. 26. ​Everett Young, Custody ­Children (New York: Henry Holt, 1926), 334. 27. ​Plant, Mom, introduction. See also Apple, Perfect Motherhood, chaps. 2 and 3. 28. ​See, for instance, Simmons, Making Marriage Modern; Claire V ­ irginia Eby, Til Choice Do Us Part: Marriage Reform in the Progressive Era (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014); Nancy Cott, “Marriage Crisis and All That Jazz,” in Domestic Tensions, National Anx­ i­eties: Global Perspectives on Marriage, Crisis, and Nation, ed. Kristin Celello and Hanan Kholoussy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 49–66. 29. ​Celello, Making Marriage Work, chap. 1. 30. ​Plant, Mom, chap. 2. 31. ​Donald Nelson Koster, The Theme of Divorce in American Drama, 1871–1939 (Gettysburg, PA: Times and News Publishing, 1942), 29, 32–33. 32. ​“The Ex-­Married Confess,” Scribner’s, April 1930, 380–385. 33. ​While my focus in this chapter is on “confessionals” that dealt specifically with motherhood and divorced ­mothers’ voices, they covered a wider range of topics, including the effects of divorce on ­children (told at times from their perspectives) and stepparenting. 34. ​“Who Gets the C ­ hildren?,” Harper’s Monthly Magazine, September 1930, 462. 35. ​“Who Gets the C ­ hildren?,” 456. 36. ​The magazine also published a criticism of this piece from an ex-­husband’s perspective. His primary objection was her assumption that she could easily get a divorce if she wanted one. See “And So My Wife Divorced Me,” Harper’s Monthly Magazine, March 1931, 460–471. 37. ​“Divorce and the Child,” Nation, March 5, 1930, 268. 38. ​“Divorce and the Child,” 269, 39. ​“Ten Years ­after the Divorce,” Harper’s Monthly Magazine, August 1932, 316. On fatherhood at this time, see Robert  L. Griswold, Fatherhood in Amer­i­ca: A History (New York: Basic Books, 1993), chaps. 5 and 6; and Ralph LaRossa, The Modernization of Fatherhood: A Social and Po­liti­cal History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997). 40. ​“Ten Years ­a fter the Divorce,” 321. 41. ​“Is Th ­ ere a Way Out for the ­Children?,” Parents’ Magazine, April 1936, 24. 42. ​“Is ­There a Way Out for the ­Children?,” 84. See also “Can Divorce Be Successful?,” Harper’s Monthly Magazine, February 1938, 255–262. 43. ​Celello, Making Marriage Work, chap. 2; Steven Mintz, Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2004), 260–262. 44. ​James M. Cain, Mildred Pierce (1941; repr., New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 13. 45. ​Cain, 28 (emphasis in original). 46. ​Hugh Car­ter and Paul C. Glick, Marriage and Divorce: A Social and Economic Study (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970), 56.

N either Betw ixt nor Betw een


47. ​M .  F. Nimkoff, “The ­Family in the United States,” Marriage and F ­ amily Living 16 (November 1954): 395. 48. ​“­Children Involved in 42% of Divorces,” Science News Letter, March 25, 1950, 185. 49. ​Dorothy Barclay, “ ‘One Parent’ ­Family: Further Notes,” New York Times Magazine, January 26, 1958, 46; “Parents without Partners,” Changing Times, May 1964, 41. 50. ​Samuel Withers, “Some Guide Rules for Divorced ­Fathers,” New York Times, September 29, 1963. 51. ​Anne W. Simon, Stepchild in the F ­ amily: A View of ­Children in Remarriage (New York: Odyssey Press, 1964), 190. 52. ​See, for instance, Ellen Herman, The Romance of American Psy­chol­ogy: Po­liti­cal Culture in the Age of Experts (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996); and Eva S. Moskowitz, In Therapy We Trust: Amer­i­ca’s Obsession with Self-­Fulfillment (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001). 53. ​Jacques Bacal and Louise Sloane, ABC of Divorce (New York: E. O. Dutton, 1947), 15. 54. ​Eve Jones, Raising Your Child in a Fatherless Home: A Guidebook for All M ­ others without Partners (New York: ­Free Press of Glencoe, 1963). Note, too, that at least one author drew a sharp line between giving advice to divorcées with young ­children and to ­t hose without. See Marjorie H. Roulston, You Can Start All Over: A Guide for the ­Widow and Divorcee (New York: Harper and B ­ rothers, 1951), 18. 55. ​Elbrun Rochford, ­Mothers on Their Own (New York: Harper and B ­ rothers, 1953), xi. 56. ​One report from 1952 informed readers that 11 ­percent of ­those ­children who received Aid to Dependent ­Children had divorced parents. See Claire Holcomb, “When Husbands Run Away,” Rotarian, June 1952, 94–96. The secondary lit­er­a­t ure on welfare is im­mense. On the marital status of welfare recipients at the time, see Jennifer Mittlestadt, From Welfare to Workfare: The Unintended Consequences of Liberal Reform, 1945–1965 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005), 44; and Levenstein, A Movement without Marches, 102. 57. ​Rochford, ­Mothers on Their Own, 2–11. 58. ​Rochford, 26–42. 59. ​Rochford, 48. 60. ​Anna W. M. Wolf and Lucille Stein, The One-­Parent F ­ amily (New York: Public Affairs Committee, 1959), 6. 61. ​Wolf and Stein, 6. 62. ​Weiss, To Have and to Hold, chap. 2. 63. ​Jessie Bernard, Remarriage: A Study of Marriage (New York: Dryden Press, 1956), 128. 64. ​“Let’s Get Together,” Newsweek, March 1962, 108. 65. ​Rochford, ­Mothers on Their Own, 194. 66. ​Martin Tolchin, “2nd Marriage Can Succeed with Insight,” New York Times, April 15, 1963. 67. ​“Let’s Get Together,” 108. 68. ​Dorothy Barclay, “Double Role of the Single Parent,” New York Times Magazine, October 13, 1957, 90; Jim Egleson and Janet Frank Egleson, Parents without Partners: The Authoritative Guide for Widowed, Divorced, or Separated Parents (New York: Ace Books, 1961), 173. 69. ​Irene Kampen, Life without George (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1961), 11. 70. ​ The Lucy Show, episode 1, “Lucy Waits Up for Chris,” directed by Jack Donohoe, written by Bob Carroll Jr., Madelyn Davis, Bob Weiskopf, and Bob Schiller, aired October 1, 1962, CBS.

chapter 7

Serves One exploring repre­sen­ta­tions of female singleness in american cookbooks Ursula Kania

The vast majority of cookbooks contain r­ ecipes that produce two or more servings, implying that the meal ­w ill be shared with a partner, friends, and/or ­family. An exception to this rule can be found in cookbooks for one, some of which are targeted specifically at single w ­ omen. However, it was only in the 1970s that this type of cookbook emerged in the United States.1 It has been suggested that this development was mostly due to a change in attitude ­toward single w ­ omen, who—­ for the first time—­were being “seen as enviable rather than pitiable.”2 Even though ­t hese titles often “affirmed that ­women, no ­matter how successful, needed to be concerned about how to attract men,”3 they also commented on the advantages of being single. Inness argues that—as an integral part of popu­lar media—­cookbooks thus not only mirrored the shift in attitudes ­toward single ­women but also helped to facilitate it. Since the 1970s, t­ here have been further cultural and demographic changes leading up to the age of “all the single ladies.” 4 The current study is based on the hypothesis that t­ hese recent shifts (not only) in the United States are reflected in (and potentially perpetuated by) more modern cookbooks for one, which have so far not been the focus of research on modern repre­sen­ta­tions of (female) singleness. Before this chapter pre­sents the analy­sis of modern cookbooks for one, the next sections ­w ill provide some background on modern female singleness in the United States, home cooking as a gendered issue, and analyzing cookbooks as barometers of cultural change, respectively.

(Female) Singleness In 1960, only 27 ­percent of adult Americans ­were unmarried, with 73 ­percent tying the knot at 22.8 (men) and 20.3 (­women) years of age, respectively.5 As of 2016, 42.2 ­percent of all U.S. residents (aged 18 or older) ­were unmarried, 53 ­percent of 118

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them ­women.6 Furthermore, the median age at first marriage has increased to 28.7 (men) and 26.5 years (­women) in 2010. Of course, ­t here is much more to the topic than demographics. For example, Rebecca Traister’s monograph All the Single Ladies: Unmarried ­Women and the Rise of an In­de­pen­dent Nation explores the history of unmarried ­women in the United States and the ways in which ­these ­women have always contributed to social change. Overall, she notes, “The mid-­ twentieth ­century push for white ­women was not simply to marry, but to marry early, before gaining a taste for in­de­pen­dence.”7 ­There was, however, a strong re­sis­ tance against the “aggressive reassignment of white w ­ omen to domestic roles within the idealized nuclear ­family,” not least in the form of the ­women’s liberation movement, leading to the “epoch of the single ­women.” ­These ­women may get married relatively late in life—or not at all, an option that was not prominent in discourses of the 1970s.8 Even though ­there has been a shift in attitudes ­toward single ­women, some negative ste­reo­types remain. Traister notes that “despite the fact that living uncoupled for large portions or all of life has become the new normal, . . . ​stigmas about single ­people, and especially w ­ omen, as aberrant, weird, stunted, and perhaps especially as immature, persist.”9 In par­tic­u­lar, the notion of single adult life as “extended adolescence,” a phase that is supposed to be merely temporary, is very prominent. Overall, then, singleness has widely been established as “the new normal,” but ­t here are still competing discourses, most prominently drawing on the notion of “extended adolescence,” and it is to be expected that t­ hese tensions ­will be found in modern culinary texts as well.

Cooking as a Gendered Issue While a full exploration of the complex relationship between cooking and gender is beyond the scope of this (and prob­ably any single) piece of research, a ­couple of key points in relation to home cooking in the United States are essential for context.10 First of all, “Domestic cooking has been so firmly associated with ­women in American culture that for a long time it has been central to the per­for­mance of hegemonic femininity. Being able to cook has traditionally stood for a m ­ other’s love and a ­woman’s competence to be a wife.”11 A w ­ oman’s roles as both a “­mother” and a “wife” are crucial h ­ ere, implying that the cultural expectation is a very heteronormative one and that singleness is merely a temporary life stage ­women go through before finding a (male) partner, getting married, and having c­ hildren.12 Second, the association between “being able to cook” and the “competence to be a wife” also hints at the fact that culinary skills are seen as a means to an end—­ that is, as a prerequisite to attracting a partner.13 Third, and on a more general level, this close relationship between culinary per­for­mance and hegemonic gender roles renders cookbooks “one of the most gender-­coded forms of lit­er­a­ture,” full of “messages about gendered behaviour,”14 and thus potentially also “barometers of change.”15


Ursula Kania

Cookbooks as Barometers of Change Even though t­ here are many (­free) digital resources offering r­ ecipes, printed cookbooks are still very popu­lar. In fact, sales for cookbooks “grew 21 ­percent in the first half of 2018 compared to the first half of 2017.”16 The reasons for this are complex: apart from, for example, the prestige still associated with being published in print, it has been argued that cookbooks “are part of a self-­help and self-­development lit­er­a­ture, to be studied mainly outside of the kitchen,” suggesting that they offer their readers much more than practical advice on preparing meals.17 Cookbooks for singles and cookbooks for one have been on the market for about five de­cades, catering to the growing number of ­people who live alone and/or regularly cook for one, so that “you no longer have to convert a r­ ecipe designed for several persons down to proportions suitable for one.”18 This is one of the many ways in which cookbooks reflect demographic trends. Cookbooks are also based on and reinforce social norms, with regard to gender roles as well as par­tic­u­lar subgroups of society, such as single w ­ omen or men. For example, in her study on “swinging singles” cookbooks published in the United States in the 1970s (including Helen Gurley Brown’s The Single Girl’s Cookbook), Inness noticed three dominant themes. First of all, she found that cookbooks aimed at single men explic­itly tried to encourage them to acquire culinary skills, construing home cooking as something that was traditionally associated almost exclusively with w ­ omen. Second, Inness found that home cooking was represented as easy, contrasting with more traditional notions of it being hard, tedious work. Third, she noticed that “they promoted the idea that cooking was a form of seduction.”19 She noted that even though singleness was portrayed in a more positive light than ever before, t­ hese cookbooks still saw singleness as a temporary state, emphasizing the value of acquiring culinary skills in order to attract a mate. In sum, she found that changes in attitude t­ oward single w ­ omen (and men) w ­ ere reflected but that more traditional tropes w ­ ere also potentially perpetuated. Overall, it can be argued that cookbooks for one are a productive epistemological site for the study of (shifts in) discourses surrounding female singleness, especially ­because they offer the opportunity to put at the center the voices of single ­people, who are often marginalized in more traditional culinary texts.

Theoretical Framework and Texts This chapter is interested in how discursive portrayals of single cooks and cooking for one reproduce and/or subvert ste­reo­t ypes about female singleness (and, on a related but more general level, how they construct/challenge hegemonic femininity). To this aim, it draws on previous findings and analytical tools from cultural studies,20 culinary linguistics,21 and food studies, as well as critical discourse analy­ sis (CDA). CDA views language as a social practice and looks critically at discourses (i.e., “ways of viewing the world”),22 taking into account “opaque as well

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121 ­Table 7.1

Overview of Cookbooks Included in the Dataset Author(s)



Soslow, Robin

The Official Single ­Woman’s Cookbook


Doerfer, Jane

­ oing Solo in the Kitchen: A Practical and G Persuasive Cookbook for Anyone Living Alone


Goldstein, Joyce

Solo Suppers: ­Simple Delicious Meals to Cook for Yourself


Citrin, Jodi, Melissa Gibson, and Katie Nuanes

The ­Little Black Apron: A Single Girls Guide to Cooking with Style and Grace


Jones, Judith

The Pleasures of Cooking for One



Cooking for One: Over 90 Delicious ­Recipes That Prove One Can Be Fun


Miller, Klancy

Cooking Solo: The Joy of Cooking for Yourself


Lo, Anita

Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One


as transparent structural relationships of dominance, discrimination, power and control as manifested in language.”23 The term opaque hints at the fact that texts contain ideological assumptions that are rarely made explicit, let alone challenged—­ for example, t­ here is still only a relatively small number of cookbooks for one on the market, suggesting that normative assumptions about how most ­people live, cook, and eat have a strong influence on what is on offer. CDA has been applied fruitfully both in the analy­sis of language and gender in cookbooks,24 and to identity constructions in the narratives of single w ­ omen.25 Its inherent interdisciplinarity makes it pos­si­ble to combine it with other approaches and to compare findings across fields. For example, while Inness does not explic­itly use CDA in her study, her analy­sis focuses on the language used in the cookbooks, and her findings are framed in terms of major functions served by the titles ­under investigation and their role in reproducing and changing cultural attitudes, making it pos­si­ble to compare the findings in a fairly straightforward way. The current chapter focuses on eight U.S. cookbooks for singles/one, published in the United States (for the first time) between 1990 and 2018. The titles ­were identified through online searches for cookbooks with the word solo, one, and/or single in the title. The focus is on publications aimed at and/or written in En­glish by single ­women, excluding translations from other languages. Furthermore, to be included, the titles had to be published in print by a commercial publisher (thus excluding self-­ published titles), and they had to be available through an online bookseller (as e­ ither “new” or “used”). An overview of the titles can be found in t­ able 7.1. The inclusion of


Ursula Kania

eight cookbooks from three de­cades enables the identification of discursive patterns, comparisons with ­earlier cookbooks, and close analy­sis of texts within the set.

Analy­sis: General Observations The ­Little Black Apron and The Official Single W ­ oman’s Cookbook are the two titles explic­itly aimed at “single girls/women” (henceforth referred to as the “single ­woman’s cookbooks”); they contain quite lengthy introductions to each chapter and are meant to offer a lighthearted, funny take on the ­matter, and they include not only r­ ecipes but also nutrition advice and lifestyle and dating tips. The fact that the texts in t­ hese books have been produced with a humorous intention certainly needs to be acknowledged when analyzing the data. However, humor is commonly based on and plays with default assumptions and ste­reo­types. By definition, ste­reo­types involve exaggeration and simplification, making it easier to identify aspects that may be more “toned down” and hence implicit in other text types. While humor can be used to challenge and subvert dominant ideologies, it can also “contain ele­ ments of superiority, aggression, and ridicule of ­others,”26 trying to pre-­empt critique of other­wise unacceptable be­hav­ior by pointing out that “it was just a joke.” The remaining six titles are (potentially) aimed at both genders (and w ­ ill henceforth be referred to as the “cookbooks for one”). For example, the title page of Jane Doerfer’s ­Going Solo in the Kitchen states that the cookbook is “for anyone living alone”—­t his potentially also includes ­people who may be in a relationship without cohabitation, a constellation that would not have been found (or at least not officially acknowledged) fifty years ago. Including t­ hese titles, instead of focusing on titles marketed exclusively at single w ­ omen, makes it pos­si­ble to explore in more depth the intersection between gender, being single, eating alone, and/or living alone. It is impor­tant to note that this type of cookbook could rarely be found before the 1980s, particularly on the U.S. market (in the United Kingdom, t­ here was Kathleen Le Riche’s Cooking Alone, published in 1954, but thirty years on, Delia Smith’s UK publication One Is Fun! (1985) was still one of the first titles on the market). Throughout most of the books, t­ here are numerous references to very busy work schedules, commuting, office lunches, and so on, implying that most readers work full-­time outside their home. This also has implications for the types of ­recipes that are included. While some of the books feature r­ ecipes for breakfast and (packed) lunches, ­t here is a strong focus on the eve­ning meal. In Goldstein’s view, this is ­because “breakfast is rarely a social occasion” and “lunch more often than not occurs while you are working.”27 Overall, this suggests that “the eve­ning meal is when eating alone has the most meaning and impact.”28

Analy­sis: Key Themes Repeated close reading of both the ­recipe narrative and supporting text led to the identification of several salient discourses that w ­ ere grouped into three key themes, which are addressed in turn in the following sections.

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“Overcome Your Lack of Domestic Prowess”: Cooking as a Crucial Skill for the Modern ­Woman According to Inness, it was mostly the 1970s “swinging single” cookbooks written for/by men that portrayed cooking as ­simple, implying that a complete lack of culinary skill was not (assumed to be) a concern for w ­ omen. In fact, as noted by Inness, ­t hese books argued that “­women had unfairly kept the kitchen to themselves by claiming that cooking was more difficult than it actually was.”29 This not only suggested that ­women’s complaints about their workload in the home ­were exaggerated and strategic but also promoted cooking as something “that anyone could accomplish” and encouraged men to give it a go as well, mostly with the aim of impressing w ­ omen.30 The simplicity of producing a home-­cooked meal from scratch is also a prominent theme r­ unning through the modern cookbooks. Th ­ ere are several references to how “easy” r­ ecipes are, and the subtitle to Goldstein’s book is ­Simple Delicious Meals to Cook for Yourself. In her study on female celebrity cookbooks, Kelsi Matwick also found this idea to be pervasive, referring to it as the “discourse of achievability.”31 However, it is now primarily the ­women who have to be encouraged (again) to cook, and this is particularly prevalent in the single ­woman’s cookbooks. For example, the foreword to The ­Little Black Apron says that it “speaks with an au­t hen­tic voice that resonates with its generation—­women who have avoided the kitchen their entire lives—­peer to peer.”32 However, almost all references to the readers’ experiences with ­family meals assume that their ­mothers ­were responsible for providing them, implying that the current generation of w ­ omen is the first to lack culinary skills. Cooking, though, is still construed as an activity always for the benefit of o ­ thers (a point that w ­ ill be elaborated on in the next section). For example, The Official Single W ­ oman’s Cookbook does not even contain any ­recipes for one, featuring dishes serving two (when cooking for a male date) or more (when entertaining at home).33 The ­Little Black Apron, which is meant to help readers “overcome [their] lack of domestic prowess,”34 also has a chapter that includes ­recipes for date nights and for entertaining friends and ­family at home. It does contain several chapters of ­recipes for one but makes it clear that ­t hese are intended for “Sunday through Thursday nights” only: “Now, we ­don’t count Fridays and Saturdays as ‘at-­home-­ cooking’ nights. Give us some credit; the sexy single girl should not cook on date nights. . . . ​[M]ake some nice boy(s) pony up and take you out on the town.”35 Note that—in contrast to what Inness’s findings may suggest—­t he “nice boy” is not expected to cook for the “sexy single girl.” ­There are also expectations regarding the be­hav­ior and appearance of the “single girl,” who is assumed to be interested in dating and who should be “sexy”—­t hat is, have “a waistline that ­will have the boys swooning”36 in order to be asked out.37 This is very telling with regard to cultural norms for single ­women, ultimately reinforcing traditional ste­reo­types and portraying singleness as an inherently


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temporary (and curable) state. Even though financial in­de­pen­dence is seen as desirable, showing “how liberating and empowering income is to our sense of self,”38 a single ­woman’s true desire is not seen to be in­de­pen­dence. A ­ fter all, “Deep down inside, however, you have dreams of living the domestic life and being an amazing m ­ other and wife while residing in your newly remodelled Connecticut farm­house.”39 The Official Single ­Woman’s Cookbook is fairly similar in tone. For example, an illustration shows a man proclaiming, “No, I ­don’t feel threatened by your ­success . . . ​I feel threatened by your meatloaf,” implying that w ­ omen’s liberation has had (presumably) unwanted side effects that have to be addressed, ­because “being lame in the kitchen is no longer a po­liti­cal statement. It’s a social handicap.” 40 Of course, it is up to the ­women to rectify the situation ­because, “despite what you might think, a c­ areer and cooking are not mutually exclusive,” pre-­ empting the potential objection that this may push outdated gender roles on single w ­ omen.41 Overall, culinary skills are construed as something achievable and necessary, relevant mainly with regard to the ability to attract a male partner. The cookbooks for one are far less explicit with regard to gendered ste­reo­t ypes and do not include as many gender-­specific references. On some occasions, though, a primarily female readership is implied. One example is found in Judith Jones’s introduction, in which she comments on w ­ omen’s lack of engagement with home cooking but places the blame on capitalism rather than ­women’s liberation, stating that “the food industry has for more than one c­ entury been selling the idea that it is demeaning for ­women to cook and a waste of time when they can buy ready-­made products instead.” 42 While in the case of the two single w ­ oman’s cookbooks, the discourse of achievability is linked to a discourse of necessity, portraying culinary skills as essential to a successful per­for­mance of hegemonic femininity, this is not prominent in the cookbooks for one. What is more, ­t here is a much stronger focus on cooking just for oneself. The fact that the single w ­ oman’s cookbooks do not necessarily focus on cooking for one shows that they mostly construe cooking as an other-­oriented activity, a theme that is explored in more detail in the next section.

“True Hospitality Extends to O ­ thers and to Yourself”: Cooking as an Other-­Oriented and/or Self-­Oriented Activity Even though Inness found that, in the 1970s, the idea of cooking as s­ imple was pitched primarily to men (since ­women ­were not thought to lack culinary skills in the first place), cookbooks “made cooking more palatable to both men and w ­ omen” by promoting it “as a form of seduction.” 43 What is more, she claims that “singles’ cookbooks . . . ​challenged the notion that w ­ omen had to cook only for c­ hildren and ­family; in ­t hese books, ­women ­were often portrayed as enjoying cooking the most when seduction was a possibility.” 44 This discourse is found in the current dataset as well, with cookbooks often drawing on the (meta­phoric) connection between culinary and sexual appetites.45

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Again, this is most prevalent in the single w ­ oman’s cookbooks. For example, The Official Single ­Woman’s Cookbook draws consistently on a sexual trope, ranging from a section entitled “The Single ­Woman’s Gourmet Guide to Guys,” 46 where the potential objects of affection are construed as food items, and tips for turning “your home into an erogenous zone” (mostly by cleaning and decorating it), to ­recipe chapters for “Sensuous Salads,” viewing meals as foreplay/afterplay and hence closely associated with the sexual encounter itself.47 While sex is construed as the intermediate aim, the ultimate aim is entering into a committed relationship. Consequently, inviting “his folks” over for dinner is seen as “part of the mating ritual,” 48 rendering cooking “a key tactical skill in the game of love.” 49 The ­Little Black Apron also relies on the connection between food and sex,50 but also draws analogies between cooking and other areas of assumed expertise associated with hegemonic femininity, like fashion, applying makeup, and so on. This is evident, for example, when the authors state that “pots and pans are similar to jewellery or other accessories that are offered in matching sets.”51 Within t­ hese cookbooks, the focus is on cooking as a necessary prerequisite for and even part of the act of seduction, promising success with the “soon-­to-be boyfriend once he witnesses the ease with which you ­handle meat.”52 The six cookbooks for one, however, do not place such a strong focus on cooking to impress a love interest; for example, Klancy Miller includes merely two ­recipes for two, one of them for a dish called “­You’re in Love Pasta.”53 The rest of the r­ ecipes in the “Entertaining” chapter are for friends, and the last chapter, entitled “Happy Ending,” is about desserts for one, with some ­recipes producing “an extra serving or two for another day.”54 The notion of entertaining friends also points to the fact that cooking as a satisfying activity for the benefit of o ­ thers is not confined to the context of romantic or f­ amily meals. What seems to be almost completely lacking from the single ­woman’s cookbooks (and also appears missing from Inness’s 1970s dataset) is an aspect that is very prominent in the cookbooks for one: the discourse of cooking as an act of self-­care, contrasting with the traditional notion of female domesticity, which entails that “­others are dependent on you for both sustenance and culinary plea­ sure.”55 For example, Miller celebrates solo cooking as “a special exercise, an unpressured act of creativity, self-­care, and validation,”56 and Lo writes, “True hospitality extends to ­others and to yourself. Too often we forget about the latter. This book ­will help you to remember how to take care of yourself.”57 It is in­ter­est­ing to note that the assumption is that the reader needs to “remember,” and that cooking is linked to taking care of oneself on a more general level. Moreover, t­ here are many instances in which a justification is provided, in a pre-­ emptive response to “naysayers protesting” and asking, “Why would I want to go to all that trou­ble just for me?”58 Contrasting with the implicit notion that being and eating alone is only second-­best, Anita Lo promotes her book as “the ultimate guide to self-­love through the best means pos­si­ble—­delicious food” and helping “to celebrate your solitary moments.”59 She goes on to state that “if you happen to


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get a date, or just decide that you want to share, ­t hese ­recipes are easily multiplied by two,” establishing r­ ecipes for one as the default.60 Even though further analyses would be needed in order to expand upon this claim, it is striking that with Lo, it is the most recent publication that is the most radical and unapologetic, celebrating cooking as self-­care instead of, not alongside, cooking as caring for o ­ thers. Recent research on U.S. female celebrity-­chef cookbooks also found the notion of self-­care to be very prevalent, so this may be a more general trend, at least within female-­authored American cookbooks.61 Overall, then, the single ­woman’s cookbooks still frame cooking as an other-­ directed activity, while the cookbooks for one stress the notion of cooking as self-­ care, with the most recent publication being the most radical one. This is also connected to how the cookbooks comment on the “single state” in more general terms, a topic that is covered in the next section.

“So Be Good to Yourself, and Enjoy That Lobster”: Negotiating the Pros and Cons of Singleness Already prevalent in the “cooking as seduction” discourse discussed ­earlier is the notion of singleness as a temporary state, always connected with the desire to attract a mate, a theme that was very prominent in Inness’s study as well. Both single ­woman’s cookbooks repeatedly imply that marriage and motherhood are the only (valid) options, with a focus on anything that may be “remotely helpful to your chances of getting married and conceiving c­ hildren before your v­ iable eggs shrivel up,” marginalizing w ­ omen who remain single by choice, who do not want to get married, and/or who do not want any (biological) ­children.62 While the single ­woman’s cookbooks are thus clearly aimed at young w ­ omen who are not married yet, some of the cookbooks for one are more inclusive, for example, with regard to gender, age, and employment status. Goldstein identifies as the only common denominator of her readers that “they are on their own—no roommates, no mate— by choice or by fate.” 63 Miller writes, “Fellow singletons, we are a trend. . . . ​We are ­women and men; students, working folks, and retirees; Millennials, Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and members of the Medicare crowd. We are divorced, widowed, and never married.” 64 Goldstein also comments on the demographic shifts that have led to singles forming a larger part of the population than married c­ ouples, observing that most cookbooks “for the single-­person ­house­hold . . . ​have been aimed at young singles with ­little real cooking and dining experience, and often on a tight bud­get,” a situation she wants to remedy with her cookbook for “sophisticated single diners.” 65 What is more, while t­ here is the occasional mention of cooking/eating as an inherently social activity, the cookbooks for one have a very strong focus on the pros of the “solo state” (which can potentially last in­def­initely). Several titles mention the lack of pressure to produce a perfect dish ­because “the only person you have to please is yourself.” 66 They point out the possibility to indulge in “nice, messy eating, perhaps best enjoyed alone with a kitchen towel around one’s neck.” 67 And

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Doerfer notes that “having the flexibility to choose when—­and what—­you’re ­going to eat is a major perk of the single state.” 68 Another aspect that is frequently mentioned is the fact that “you can occasionally treat yourself to a food that would be prohibitively expensive if you w ­ ere feeding a f­amily,” 69 with Jones concluding that you should “be good to yourself, and enjoy that lobster—­a nd other special indulgences.”70 ­There are also other instances in which being single is contrasted positively with being married, as illustrated in this statement by one of Doerfer’s friends: “I loved experimenting with unusual vegetables my husband ­won’t touch. Actually, I ­didn’t realize it then, but I had a lot more choices than I do now.”71 Furthermore, the perceived perks extend beyond the acts of cooking and eating, for example, when buying dinner and serving plates, concluding that “since y­ ou’re buying for one, nothing has to match.”72 On a more general level, it is conveyed that “for the most part, [singles] are happy and not lonely. They have friends and ­family and lead active lives.”73 For the most part, the potential drawbacks that are identified are not connected to the lack of a partner but are seen as a result of an unaccepting society that does not r­ eally cater to the needs of single p ­ eople. For example, Doerfer complains about “staples packed in family-­sized portions” and supermarkets not being “responsive to your requests as a solo shopper.”74

Summary and Discussion In 1949, Simone de Beauvoir observed that the dominant view held by society is that ­women “are married, or have been, or plan to be, or suffer from not being.”75 It can be argued that—­luckily—­t here have been major demographic and social shifts since that time, and that t­ hese shifts are also evident in discursive repre­sen­ ta­tions of single w ­ omen. As Traister has argued, though, some negative ste­reo­types about female singleness are very per­sis­tent.76 When Inness conducted her study on 1970s “swinging singles” cookbooks, she concluded that, while ­t hese texts mirrored and contributed to a positive shift in attitudes ­toward singles, they also perpetuated traditional gender roles by affirming “that ­women, no ­matter how successful, needed to be concerned about how to attract men.” 77 ­These tensions between discourses ­were found in the current study as well, both within and across texts. Overall, traditional discourses are most prominent in the single ­woman’s cookbooks, even though more implicit manifestations w ­ ere sometimes found in the other cookbooks as well. First of all, throughout the ­whole dataset, cooking is construed as a ­simple yet impor­tant skill. In contrast to the 1970s, though, the more modern texts assume that (young) w ­ omen do not necessarily possess culinary skills (yet) b ­ ecause their own ­mothers may have discouraged them from acquiring any due to the close association between home cooking and traditional female gender roles. What is more, the potential instructive range of the single w ­ oman’s cookbooks in par­tic­u­lar goes


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beyond cooking, offering normative advice about how to be a successful single ­woman in other domains associated with hegemonic femininity (such as sex, fashion, makeup) as well. Second, the single w ­ oman’s cookbooks do not even primarily include r­ ecipes for one and mostly construe cooking as an activity for the benefit of ­others, placing a strong emphasis on cooking as seduction, something that Inness also found to be prominent. Even though the “cooking as seduction” discourse is also found in the cookbooks for one, it is far less salient. Instead, ­there is a much stronger focus on cooking as self-­care, something that is notably absent from the singles cookbooks (as well as from Inness’s findings overall). In terms of diachronic trends, the focus on self-­care is strongest in the most recent cookbook for one by Lo. Fi­nally, when it comes to negotiating the pros and cons of singleness, the single ­woman’s cookbooks stress that, while being single does have its perks, it is only a desirable state for a fairly l­ imited amount of time, thus tying in with Inness’s findings. Ultimately, then, they tend to perpetuate traditional ste­reo­t ypes and to marginalize par­tic­u­lar groups (such as fat and nonheterosexual ­women), emphasizing the notion of singleness as a temporary, undesirable state and promoting culinary skills as a necessary means of attracting a partner. They rely on a rather narrow interpretation of the term single, which is equated with “not married yet” and always compared unfavorably with being partnered. In contrast to this, the cookbooks for one are a bit more inclusive overall, and they explore the complexity of the relationship between being single, living alone, and/or eating alone in more detail, acknowledging singles to be a heterogeneous group. It is in­ter­est­ing to note that while ­these cookbooks do use the word single in their main text, the titles feature the terms solo or one, maybe to avoid an instant connection with the traditional, often unfavorable connotations of single. They also feature more pros of singlehood, viewing it as a state that can be ­either temporary or permanent and identifying an unaccepting society rather than the lack of a partner as the main source of potential drawbacks. It ­will be in­ter­est­ing to see ­whether this shift ­toward more inclusive, positive portrayals of female singleness found in the cookbooks for one is a trend that ­will be mirrored in ­f uture publications explic­itly marketed ­toward single girls/women as well. Of course, the current study has its limitations. For example, some aspects of the current dataset could not be explored fully (such as comments and advice on dieting/body shape in the single w ­ oman’s cookbooks) or even had to remain completely unexplored (such as instances involving the anthropomorphization of food, in which food can be the source of sensual plea­sure or even replace a h ­ uman companion). Furthermore, it would certainly be in­ter­est­ing to have a closer look at more publications,78 publications from other countries,79 and other text types such as newspaper columns or food writing published on the internet (such as blogs) which address the topic of cooking for one and/or eating alone.80 Furthermore, the links between discursive repre­sen­ta­tions of eating alone and statistics, as well as ­people’s attitudes t­ oward eating alone, are yet to be fully explored.81 Fi­nally, home cooking

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for one is not the only culinary domain that is of interest with regard to repre­sen­ ta­tions of female singleness: eating alone in the public sphere, especially eating out alone in a restaurant, is still perceived as a marked activity, particularly for ­women.82

Conclusion This chapter study has provided a qualitative CDA of eight con­temporary female-­ authored U.S. cookbooks for one, examining the ways in which female singleness (and its relationship to culinary practices) is represented. With its focus on exposing and challenging cultural norms and power relations that are often taken for granted, CDA can be a useful approach for singleness studies, since singles (and single w ­ omen in par­tic­u­lar) have been subject to marginalization and negative stereotyping. The current analy­sis has revealed that cookbooks aimed explic­itly at single girls and ­women still very much rely on the notion of female singleness as a temporary state that carries negative connotations, drawing on and thus reinforcing traditional tropes of hegemonic femininity (like its close association with the heteronormative ideal of marriage and the nuclear ­family). In ­these cases, culinary skills are seen as a necessary prerequisite to finding a partner. While containing traces of the same discourses to some degree, the six cookbooks for one have a much stronger focus on the potential perks of the “solo state,” which provides ­women (as well as men) with flexibility and in­de­pen­dence, making it pos­si­ble to explore the potential of cooking as self-­care. Overall, the discourses found oscillate between challenging and reinforcing traditional, heteronormative attitudes ­ toward female singleness, a tension that makes t­ hese texts an in­ter­est­ing site for (re)negotiating what it means to be a single w ­ oman in the United States in the twenty-­first c­ entury.

notes 1. ​It is impor­tant to note that cookbooks such as Helen Gurley Brown’s The Single Girl’s Cookbook (1969) w ­ ere preceded by domestic guides aiming to empower w ­ omen within the domestic sphere (such as Catherine  E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s The American ­Woman’s Home [1869]) and manuals arguing that it was pos­si­ble to live outside traditional notions of domesticity (such as Marjorie Hillis’s 1936 Live Alone and Like It [1936]). Singles’ cookbooks as a genre emerged only in the 1970s, though, as part of “a proliferation of cookbooks so dramatic few could keep count,” with more and more niche titles being published to satisfy “Americans’ fascination with food” (Carol Mighton Haddix, “Cookbooks: 1970s to the Pre­sent,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in Amer­i­ca, ed. Andrew F. Smith, 2nd ed. [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013], 494). 2. ​Sherrie A. Inness, “ ‘Impress a New Love with your Culinary Prowess’: Gender Lessons in Swinging Single’s Cookbooks,” in Disco Divas: W ­ omen, Gender, and Popu­lar Culture in the 1970s, ed. Sherrie A. Inness (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003), 106. 3. ​Inness, 101. 4. ​Rebecca Traister, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried ­Women and the Rise of an In­de­pen­ dent Nation (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016). 5. ​D’Vera Cohn, Jeffrey S. Passel, Wendy Wang, and Gretchen Livingston, “Barely Half of US Adults Are Married—­A Rec­ord Low: New Marriages Down 5% from 2009 to 2010,” Pew Research Center: Social and Demographic Trends, December  14, 2011, https://­w ww​ .­pewsocialtrends​.­org​/2­ 011​/­12​/­14​/ ­barely​-­half​-o ­ f​-­u​-­s​-­adults​-­are​-­married​-­a​-­record​-­low​/­.


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6. ​­Table A1, “Amer­i­c a’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2016,” U.S. Census Bureau, 2016, last modified May 4, 2018, www​.­census​.­gov​/­d ata​/­t ables​/­2016​/­demo​/­families​/­cps​-­2016​ .­html. 7. ​Traister, All the Single Ladies, 64. 8. ​Traister, 67. She also notes that, for African American ­women, the story was quite a dif­ fer­ent one, in part ­because they ­were excluded “from the opportunities and communities that permitted . . . ​nuclear families to flourish.” 9. ​Traister, 134. 10. ​An introduction to American food culture more generally, with a focus on gender and its intersections with race, is offered by the contributions in Kitchen Culture in Amer­i­ca, ed. Sherrie A. Inness (Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 2000). 11. ​Katharina Vester, A Taste of Power: Food and American Identities (Oakland: University of California Press, 2015), 66. 12. ​A more in-­depth analy­sis of the prevalence of this domestic ideology in modern American cookbooks can be found in chapter 10 of Jessamyn Neuhaus, Manly Meals and Mom’s Home Cooking: Cookbooks and Gender in Modern Amer­i­ca (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012). 13. ​This is deeply embedded in the culture of domesticity, as explored, for example, in Barbara Welter, “The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820–1860,” American Quarterly 18, no. 2 (1966): 151, https://­doi​.­org​/­10​.­2307​/­2711179. 14. ​Inness, “ ‘Impress a New Love,’ ” 104. 15. ​Inness, 113. 16. ​“Cookbook Category Sales Rose 21 ­Percent, Year over Year, The NPD Group Says: The Success of Cookbooks Tracks with a Larger Growth Trend of Cooking Meals at Home,” NDP, July  31, 2018, https://­w ww​.­npd​.­com​/­w ps​/­portal​/­npd​/­us​/­news​/­press​-­releases​/­2018​/­cookbook​ -­category​-s­ ales​-­rose​-­21​-­percent​-­year​-­over​-­year​-­t he​-n ­ pd​-­group​-­says​/­. 17. ​Henry Notaker, A History of Cookbooks: From Kitchen to Page over Seven Centuries (Oakland: University of California Press, 2017), 301. 18. ​Jane Doerfer, ­Going Solo in the Kitchen: A Practical and Persuasive Cookbook for Anyone Living Alone (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), viii. 19. ​Inness, “ ‘Impress a New Love,’ ” 103. 20. ​See Vester, A Taste of Power. 21. ​Cornelia Gerhardt, Maximiliane Frobenius, and Susanne Ley, eds. Culinary Linguistics: The Chef ’s Special (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2013). 22. ​Jane Sunderland, Gendered Discourses (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 28. 23. ​Ruth Wodak and Michael Meyer, “Critical Discourse Analy­sis: History, Agenda, Theory, and Methodology,” in Methods of Critical Discourse Analy­sis, ed. Ruth Wodak and Michael Meyer, 2nd ed.(London: Sage, 2009), 10. 24. ​Kelsi Matwick, “Language and Gender in Female Celebrity Chef Cookbooks: Cooking to Show Care for the ­Family and for the Self,” Critical Discourse Studies 14, no. 5 (2017): 540, https://­doi​.­org​/­10​.­1080​/­17405904​.­2017​.­1309326. 25. ​Elizabeth Addie and Charlotte Brownlow, “Deficit and Asset Identity Constructions of Single ­Women without ­Children Living in Australia: An Analy­sis of Discourse,” Feminism and Psy­chol­ogy 24, no. 4 (November 2014): 423–439, doi:10.1177/0959353514539463. 26. ​ Stephanie Schnurr and Barbara Plester, “Functionalist Discourse Analy­ sis of Humor,” in The Routledge Handbook of Language and Humor, ed. Salvatore Attardo (New York: Routledge, 2017), 309. 27. ​Joyce Goldstein, Solo Suppers: ­Simple Delicious Meals to Cook for Yourself (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2003), 8. Th ­ ese observations are backed up by a community study on eating patterns, which found that “over half of the sample ate breakfast alone and almost half ate lunch alone, while only about one-­sixth ate dinner alone.” Jeffery Sobal and Mary  K. Nelson, “Commensal Eating Patterns: A Community Study,” Appetite 41, no. 2 (2003): 184. 28. ​Goldstein, Solo Suppers, 7. 29. ​Inness, “ ‘Impress a New Love,’ ” 113.

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30. ​Inness, 113. 31. ​Matwick, “Language and Gender in Female Celebrity Chef Cookbooks,” 540. 32. ​Jodi Citrin, Melissa Gibson, and Katie Nuanes, The ­Little Black Apron: A Single Girl’s Guide to Cooking with Style and Grace (Holbrook, MA: Adams Media, 2007), x. 33. ​Robin Soslow, The Official Single W ­ oman’s Cookbook (Silver Spring, MD: Corkscrew Press, 1990). 34. ​Citrin, Gibson, and Nuanes, ­Little Black Apron, 2. 35. ​Citrin, Gibson, and Nuanes, 38. 36. ​Citrin, Gibson, and Nuanes, 148. 37. ​Fat-­exclusive cultural standards of beauty are also manifest in this fatphobic statement: “It’s hard to miss the growing obesity prob­lem in our country. W ­ hether ­you’ve witnessed it in the airport lounge (desperately hoping that your win­dow seat ­isn’t next to that person’s seat)” (Citrin, Gibson, and Nuanes, 10). 38. ​Citrin, Gibson, and Nuanes, 3. 39. ​Citrin, Gibson, and Nuanes, 1. 40. ​Soslow, Official Single W ­ oman’s Cookbook, 13. 41. ​Soslow, 120. 42. ​Judith Jones, The Pleasures of Cooking for One (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009), vii. 43. ​Inness, “ ‘Impress a New Love,’ ” 103 (emphasis added). 44. ​Inness, 111–112. Note, though, that this potential liberation from traditional domesticity is somewhat undermined by the fact that getting married and starting (to cook for) a ­family remains the ultimate aim. 45. ​Meta­phoric mappings such as “sexual desire is hunger” are explored in Zoltán Kövecses, Meta­phor: A Practical Introduction, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). The relationship between food and language on a more general level is elaborated on in Gerhardt. 46. ​Soslow, Official Single W ­ oman’s Cookbook, 29. 47. ​Soslow, 9–10. 48. ​Soslow, 114. 49. ​Soslow, 16. 50. ​Citrin, Gibson, and Nuanes, ­Little Black Apron, 14. 51. ​Citrin, Gibson, and Nuanes, 26. 52. ​Citrin, Gibson, and Nuanes, 218. 53. ​Klancy Miller, Cooking Solo: The Joy of Cooking for Yourself (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), 158. 54. ​Miller, 192. 55. ​Goldstein, Solo Suppers, 10. The 1970s dismissive stance on cooking for yourself as self-­ care is summarized by Gurley Brown, who writes that “when ­you’re single, you cook mostly for other ­people . . . ​­because [cooking] is a bit of a chore when y­ ou’re only feeding l­ ittle you” (Helen Gurley Brown, The Single Girl’s Cookbook [New York: Bernard Geis Associates, 1969], 141). 56. ​Miller, Cooking Solo, xiii. 57. ​Anita Lo, Solo: A modern cookbook for a party of one (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2018), xii. 58. ​Jones, Pleasures of Cooking for One, ix. 59. ​Lo, Solo, xi. 60. ​Lo, xi. 61. ​See Matwick, “Language and Gender in Female Celebrity Chef Cookbooks.” The connection between the cele­bration of self-­care ­here and its place in neoliberal wellness discourse, which emphasizes individual responsibility, would certainly merit further analy­sis. 62. ​Citrin, Gibson, and Nuanes, ­Little Black Apron, 150. 63. ​Goldstein, Solo Suppers, 7. 64. ​Miller, Cooking Solo, x. 65. ​Goldstein, Solo Suppers, 7. 66. ​Goldstein, 11.


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67. ​Jones, Pleasures of Cooking for One, 35. 68. ​Doerfer, ­Going Solo in the Kitchen, 10. 69. ​Doerfer, 119. 70. ​Jones, Pleasures of Cooking for One, 208. 71. ​Doerfer, ­Going Solo in the Kitchen, 166. 72. ​Doerfer, 7. 73. ​Goldstein, Solo Suppers, 7. 74. ​Doerfer, ­Going Solo in the Kitchen, 7–8. 75. ​Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (1949; repr., London: D. Campbell, 1993), 446. 76. ​Traister, All the Single Ladies, 134. 77. ​Inness, “ ‘Impress a New Love,’ ” 101. 78. ​Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin, What We Eat When We Eat Alone (Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith, 2009). 79. ​Wendy Hobson, Everyday Cooking for One: Imaginative, Delicious and Healthy R ­ ecipes That Make It Fun to Cook for One (Oxford: Spring Hill, 2012). 80. ​Diana Henry, “Cooking for One: How to Enjoy the Ultimate Plea­sure of Eating Alone,” Telegraph, June  14, 2019, https://­w ww​.­telegraph​.­co​.­u k ​/­food​-­a nd​-­d rink ​/­features​ /­cooking​-o ­ ne​-­enjoy​-u ­ ltimate​-­pleasure​-­eating​-­a lone​/­. 81. ​This is done to some degree in P. Pliner and R. Bell, “A ­Table for One: The Pain and Plea­sure of Eating Alone,” in Meals in Science and Practice: Interdisciplinary Research and Business Applications, ed. Herbert L. Meiselman (Oxford: Woodhead Publishing, 2009). 82. ​E lisa Doucette, “Is ­There Anything More Pathetic Than a ­Table for One?,” Forbes, April 25, 2012, https://­w ww​.­forbes​.­com​/­sites​/­elisadoucette​/­2012​/­04​/­25​/­solo​-­dining​-­pathetic​ /­#633288f364d4.


Singles at Home d o m e s t ic ­l a b or s The essays in this third part of the collection explore the structural links between single ­women, as represented in domestic fictions and films from the fin de siècle to the pre­sent. Contributors to this part map single experiences of domestic space across temporal bound­a ries and marital, class, and age groups, focusing on the often unrecognized structural links between ­women. ­These final essays focus on single ­women’s desiring, frustrated relationships to domestic space and ­labor, in and beyond the ­family. In challenging the inevitability of heteropatriarchal ­family life, single texts and single studies necessarily take the constraints and possibilities of the domestic sphere as a central theme. ­These essays continue the work of ­earlier parts in this book, which found single ­women representing, refashioning, and escaping the domestic sphere. E ­ arlier essays rethink the relation of single ­women to a historically confining domestic sphere, finding a surprising degree of empowerment: Elizabeth DeWolfe finds Jane Tucker bringing “domestic skills into the waged domain,” and Ursula Kania considers cooking reclaimed for one. This part brings together accounts of ­women working ­toward single occupancy with the long history of single w ­ omen laboring within the ­family home. Katherine Fama and Emma Liggins—­writing on American and British short fictions of the fin de siècle and early twentieth ­century, respectively—­analyze repre­ sen­ta­t ions of single ­women as they experience new forms of home in the modern era. Taken together, Fama and Liggins address the hard-­won emergence of in­de­pen­dent occupancy, tracing the balance between domestic possibility and ­constraint. Fama finds later-­life single w ­ omen reclaiming home as a realm of indulgent, chosen ­labors, while Liggins documents the more common unmet longing for stable, private occupancy and the anxious, sympathetic, disgusted reception of single bodies and dwellings in the modern era. In the final essay in this part, Ann Mattis interrogates the domestic architecture of the ­family, tracing its established dependence on single ­women’s ­labor. In engaging the film history of the nanny, Mattis demonstrates the ways in which single w ­ omen working in childcare challenge the stubborn iconography of the 133


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single-­family home as private, nuclear, and superior. This part’s focus on single ­labor history expands the thematic concerns of e­ arlier parts of the book. Single ­women’s uneasy negotiation of domestic ­labor is central to Kania’s analy­sis of single cookbooks, DeWolfe’s account of a single working d ­ aughter, and Cellelo’s portraits of divorced ­mothers, at once single and bound to home and f­ amily. This part also examines explicit and implicit connections between single w ­ omen and the texts that give voice to their experiences. In her essay on the fin de siècle, Fama links regionalist and urban portrayals, and midlife and later-­life experiences, combating narratives of decline and tracing the intergenerational importance of mature domestic narratives for the single w ­ omen who followed. Liggins, too, argues for the importance of bringing together accounts of widowed, divorced, and never-­ married ­women, who experienced many of the same structural conditions of singlehood. ­These essays also interrogate specific forms of privilege and vulnerability within single experience and repre­sen­ta­tion, tracing the effects of age, race, ability, and class. Liggins’s work finds the private, secure space of “home” out of reach for the vast mass of modern British working single w ­ omen, their attempts at alternative domesticity compared constantly to structures built for the f­ amily. In her reading of single homes, Fama traces the contours of ability, class, and race in portrayals of single aging. Pointing to the racialized privilege of repre­sen­ta­tion, Fama highlights the mature White respectability celebrated in fin de siècle short fiction. Mattis documents the parallel “cultural fetish of the single White nanny” and her historical “embodiment of domestic virtue” in fiction and film. Enlisted to save rather than threaten the nuclear home, single White nannies ­gently reform elite domesticity, continuing to revolve around or marry into the ­family. Fictional genres, Mattis argues, highlight individual domestic contributions over ­labor conditions and the voices of real mi­grant caregivers. This part finds the home—­and its material, economic, and l­abor contours—to be a pivotal structure for understanding the shared and individual experiences of single ­women in the modern and con­temporary periods. Domestic film and fiction histories demonstrate the raced, classed, and embodied ways in which single ­women are culturally pressured to rejoin the ­family, in ser­v ice or marriage. Yet ­t hese same genres offer modes of single re­sis­tance and repre­sen­ta­tions of single homes and communities.

chapter 8

Feeling “Like a Queen” later-­life single w ­ omen at home in modern american short fiction Katherine Fama

At the end of the nineteenth ­century, American novelists, journalists, and social critics responded to a seismic demographic change—­t he rise of single w ­ omen. Urban migration, immigration, western expansion, ­women’s education, industrialization, wage l­ abor, Civil War deaths, and the legacy of slavery combined to shape the largest never-­married generation of American w ­ omen to date.1 Fin de siècle cities experienced a swell of young ­women seeking housing, work, and community. Unlike the “singly blessed” w ­ omen of the e­ arlier nineteenth ­century, t­ hese modern ­women would not remain within the ­family home but would seek out long-­term in­de­pen­dent rental housing in urban areas. Community networks led ­women to culturally or­ga­nized boarding­houses and lodging h ­ ouses, w ­ omen’s aid organ­izations assisted new arrivals, and charitable organ­izations provided training and housing. But ­there ­were few social or literary pre­ce­dents for such lives. The early pages of Theodore Dreiser’s novel ­Sister Carrie (1900) portray the ­f uture uncertainty that characterized young lives—­women ­were unable to “figure on promotion” or “exactly count on marriage,” instead working “­until something happened.”2 Young w ­ omen ­were pulled into the “­g iant magnet” of an incomplete, uncertain, expanding cityscape.3 If the nineteenth-­century novel had rescued its heroines with marital homes, the modern novel reckoned with a new generation of single working w ­ omen making their own homes in new domestic architectures. Within this turn-­of-­century “literary architecture of singleness,” midlife and later-­life accounts of single occupancy have remained largely unacknowledged.4 A cultural focus on young “working girls” has overshadowed a vivid set of short fictions focused on older ­women’s experiences of domestic in­de­pen­dence. In 1891, Edith Wharton’s first short story, “Mrs. Manstey’s View,” found an el­derly ­widow “crazy” for her shabby New York boarding­house win­dow, and Mary Wilkins Freeman’s “New E ­ ngland Nun” reveled in solitary h ­ ouse­hold habits.5 In 1894, Alice Brown granted her aged ­w idow an eve­ning’s run of the ­family home in 135


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“Heartsease.” Given the contingency of aging singly in the period, readers might anticipate the repre­sen­ta­tions of solitary, older characters: disappointed, lonely, perhaps humbly content at best. Yet in ­these fictions, we find vibrant, joyful, transgressive emotional worlds. In this essay, I explore the form and impact of fictions that represent midlife and later-­life single ­women “feeling at home” in domestic space at the fin de siècle. I begin by situating ­these indulgent, joyful fictions as at odds with a late nineteenth-­ century social and literary world that found older w ­ omen to be irrelevant, marginal, and in decline. I examine the older single ­woman’s dominant cultural history of lonely debility and dismissal through writings in age studies and queer theory. Next, I turn to the vibrant repre­sen­ta­tions of older ­women’s in­de­pen­dent spaces by Wharton, Freeman, and Brown, finding descriptive emotional empires that allow single ­women to feel “like a queen” at home. Taking place almost entirely within individual dwellings, ­these fictions prioritize the experience of single domestic affects. Fi­nally, I argue that writers who portrayed older ­women’s single occupancy championed the private value of single space, even as they wrote forward, projecting the affective possibility and priority of domestic in­de­pen­dence. As age—­ alongside categories of race and class—­provided a cover of respectability for w ­ omen transgressing domestic norms, aging fictions portrayed the emotional rewards and material models of single permanence. Midlife and older heroines thus established a literary pre­ce­dent for stable in­de­pen­dent housing, projecting the possibility of w ­ omen’s domestic space to the single generation coming of age at the turn of the twentieth c­ entury.

Spinsters in Print: Decline, Deviance, and Domestic Longing The historical and cultural contexts paint a bleak picture of older w ­ omen in the fin de siècle. Age-­studies scholars have established the waning social standing of older British and American w ­ omen over the course of the nineteenth c­ entury. Tracing narratives of decline and dependence in her work on aging in nineteenth-­ century lit­er­a­ture, Sari Edelstein finds a waning “reverence” for the el­derly and a medicalization of old age, while age scholar Kathleen Woodward finds the el­derly “figured collectively as weak or powerless.” 6 Jeanette King traces the older ­woman’s supposed regression into girlhood or masculinity; ste­reo­t ypes of the whimsical, helpless, childish older ­woman kept com­pany with an asexual figure of mannish in­de­pen­dence.7 King traces the negative repre­sen­ta­tions of older ­women—­literary dismissals, mockeries, and attacks—­concluding that “discourses of female ageing as decline predominate to the end of the c­ entury,” despite w ­ omen’s midlife and 8 late-­life public and po­liti­cal achievements. Edelstein also finds older Americans excluded from the category of “adulthood,” denied “autonomy, in­de­pen­dence, and the privilege of visibility” by ­century’s end.9 Single ­women living outside of scripted roles of marriage and motherhood certainly lost the privileges of proper maturity: “old” maids ­were prematurely aged, even as el­derly w ­ idows ­were infantilized. Old age in w ­ omen was culturally defined and controlled, by physical stages like meno-

Feeli ng “Lik e a Qu een”


pause or by the completion of marriage and reproduction. Unmarried w ­ omen ­were further marked (and aged) by their extended, irrevocable deviance from such expected stages. Despite her public and private contributions and educational gains, the older single ­woman’s starring role in excited, empathetic fictions was hardly inevitable. A turn to age studies encourages a focus on midlife and later-­life single experiences.10 Singleness and aging intersect repeatedly over the individual life course, from age limits on marital eligibility to narratives of widowhood, postmaternity, and old age. Kathryn Kent notes the ways in which anx­i­eties about aging unmarried ­women ran the gamut, from race-­suicide concerns about educated, late-­ marrying White w ­ omen; to readings of the old maid as nonprocreative, unnaturally maternal, or sexually queered.11 Over the course of an average life span, countless ­women would join and rejoin the category of single: never married, queer, separated and divorced, or widowed. Though cultural texts focus disproportionately on younger singles, many w ­ omen experienced extended periods of singleness ­later in life. If old age was seen to begin a­ fter child-­rearing—­even sooner in its absence—­countless ­women ­were left de­cades of culturally dismissed time with which to reckon. Though some nineteenth-­century feminists envisioned “a stage differentiated by no longer being dedicated to the f­ amily” and “the end of the years of anxiety, ill health and exhaustion,” most narratives framed the “postmaternal ­woman” through a (presumably) inevitable idleness and decline.12 Margaret Morganroth Gullette observes that, in the early twentieth ­century, though “­women w ­ ere living longer, w ­ ere less burdened by multiple births, and had an or­ga­nized movement ­behind them, midlife w ­ omen ­were generally devalued.”13 Midlife and old age blend together in an expansive, marginalized category exacerbated by singleness.14 Decline narratives defined and dismissed single ­women from midlife onward, ­whether never married, separated, or widowed.

Queer Spinster Aesthetics If older single ­women in late nineteenth-­century fictions suffered cultural decline and dismissal, they also suffered perceptions of difference and deviance. Older single w ­ omen found themselves in a queer position outside of the privileged norms of marriage and motherhood.15 Recent work in queer theory pays explicit attention to repre­sen­ta­tions of single deviance, suffering, and marginalization. Though the old maid was a ­family fixture in nineteenth-­century fictions, Kent notes that the “cultural work” of single w ­ omen was “represented as, at best, a ridicu­lous copy” of wives’ domestic accomplishments.16 Despite claims of respectable, White, middle-­class singleness, the older single w ­ oman often remained a marginal, lonely literary figure. Scholarly portraits of single feeling focus on the significance of regional fictions of shame, disappointment, and loneliness. Heather Love defines a queer “spinster aesthetic” through such emotions, a “tone” at once reflective of “­women’s experience of solitude and isolation,” rejection, dependence, and dangerous intimacies between w ­ omen.17 Newly beyond the shelter of the f­amily, the


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material and emotional costs of singleness ­were high. For Love, spinsters join other queer figures in “a category of person deemed unwanted,” dependent, and “experiencing routine humiliation at the hands of relatives, suitors, and strangers.”18 Countering de­cades of social dismissal and literary disregard, Love’s work reclaims single loss and suffering, acknowledging that “the feelings of the spinster have always been deemed beneath notice.”19 To remedy this inattention, scholars have begun to revisit the spinster in late nineteenth-­century regional lit­er­a­ture, where she took center stage.20 Caroline Gebhard notes that the single ­women who populated fin de siècle “local color” fictions ­were interpreted as a sign of genres and regions left ­behind, a queer other to forward-­looking literary and social forms.21 She characterizes an impatient modernist—­and scholarly—­tendency “to identify local color with ‘neurotic’ single ­women.”22 Gebhard stresses the enduring impact of a vision—­here F. O. Matthiessen’s—of New E ­ ngland as “a place ‘overrun by . . . ​distorted old maids’ and 23 ‘awkward girls.’ ” Echoing familiar ste­reo­types of older ­women, she finds literary historians casting w ­ omen writers as e­ ither “the schoolgirl as sentimental novelist— or e­ lse as a sterile creature whose passionless gentility renders her art equally sterile—­the spinster turned writer.”24 The el­derly single character faced an aggressively dismissive reception. Backward spinsters in forgotten regional corners ­were an easy, queer counterpoint both to robust male modernism and to a new generation of urban working girls, their singleness sanctioned by youthful eligibility. We have ample, justified reminders not to celebrate w ­ omen’s separation, self-­ sufficiency, or temporality as easy, utopian realms of exception. Kent reminds us that “it is tempting to read the spinster as a radical self-­exile from bourgeois reproductive heterosexuality, but such a reading implies that ­t here is an outside to both the norms of (hetero)sexuality and the economy.”25 She argues that the realm of single older w ­ omen is not a “ ‘­free’ space of an unbridled ‘in­de­pen­dence’ ” but instead is circumscribed by male familial control, exile, poverty, and “damning accounts ­ omen w ­ ere not always lucky enough to remain of ‘unnatural’ femininity.”26 Older w respectable, even with lives and ­labor dedicated to the ­family. As Chambers-­Schiller has suggested, by the end of the c­ entury, the “spinsterhood” of formerly idealized maiden aunts “took on an ominous cast, their celibacy . . . ​suggestive of physical, emotional, and intellectual degeneracy.”27 ­These critical notes of caution both highlight the rarity and importance of in­de­pen­dent pre­ce­dents, and remind us to acknowledge forms of privilege that enable joyful single texts.

Domestic Longings By the end of ­century, even privileged single ­women expressed disappointment at their l­imited ­career gains and continued financial dependence, and they articulated deep longing for their own domestic space. From the late eigh­teenth to the mid-­nineteenth ­century, the middle-­class, “singly blessed” ­family ­woman had occupied a rigidly defined space of respectable womanhood.28 White, northeastern, never-­married ­women contributed ser­v ice to the ­family and society, residing

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in the homes of male relatives. By the ­middle of the nineteenth ­century, such ­women could openly choose single life, but they “stepped out of ­woman’s traditional sphere only tentatively,” as they “lacked models of how to proceed.”29 As the ­century wore on, the educated single ­woman expressed a specific “desire for a home of her own” as an alternative to the f­ amily devotion that had, for so long, tightly circumscribed respectable existence.30 In an 1877 speech, Susan B. Anthony predicted the coming of an “epoch of single w ­ omen,” arguing that “the w ­ omen who ­w ill not be ruled must live without marriage” ­u ntil social equity is reached.31 For Anthony, such advancement depended on a foundation of single domestic space; “­t here must needs be an era of self-­sustained self-­supported homes, where her freedom and equality ­shall be unquestioned.”32 She provided “settled” pre­ce­dents, offering her listeners glimpses of pioneering, culturally accomplished, mature ­women in homes of their own.33 Her speech highlighted single domestic feelings, focusing on the anticipation, desire, and experience of occupants. She opened with domestic “want[s],” “long[ings],” and “hope[s].”34 The late ­century witnessed just such specific invocations of and desires for single domestic space. If the relation of single w ­ omen to home was largely forward-­looking in the latter half of the nineteenth c­ entury, represented in terms of emotional desire and aspiration, it was also represented as a successful—if exceptional—­real­ity in Anthony’s end-­of-­century account. If the broader historical rec­ord gestures to ­women’s desire for spatial in­de­pen­dence, late-­century accounts found at least a privileged few already in homes of their own.35 Anthony describes the prototypical single home, a “lovely white cottag[e],” a home too often misread as a “sad pa­norama of crushed affections, blighted hopes, bereaved hearts.”36 Anthony rejects the familiar “pitying sigh” of an ­imagined male passerby, insisting on the “joy and gladness” that define such spaces.37 In separating such domestic feeling from marriage and motherhood, Anthony proposes that a broader group of ­women might revel in single homemaking, predicting a very dif­fer­ent spinster aesthetic.

Fictional ­Women Feeling at Home, “Crazy” about Buildings Sandwiched between the young heroines of the American sentimental novel and the working girls and bachelor maids of the modern novel, Harper’s Bazaar found the “el­derly heroine” beginning to claim a “place in the literary world” in 1894.38 As older w ­ omen—­many of them single—­began to move into fictional centers around the end of the c­ entury, they began to c­ ounter a c­ entury of social marginalization. Age scholars have considered the ways that fiction resisted the dismissal of older w ­ omen. In her work on nineteenth-­century aging fictions, Edelstein reads beyond the spinster-­as-­metaphor, returning to New E ­ ngland regionalism its “repre­ sen­ta­tions of el­derly bodies and subjectivities in their own right.”39 She further suggests that fiction hosts challenges to normative aging regimes, “provid[ing] a space for imagining alternatives to the teleology of modern aging.” 40 Aging fictions complement other single literary disruptions to modern normative temporality. Younger refusals of marriage or motherhood are continued in later-­life


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models of sustained in­de­pen­dence, long-­term extramarital attachments, outlasted or rejected familial duties, and renounced membership in the f­ amily. Jack Halberstam has suggested that “queer time . . . ​is about the potentiality of a life unscripted by the conventions of ­family, inheritance, and child rearing.” 41 ­These works further stretch queer time, disrupting not only expected life stage but also the contours of physical aging, and the place and pace of plot, relishing personal domestic time and space. Long cast as decorous, asexual, beyond reproduction, desire, or desirability, older single ­women ­were freed to form their own solitary occupancy habits and to express an eccentric, transgressive domestic agency. In writing of celibacy in twentieth-­century modernism, Benjamin Kahan argues for just such agency derived from adherence to rules of sexual constraint, proposing that “celibacy forges respectability as revolution.” 42 Portrayed as ­ respectable and peripheral, older ­w idows and never-­married ­women seized—on occasion—­a capacious domestic realm.43 In the last de­cade of the nineteenth c­ entury, short fictions by Edith Wharton, Mary Wilkins Freeman, and Alice Brown portray middle-­aged and el­derly w ­ omen reveling in domestic ­labors and spaces—­t he country cottage, the urban boarding­ house, the f­ amily h ­ ouse. Judged by the f­ amily standard of the nineteenth c­ entury, to their neighbors, the ­women appear “crazy” over their solitary homes.44 In pursuit—­rather than fear—of solitude, in rejection of the ­family and social ties, ­these single ­women do not toil solicitously for the ­family. Yet they do feel and ­labor lovingly, excessively, obsessively in the home. In conversation with repre­sen­ta­tions of the costs of single life, the marginality and contingency of aging, and the anxious queering of old maids, Wharton, Freeman, and Brown published stories of domestic in­de­pen­dence, indulgence, and plea­sure. They positioned mature w ­ omen in homes of their own as new subjects for an empathetic readership. I select ­t hese three texts—­Brown’s “Heartsease,” Freeman’s “A New ­England Nun,” and Wharton’s “Mrs. Manstey’s Win­dow”—­because, taken together, they tie disparate singles together, linking ­w idows with disappointed fiancées, the midlife with the el­derly, the boarding­house renter with the cottage owner. This comparison reflects the ways in which parallel meditations on aging, domestic feeling, single life, and the possibility of spatial in­de­pen­dence ­were occurring across regions and literary forms at the end of ­century. Wharton, Freeman, and Brown responded to the ste­reo­t ypes of infantilized, idle, eccentric, lonely older ­women, aware of a generation of w ­ omen alone, and of the emerging economic and material landscape that might allow w ­ omen a room of their own. Such a comparison allows singleness studies to move beyond the binary of urban and regional texts, and across mature w ­ omen’s divergent marital histories, in order to see across late-­ century efforts to rewrite single ­women feeling at home. Susan Fraiman has proposed the category of “shelter writing” to describe repre­ sen­ta­tions of marginal figures “driven to domesticity—­the refuge of four walls, the consolation of a t­ able—by desperate circumstances.” 45 She describes the function of domestic space in such conditions, as providing “safety, sanity, and self expression.” 46 With their narrow security, contingent space, marginalized gender,

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and pathologized age, the older single w ­ omen of the fin de siècle experienced such “desperate circumstances” and engaged in such writing. Their texts are saturated with the details of domestic spaces, the habits of ­house­hold ­labor, and the emotional satisfactions of h ­ umble homes. From Anthony’s “Homes of Single W ­ omen” speech, to diaries, short fictions, and novels, t­ hese writings can be read together as a genre, a discourse community, and an early, formative entry into the modern canon of single literary architecture. Midlife and late-­l ife heroines found that a unique combination of social privilege and neglect enabled a range of private spatial transgressions. Harnessing the ste­reo­type of the eccentric spinster to the (White, middle-­class) gender privileges of the domestic sphere and the respectability of single blessedness, writers presented solitary single w ­ omen permitted to be “crazy about” in­de­pen­dent occupancy. If, as Edelstein has claimed, older ­women ­were “deemed unfit for circulation” and “expected . . . ​to recede into rocking chairs,” they would do so on their own terms, exploring and indulging their own feelings about the domestic world.47 A number of writers have suggested that we revisit emotion as a category of literary analy­sis. Julie Taylor invites us to “dwell on such ­matters of affect and to put feeling at the heart of our thinking as we theorise modernism and modernity.” 48 At the turn of the new ­century, ­t hese short fictions explic­itly structure a domestic cata­log of emotions: joy, indulgence, righ­teous indignation, thus presenting older ­women as subjects of empathy for their readers. Single ­women’s architectural affects are articulated descriptively, registered on and through the body, expressed in objects and animals, reinforced and given form in ­house­hold routine. If the dominant emotions of late-­century single fictions—­t he “feelings” of aging alone—­are anger, loneliness, and disappointment, t­ hese shelter fictions pre­sent other possibilities.49 Anthony was not alone when she gestured ­toward the emotional desire and fulfillment of homes for single w ­ omen. Real and fictional ­women proclaimed the contingency, loneliness, and surprising satisfaction of life on one’s own. The force of such passions disrupted a long-­nineteenth-­century focus on age that assumes descent, pathology, depression, and de­pen­dency. Brown’s “Heartsease” portrays a w ­ idow installed in the f­ amily home, the overly coddled guest of her son and his wife. Left alone overnight, she throws herself into rigorous domestic l­ abor and exploration, discovering the possibilities of in­de­pen­ dent space over the brief hours of the story. “Heartsease” begins by introducing the ­w idow—­carefully tended in her ­later years, life whittled down to the barest minimum for her protection. Her daughter-­in-­law’s “tender” treatment is h ­ ouse­hold law; her son “ketched it, too.”50 Old Mrs. Lamson is settled, submissive to social expectations and her daughter-­in-­law’s h ­ ouse­hold dominance, dressed “with due deference to custom,” found knitting quietly.51 Yet her enforced convalescence is subverted by her “air of youth,” “girlish” body, and “alert, bright glance” and even the “rakish” a­ ngle of her ribbons.52 A potential rebellion is signaled in emotion overflowing her body, the “jerk” of her knitting between rows and a sharp look that flashes in response to inquiries about the leisure provided by the younger generation.53 The text suggests altruistic social and familial misreadings of late-­life


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capacity, a m ­ other treated with the “hand of clumsy kindliness.”54 When the younger Lamsons are called out of town overnight, the ­w idow takes to a rigorous, embodied cele­bration of ­labor and place. Left in temporary control of the ­family home, the ­widow revels in the empty ­house, her “face . . . ​a live with glee.”55 Her emotional restraints are loosened: the sigh “instantly suppressed,” slight “ironical ring” of her laughter, and “even voice,” all set f­ ree.56 The w ­ idow laughs over her f­ amily’s caution, performing an imitation of her concerned daughter-­i n-­law and taking “sprightly steps” into the cellar to escape her intended caregivers.57 She hides below, waiting out the c­ hildren passing back from school, refusing to be entrusted to their care. Bypassing the instructions and food left for her, “Old Lady Lamson” climbs into the ­house to indulge a chosen series of demanding ­house­hold l­abors. She approaches hot baking and heavy washing work with “trembling eagerness,” “passionate l­abor,” and “sheer delight.”58 Her pleasures include the forbidden ­labors of dragging and heating ­water, scaling the stairs, and scrubbing wash, unimpeded by her advanced age. Elevated to passions, her domestic chores are compared with classical artistry. She uses her unimpeded moments to mount the stairs, and to venture into attics and basements and out into the road to drink at a local stream and visit childhood sites. Breaking into a trunk of clothes from her past, she scrubs, hangs, and irons a se­lection of shirts before replacing them. Importantly, ­t hese ­labors do not serve the f­ amily or necessity, but indulge her whims, creating a chosen dinner for one and refreshing unused personal possessions. Scampering along childhood paths, marveling at time and the “richness of being,” she returns home in the morning hours to greet her son’s return “placidly,” her laughter returned to the ­silent containment of her eyes.59 In its depiction of a few hours outside the f­ amily, “Heartsease” portrays its w ­ idow reveling in the sensations, l­ abors, and domestic passions of a “happy past” and her many lived moments and ages.60 She takes plea­sure in exercising her remaining abilities as an embodied h ­ ouse­hold re­sis­tance.61 In 1891, Freeman published the collection containing “A New ­England Nun,” the story of a faithful fiancée who chooses her beloved home over marriage when her lover fi­nally returns years ­later. The story opens with Louisa Ellis sewing in the sun at the win­dow of her village home, an echo of Anthony’s idealized single cottage. Quietly content, Louisa lives as “a veritable guest to her own self,” making delicate meals and using the best china, her hospitality turned inward.62 She occupies her home exactly as she w ­ ills, suspended from social and marital requirements by the promise of her long-­departed fiancé. She and her animals live side by side. Louisa moves with the slow, precise, settled enjoyment of home; the tools of her h ­ ouse­hold crafts have become “a very part of her personality.” 63 Traditional domestic ­labors are rendered excessive and indulgent—­layers of aprons; rows of stitches sewn, torn, and resewn for “delight”; essences distilled for “mere plea­ sure.” 64 She approaches the cleanliness of her solitary ­house with “the enthusiasm of an artist” and “throbs of . . . ​triumph.” 65 Whispering neighbors witness domestic ­labors lovingly performed without a ­family or community to benefit, True Womanhood turned t­ oward an improper beneficiary.

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This home, “full of a pleasant peace,” 66 is disturbed by the return of her fiancé, Joe Dagget, whose big boots and voice “fill up the ­whole room,” upsetting Louisa’s carefully ordered trea­sures and her sleeping canary.67 Affect circulates in the small home when Dagget visits: the canary “flutter[s] wildly, beating his yellow wings against the wires” in panic.68 Louisa’s canary betrays the passions mounting ­behind her own “stiffness” and “fear[ful]” “watching.” 69 Louisa proj­ects her anxiety onto her dog Caesar, fretting at his impending exile from quiet retirement: “She pictured to herself Caesar on the rampage through the quiet and unguarded village. She saw innocent c­ hildren bleeding in his path.”70 For Louisa, like Brown’s W ­ idow Lamson, emotions are constrained in the presence of ­others, escaping from the ­widow’s body and Louisa’s animals. Unlike the passion for domestic arts and the panic of disturbed mistress and animals, the “winds of romance” had “never more than murmured.” 71 Her abrupt return to the marriage plot, from a contented immersion in domestic pleasures, c­ auses “consternation” as she contemplates leaving her home for the “magnificent alterations” of Joe’s marital h ­ ouse.72 She mourns her possessions, “the ­faces of dear friends” who would “cease to be themselves,” and dreads the impending trade of chosen proj­ects and pleasures for marital and social responsibilities, thrift, and efficiency.73 When Louisa finds reason to end the engagement, “she [feels] like a queen who, ­after fearing lest her domain be wrested away from her, sees it firmly insured in her possession.”74 The l­ ittle ­house remains in ser­v ice to a grateful, peaceful Louisa; Freeman celebrates domestic ­labors and passions unapologetically in ser­vice of the single ­woman. Crucially, her domestic emotions and l­abors are not in ser­v ice to the f­ amily. In such contingent spaces of singleness, w ­ omen become affective artists, feeling and creating for themselves. Without a familial or communal destination for domestic feelings, plea­sure accrues to female occupants. Of course, without t­ hose acceptable raisons d’être, domestic joy is marked as contingent, queer, excessive. Unlike Brown’s el­derly w ­ idow, the never-­married Louisa has barely reached midlife. But as a long-­unmarried ­woman, she is prematurely aged, portrayed in the position of domestic waiting and slow decline: her movements are “slow and still,” her domestic routine is a “premonition of rest and hush and night.”75 Compared with the vigorous ­labor and oversize presence of her well-­traveled fiancé, Louisa proj­ects “the impression of being older,” despite the physical signs of youth.76 Without a romantic object, single womanhood is exaggerated and queered: h ­ ouse­hold ­labor becomes “peculiar” and compulsive, feminine delicacy and grace “uneas[y],” stiff, and “solemn.”77 The text neutralizes any single sexual threat through the image of eccentric, aged immobility. Yet t­ hese accoutrements of l­ater life—­delicacy, slowness, “narrow precision”—­are also transgressive in the story, replacing the expected “winds of romance” with chosen habits and stasis.78 With Louisa’s marriage and reproduction deferred for more than a de­cade, her ­house is figured as a “hedge of lace.”79 Despite this queerness, “still the lace and Louisa commanded . . . ​perfect re­spect,” her marital “loss” underwriting domestic in­de­pen­dence.80 That same year, in 1891, Wharton had explored the affective boarding­house empire of an older ­w idow, her first single character. “Mrs.  Manstey’s View”


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portrays an el­derly ­widow desperate to retain the view of her small, shabby neighborhood, one endangered by the building plans of a neighbor. Desperation leads her to beg, bargain, and attempt arson to protect her home. Over her seventeen widowed years, Mrs. Manstey has chosen the narrow contours of her New York boarding­house over ­family or community. She has “ceased to feel any need” for a ­daughter who “never cared for the same t­ hings” and writes “indiffer[ent]” letters.81 Unsociable by temperament, she barely “feign[s] an interest” in occasional visitors.82 A dull disappointment in an ­earlier failure to find a country home gives way to a surprising emotional awakening in her city rental, where she develops “the happy faculty of dwelling on the pleasanter side of the prospect before her.”83 Arrayed around a curved bow win­dow that extends slightly beyond the building, “books and pictures and plants . . . ​seemed, like their mistress, to s­ ettle themselves down,” existing in accord and concert with their occupant.84 Another “artist” “at heart,” Mrs. Manstey gives herself over to this one passionate focus, a third-­floor view that was “to her . . . ​full of interest and beauty,” the subject of a varied and shifting cata­log of emotional responses that replace the action of character or plot.85 Having “long since accepted . . . ​her solitary life,” the stationary Mrs. Manstey is able to feel herself into the very center of the boarding neighborhood, silently doling out “warmest sympathies” and “disapprov[als]” from her win­dow, her “feelings . . . ​racked” and “warmest sympathies” drawn by the sights outside her win­dow, her “real friends.”86 Importantly, this view is not onto the changing vista of the public street but into the neighborhood interior. Her days are framed by rich emotional responses to the “long vista” of boarding­house yards, interior views, greenery, and blooms.87 Noisy servants garner her “hatred,” while bricks “washed with a coat of paint” cause her to glow “with plea­sure.”88 The affective force of Mrs. Manstey’s stationary observations monopolizes the narrative, which slowly winds through joyful descriptions of each plant, her view down the row of yards to a stone tower in the distance. The cata­log of her emotional registry is broken only by the sharp knock of her landlady, bringing unwelcome news of a neighbor’s construction plans. Mrs. Manstey’s individual affective reveries are framed by the community’s normative dismissals of domestic plea­sure and desire. The story’s w ­ omen enforce domestic norms. A neighbor, Mrs. Black, has her own spatial obsession: building and remodeling. She plans a broad extension to the back of her property line, one that ­w ill block Mrs. Manstey’s view. Mrs. Manstey’s landlord labels Black “crazy about building,” afflicted by “a disease, like drink.”89 She had nearly ruined herself once, adding on “bow-­w indows and what not” to a previous property.90 The landlady turns Black’s ambition into pathology, risk into near ruin. In turn, even the committed renovator Black fails to understand Mrs. Manstey’s parallel spatial passion, an aesthetic fixation upon her own bow win­dow, its extension providing a garden view. She ignores Mrs. Manstey’s desperate plea to retain her view, placating her with a lie and dismissing her as a “crazy” “lunatic.”91 The story’s w ­ omen repeatedly label other ­women “crazy about building,” but Wharton suggests that single w ­ omen are understandably “crazy about building[s],” maintaining their

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tenuous in­de­pen­dence through control of contingent domestic spaces.92 Mrs. Black’s livelihood depends on her drive to spatial expansion; Mrs. Manstey’s i­ magined empire rests on a single view. Subject to familial “indifference,” she is pathologized and “humored” by her neighbors, for whom her death is, fi­nally, merely “disagreeable.”93 A desperate Mrs. Manstey, venturing out late at night to set the neighboring property on fire, catches pneumonia in the pro­cess. Sitting by her win­dow, believing her view secured, Mrs. Manstey dies with a smile on her lips. Unlike Freeman’s middle-­aged Louisa or Brown’s vital ­w idow, Mrs. Manstey registers the conditions of aged “infirmity” in the modern city, her limbs stiff with gout, barely able to scale her boarding­house stairs, vulnerable to the eve­ning ele­ments.94 In contrast, the exceptionally youthful Mrs. Lamson experiences in­de­ pen­dence through her excessive exercise of ­house­hold ­labor: dinner prepared when food stood waiting, a midnight trip for just the right sip of w ­ ater, strenuous care taken over unused garments. Marked by the fastidiousness of the “old maid,” Louisa undertakes extensive domestic ­ labor, rendering ­ house­ work a private indulgence. Able-­bodied characters challenge aging expectations through their physical ability, channeling energy into domestic passions. In contrast, Wharton’s nearly stationary w ­ idow articulates her rich emotional empire through a single bow-­w indow view. Taken together, t­hese fictions deny any single narrative of decline and suggest that older single w ­ omen of all abilities, chronological ages, and life stages can feel pleas­ur­ably at home beyond the ­family. Yet later-­life singleness takes its toll; for the ailing Mrs. Manstey, defending her home proves an issue of life and death. Wharton reminds readers that such affective empires, like their occupants, are vulnerable. Such portrayals suggest that Brown’s text—­even as it combats decline narratives—­proj­ects an ideal of youthful old age, ableism, and in­de­pen­dence.95 Mrs. Lamson’s reclaimed personhood is enacted only through hidden youth, contingent on her able-­bodied self-­sufficiency. Single ­women’s emotional priorities are explic­itly degraded in ageist terms by their fictional communities. In Freeman’s text, Louisa’s chosen domestic commitments are recast by her f­uture mother-­in-­law and town alike as indulgences, “foolishness,” “senseless old maiden ways.”96 As a ­w idow installed in the ­family, Brown’s Mrs. Lamson responds to social constraint and infantilization, speaking of her own handi­work with “apology,” “dress[ing] with due deference,”97 and carefully containing emotional re­sis­tance, expressing herself fully only during time alone. In Wharton’s text, w ­ omen’s attachments to spatial control are pathologized as m ­ ental illness. Thus, short fictions built on w ­ omen’s single, spatial pleasures do not escape Love’s melancholy aesthetic. Even texts centered on emotional fulfillment continue to carry the weighty context of social dismissals and personal histories of loss.98 As Moganroth Gullette writes, “Anti-­ageist lit­er­a­ture challenges the grueling negativity and automaticity of decline but not by facing away from loss.”99 Mrs.  Manstey’s domestic pleasures exist alongside her widowed disappointments and alienation from the promises of ­family; Louisa’s exist beside her loneliness, fears of loss, and fantasies of vio­lence; Mrs. Lamson’s are bookended by constraint. None of the ­women are removed from their homes or abused for living


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alone, but the arbiters of proper domesticity—­the stories’ other w ­ omen—­pathologize and diagnose single domestic bliss. Though late-­l ife single sentiments resemble and appropriate True Womanhood, they are queered by their inward, individual emotional expression and aging eccentricity.100 The judgments levied upon t­ hese ­humble aspirations and pleasures by other characters—as crazy, ruinous, foolish, senseless, diseased—­reveal normative discomfort with single, aging domesticities. Sara Ahmed’s work reminds us that “display[s] of queer plea­sure may generate discomfort in spaces that remain premised on the ‘pleasures’ of heterosexuality.”101 The criticisms of t­ hese ­women show widespread, normative anxiety over their ability to feel at home in single housing, to take queer pleasures beyond marriage, motherhood, or ser­v ice to the f­amily and community. Older w ­ omen’s indulgent domestic pleasures prove anxious spectacles for communities that fret over any fulfillment found outside the ­family. Yet older ­women’s individual pleasures do not affect the normative logics that frame the world of the text: the dismissals and pathologizing of single w ­ omen in late life, the continuity of the romance plot and the f­ amily, and capitalism. Brown’s ­widow returns to the stifling ministrations of the ­family by story’s end. In Freeman’s text, Louisa’s single pleasures do not reshape or endanger the normative regimes that surround her small home. Though Louisa imagines Caesar—­and perhaps herself—on a rampage, both are carefully contained in a corner of the village. Her chosen single path affects no one ­else; she is quickly replaced as Dagget’s love object and source of female l­abor. The big new f­ amily h ­ ouse w ­ ill not go to waste. Importantly, in Wharton’s text, construction of the urban boarding­house extension renews ­after Mrs. Manstey’s death. Despite this forward march of normative time, texts remain haunted by meta­phors for older w ­ omen’s emotional power—by the specter of Caesar’s rampage, Mrs. Manstey’s match, and Mrs. Lamson’s concealed vigor. Single w ­ omen of all ages performed the nineteenth-­century tradition of ser­vice to the f­ amily and community, a central condition for their respectability and survival. This ­labor was naturalized, expected, and often unremunerated. In short, as Gullette puts it, “Patriarchy prefers to treat all w ­ omen as essentially and forever as volunteer caregivers.”102 But ­these par­tic­u­lar texts celebrate a set of eccentric domestic ­labors and pleasures explic­itly divorced from ­family, community, or reproductive futurity.103 This focus in no way challenges the insights about the contributions and value of queer singleness, in the literary figure of the avunculate or the regional spinster. Eve Sedgwick and Sarah Ensor have found, in the late ­century’s fictional spinsters, social, familial, and ecological contributions and potentials, alongside queer possibility.104 However, the fin de siècle domestic texts of female pleasure—­ and this essay—­sidestep portraits of the elastic f­ amily, the avunculate role, or single w ­ omen’s ser­v ice to ­either the ­family or c­ hildren. I follow Sarah Ahmed’s idea of balance between the potential of queerness to “transform what it is that families can do” and her warning that f­ amily should not be “held in place as an object in which we must all be invested.”105 Protected by the respectability of age, race, and even the allowable eccentricities of marginal w ­ omen “in decline,” t­ hese char-

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acters step deliberately away from the ­family, focusing instead on building, protecting, and representing their own emotional empires. ­These short fictions reclaim a slow, queer focus on lives beyond normative plots, unapologetically attending to older bodies, daily l­ abors, and pleasures.106 Elizabeth Freeman has demonstrated the ways in which temporal disruptions can unsettle ingrained “chromonormativity,” while Halberstam finds escapes from “reproductive time and f­amily time” in “strange temporalities, imaginative life schedules, and eccentric economic practices.”107 The home, notes Freeman, plays a key role in normative time: “The repetitions and routines of domestic life supposedly restored working men . . . ​renewing their bodies for reentry into the time of mechanized production and collective national destiny,” with ­human emotions in the domestic sphere acting as the industrial other, the “laboring body’s double.”108 In contrast, ­t hese texts move slowly, evade society, refuse marriage and f­amily ser­ vice, and deny l­ abor norms, reveling in ­house­hold l­ abor appropriated for personal plea­sure. Th ­ ese fictions return attention to bodies that have outlived, outwaited, or escaped the priorities of normative time. If chromonormativity is “the use of time to or­ga­nize individual h ­ uman bodies ­toward maximum productivity,” its antithesis may be found in the sewing, ripping, and resewing of Louisa’s unnecessary seams for plea­sure, and the slow appreciation of the changing view out a single win­dow.109 ­These three fin de siècle short fictions offer dif­fer­ent visions of ­middle and old age: the stifling protection of the ­family, the in­de­pen­dence of a cottage ­house­hold, and the contingency of the urban rental view. In­de­pen­dent spatial occupancy is alternately a brief escape, a habitual path, and a losing ­battle. But a more constant network of unmarked privilege allows the transgressions of each of t­ hese heroines: ­family resources pay for the country cottages in ways that spare all but chosen ­labor; White womanhood confers respectability across the range of economic conditions; and age and widowhood—or romantic “disappointment”—­diffuse any sexual threat and excuse the three from further marital expectation, if not fully from social decorum.110 Walking the line between compliant propriety and eccentricity, older w ­ omen manage to feel at home in single space. It is no surprise that, despite ­limited resources and marginalized age, a dramatically cheerier spinster affect is enjoyed by ­those exempt from the punishments visited on older single sexual and racial minorities. In short, two w ­ idows and a w ­ oman excused from marriage by her fiancé’s absence are granted White respectability and an exception from heterosexual imperatives.

Writing Later-­Life Domestic In­de­pen­dence, Writing Forward Informed by recent work in age studies, I argue for the specific impact of later-­life literary single figures on modern ­women’s spatial and material possibilities in the American fin de siècle. Though scholars have long acknowledged old maids and spinsters, an emerging singleness studies is just beginning to explore the complexity and contradictions of aging for the field.111 I suggest that through their “failed”


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relations to the ­family, production and reproduction, and ideals of health and utility, older female characters w ­ ere granted the exception to live respectably alone. Literary spinsters, old maids, and el­derly w ­ idows ­were allowed to inhabit domestic space in eccentric, in­de­pen­dent modes, at the forefront of the historical trend ­toward single occupancy. Short fictions resisted ste­reo­t ypes of older ­women—as declining, pathologized, infantilized—­even as they used other ste­reo­types to carve out a space of domestic exception. The association of advanced age with a backward-­ facing, traditional, respectable aesthetic enabled a pattern of single spatial transgressions. Respectable older w ­ omen ­were left to unchaperoned domestic space for their own enjoyment. It is thus crucial to add age as a category of analy­sis to single fictions, queer possibilities, and spatial histories. It is equally impor­tant to note the places in which aging fictions have reinforced racial and class privilege and ableist definitions of autonomy and health.112 Later-­life single fictions pointedly defy certain cultural narratives, while entrenching ­others. ­These short domestic fictions deny narratives of decline, de­pen­ dency, irrelevance, and depression and sidestep expected social vocations in order to focus on personal fulfillment. On the other hand, t­ hese texts reinforce idealizations of able-­bodied in­de­pen­dence, highlight conflicts—­rather than cooperation—­ between ­women, and center White, middle-­class domestic enjoyment. Though older ­women’s in­de­pen­dent domestic fictions cross class, region, and marital status in the fin de siècle, they are dominated by White ­women. Exuberant fin de siècle “shelter fictions” are permitted their domestic liberties via naturalized White, aged respectability. Although Black ­women of the period ­were more likely to be single—­whether never married, separated, or widowed—­t hey ­were unlikely to appear in joyously queered visions of solitary domestic indulgence.113 Scholars have explored the many ways in which Black and White middle-­class social structures surveilled and controlled single ­women’s freedom, desire, and sexuality.114 Kent has noted the prevalence of literary Black w ­ idows, suggesting the importance of mar­ idows in fiction appeared at the center of ried respectability.115 Respectable Black w the f­ amily and community. If, for example, we look to Pauline Hopkins’s Black ­family romance, Contending Forces (1900), we find Black ­w idows heading the ­family, ­running a respectable, po­liti­cally active boarding­house, and leading racial uplift efforts. Black ­widows ­were often represented as devoted community fixtures rather than as solitary w ­ omen indulging in private occupancy. Sianne Ngai argues that American society “from the antebellum period forward has found it compelling to imagine the racialized subject as an excessively emotional and expressive subject.”116 Repre­sen­ta­tions of Black single ­women enjoying self-­interested domestic indulgence w ­ ere an unacceptable risk in the period. A privileged subset of older White single characters did escape ser­v ice to the ­family and community, departing from the nineteenth-­century model for respectable single womanhood. Wharton’s Mrs.  Manstey refuses to join her ­daughter and “feign[s] an interest” in her visitors, devoted only to the emotional rewards of her backyard world.117 Wilkins Freeman’s Louisa uses the guest china and better food and clothing to please herself, rejecting the imperative to entertain, to marry,

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to care for older in-­laws. Even the w ­ idow Lamson, who dutifully obeys her young ­family members, receives their ministrations with “impatience,” “tickled to death” to have dominion over the h ­ ouse for an eve­ning.118 ­These single texts retain focus on private space, remaining almost entirely within the home. Their central ­figures find fulfillment neither in ­family devotion nor from cooperative living, cross-­generational collaboration, or community building. They focus on personal pleasures, ­house­hold routines, and private vistas, modeling pleas­ur­able single domesticity. If the individual emotional realms created by Wharton, Freeman, and Brown threaten but do not alter their fictional communities, what is the significance of ­t hese affective texts for histories of singleness and emotion? ­There ­were certainly more direct interventions on behalf of single ­women. Chambers-­Schiller cites the found­ers of utopian communities, and d ­ ying ­women who left money to establish homes for poor spinsters.119 Writing in her seventies, Catharine Beecher celebrated professions and homes that would enable ­women to act as a “Christ-­ mother” who might “take in neglected ones, and train ­f uture ­mothers, teachers, and missionaries for the world.”120 ­There are also interventionist single aging fictions in the period: Helen Stuart Campbell and Charlotte Perkins Gilman penned fictional models of mentoring, community building, and cap­i­tal­ist maternalism.121 Corinne T. Field describes Gilman’s work to encourage “altruistic” older w ­ omen beyond child-­rearing who “could therefore shift energy from personal to social concerns.”122 Socially minded, singly blessed ­women contributed generously to their families, to their communities, and to other single w ­ omen as well. In contrast, Wharton, Freeman, and Brown portray mature, contented single characters laboring for themselves: in pursuit of solitude, in rejection of the ­family and social ties, enabled by race, age, and resources. Chambers-­Schiller notes that “the economic and social opportunities available to spinsters and bachelors affect their numbers, as does the social stigma (or lack thereof) attached to singlehood.”123 Though they eschewed communal responsibility or activism, t­ hese portrayals of the solitary, emotionally fulfilling worlds of midlife and late-­life single ­women offered impor­tant single domestic pre­ce­dents. Such fictions represent and circulate the intense, detailed, emotional experience of single occupancy, creating pre­ce­dents and “emotional communities” for other ­women.124 Turning to William Reddy’s work in the history of emotions, we can locate in ­women’s modes of domestic feeling resistant alternatives to normative “emotional regimes” that condition ­women’s plea­sure upon ser­v ice to the ­family.125 Such normative regimes are represented in the text by the social, familial, and romantic voices that censure the expression and value of older w ­ omen’s feelings. Through her domestic plea­sure and suffering, the older female character is rendered a vis­i­ble and empathetic subject for readers. The form of short fiction highlights architectural affects, centering single dwelling through a detailed, focused exploration of the emotional and embodied experience of in­de­pen­dent occupancy. Set in one space, focused on one w ­ oman feeling at home, each story’s domestic privacy provides a broadly accessible “emotional refuge” for characters and readers alike.126


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I propose that the spatial and emotional in­de­pen­dence of an older generation of ­women provides a sturdy foundation for an emerging discourse on single life. ­These stories represented the experience of alternative domesticities for an emerging group of single w ­ omen without an articulated identity politics or community. Together with didactic novels, fictions, and popular-­press publications about roommates, ­women’s clubs, apartment life, and home building, t­hese texts projected new ways to live outside the f­ amily. Writing on queer counterpublics, Michael Warner suggests that material “addressed to a public must characterize the world in which it attempts to circulate, projecting for that world a concrete and livable shape, and attempting to realize that world through address.”127 As a counterpublic, ­l imited by mainstream re­sis­tance to ­women’s writing, autonomy, and maturity, ­these short fictions proj­ect single domestic possibilities to their i­ magined audience through the emotional experience of single occupancy. Fin de siècle fictions of ­middle and old age model domestic pleasures, invoking a single female counterpublic grounded in the feeling of in­de­pen­dent occupancy. This work is done without the explicit, selfless devotion to ­f uture generations so often expected from ­women. If, as Fraiman points out, “the history of the novel is full of w ­ omen burdened by a stifling or terrifying domesticity,” accounts of older w ­ omen feeling at home introduced a new set of architectural affects, positive possibilities for living outside both marriage and the ­family.128 In the new ­century, public attention would turn ­toward the exciting image of urban working girls who would leave the f­amily, build c­ areers, and make homes with roommates or alone in hall bedrooms. But before this surge in bachelor-­girl narratives, the spinsters, w ­ idows, and maiden aunts—­long established in literary margins—­had made their own move into fictional centers. A number of midlife and old ­women had achieved the challenging, often contingent move beyond the ­family, providing material and fictional pre­ce­dents for ­women’s in­de­pen­dent occupancy. In biographical and literary writings about domestic in­de­pen­dence, ­widows and never-­married w ­ omen of all ages shared their new relations to domestic space as o ­ wners, renters, or guests.129 Relying on the presumption that older ­women w ­ ere beyond moral danger, short fictions explored single lives well underway, detailing the lives of propertied or in­de­pen­dently h ­ oused w ­ omen. ­These early, embodied, emotional experiences of single space ­were a catalyst for the broader transformation of w ­ omen from ­future wives into long-­term roommates, renters, and ­owners. At a key period for the demographic and social emergence of single ­women, affective explorations of domestic space by writers like Wharton, Freeman, and Brown restructured and replaced familiar narratives, setting a pre­ce­dent for an emerging literary architecture of singleness. Concerns about the f­ uture marked emerging narratives about youthful single life.130 Modern urban fictions ­were ner­vously forward looking, fully aware of ­house­hold costs and the missing structural supports of marriage. Th ­ ese fictions are marked by uncertain forward-­looking perspectives; Dreiser’s ­Sister Carrie articulates an anxious uncertainty about young working girls who “did not exactly count on marriage,” while Wharton’s Lily Bart “long[s]” for “anything strange,

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remote, and untried,” a shared inability to envision a workable life beyond familial support.131 Single ­women share significant structural commonalities, from work inside and outside the f­ amily to the pursuit of stable domestic space and strug­gles with dominant narratives of True Womanhood, marriage, and aging. If t­ here has been a critical silence about single old age, ­t here is no textual silence. Young, unmarried fictional w ­ omen pondered the sustainability of in­de­pen­dence, of rental housing, of extramarital romantic and platonic intimacies, and of l­ abor and vocation. Novels about young working ­women are haunted by the ­future, while midlife and late-­life single texts are implicitly pointed t­ oward current and f­ uture generations. As young single w ­ omen delayed or opted out of the marital rite of passage, they sidestepped the central requirement for adulthood and necessarily began to anticipate alternate life trajectories and narrative ends. Single midlife to late-­life narratives provided a resource and pre­ce­dent. In discussing the formation of new spatial and relational orientations, Ahmed writes: “What takes my breath away, are not so much the giddy experiences of moving and the disorientation of being out of place, but the ways we have of settling; that is, of inhabiting spaces that . . . ​a re unfamiliar but that we can imagine—­ sometimes with fear, other times with desire—­might come to feel like home.”132 The fin de siècle short fictions that showed single older ­women feeling at home led the way for such modern imagining of in­de­pen­dent homes. The next generation of single ­women responded in kind, with a series of fictions that celebrated, longed for, and fought to feel at home outside the ­family. The twentieth ­century would witness a dramatic demand for new forms of housing. An indebted younger generation of working girls and New W ­ omen, who dominated the imagination of the modern period, built an expanding lit­er­a­ture of singleness upon the private emotional occupancy of the previous generation. The canonical single characters of modern American fiction would follow the footsteps of an ­earlier generation’s emotional articulations: ­Sister Carrie’s rapture over a “fine arrangement of chambers,” Lily Bart’s bachelor-­flat inspiration, and Edna Pontellier’s pigeon-­house passions in Kate Chopin’s 1899 The Awakening.133 Still other fictions would refigure the private domestic realm, exploring working ­women’s cooperatives, the Black lodging ­house, and immigrant settlements and tenements. Centered in the short fictions of the fin de siècle, the sustained presence of older ­women in in­de­pen­dent domestic spaces illustrates both the firm possibility and the continued contingency of an architecture of singleness.

notes Chapter title: Mary Wilkins Freeman, “A New ­England Nun,” in The Norton Anthology of American Lit­er­a­ture, Volume C, 1865-­–1914, 7th ed., eds. Nina Baym, Jeanne Campbell Reesman, Arnold Krupat (1891; repr., New York: W. W. Norton, 2007), 634. 1. ​Carl Degler, At Odds: W ­ omen and the F ­ amily in Amer­i­ca from the Revolution to the Pre­ sent (New York: Harper and Row, 1984), 152. This refers to unmarried ­women ­until 1980, the last year considered. 2. ​Theodore Dreiser, ­Sister Carrie (1900; repr., New York: Bantam Books, 1958), 14. 3. ​Dreiser, 14.


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4. ​The “literary architecture of singleness” refers to the intertwined emergence of the single w ­ oman, domestic rental architecture, and the modern novel beginning just before the American twentieth ­century. See Katherine A. Fama, “The Single Architecture of Contending Forces: Lodging In­de­pen­dent W ­ omen in Pauline  E. Hopkins’s ‘­Little Romance,’ ” MELUS: Multi-­Ethnic Lit­e r­at­ ure of the United States 41, no. 4 (Winter 2016): 196–221. 5. ​Edith Wharton, “Mrs. Manstey’s View,” in Edith Wharton Collected Stories, 1891–1910, ed. Maureen Howard (New York: Library of Amer­i­ca, 2001), 4. 6. ​Sari Edelstein, Adulthood and Other Fictions: American Lit­er­a­ture and the Unmaking of Age (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), 5; Kathleen Woodward, “Age-­Work in American Culture,” American Literary History 6, no. 4 (1994): 788. 7. ​Jeanette King, Discourses of Ageing in Fiction and Feminism: The Invisible ­Woman (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 11. 8. ​King, 9, 11. 9. ​Edelstein, Adulthood and Other Fictions, 14–15. For a broader discussion of adulthood as a complex category of social privilege, see Edelstein’s argument that “adulthood was not merely withheld from white w ­ omen and all p ­ eople of color; it was also a status that one could outgrow if one lived long enough” (15). 10. ​Margaret Morganroth Gullette, Aged by Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 106. Age studies provide tools for combating both the erasure of older ­women and the decline narratives that characterize midlife and ­later life by establishing “the priority of culture in constructing age” (106). 11. ​Kathryn Kent, “ ‘Single White Female’: The Sexual Politics of Spinsterhood in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Oldtown Folks,” American Lit­er­a­ture 69, no. 1 (March 1997): 33. 12. ​King, Discourses of Ageing in Fiction and Feminism, 10, 223. For the naming, definition, and context of the midlife w ­ oman and the “postmaternal w ­ oman” beyond child-­rearing, see Margaret Morganroth Gullette, “Inventing the ‘Postmaternal; W ­ oman, 1898–1927: Idle, Unwanted, and Out of a Job,” Feminist Studies 21, no. 2 (Summer 1995): 221–253. 13. ​Gullette, “Inventing the ‘Postmaternal” ­Woman,” 246. 14. ​Gullette, Aged by Culture, 107. 15. ​I want to be specific about the contours of singleness and aging, as both normative and queer. Singleness studies continues to benefit from queer and feminist work, but the specificity of single should not be subsumed within queer too easily. 16. ​Kent, “ ‘Single White Female,’ ” 41. 17. ​Heather Love, “Gyn/Apology: Sarah Orne Jewett’s Spinster Aesthetics,” ESQ: A Journal of the American Re­nais­sance 55, no. 3–4 (2009): 312. 18. ​Love, 313. 19. ​Love, 329. 20. ​By regional lit­er­a­ture, I reference the broad range of writings outside the recognized urban centers of modern production, works that consciously engaged local and regional concerns, places, and cultures and w ­ ere long dismissed as genre writings or “local color.” The preponderance of older ­women in modern American regionalism has been well documented. For an overview of the older w ­ oman as meta­phor for a receding regional world, see Edelstein, Adulthood and Other Fictions, and Jennifer Ansley, “Geographies of Intimacy in Mary Wilkins Freeman’s Short Fiction,” New E ­ ngland Quarterly 87, no. 3 (September 2014): 434–463. 21. ​Caroline Gebhard, “The Spinster in the House of American Criticism,” Tulsa Studies in ­Women’s Lit­er­at­ ure 10, no. 1 (Spring 1991): 79–91. 22. ​Gebhard, 82. 23. ​Gebhard, 85. 24. ​Gebhard, 87. 25. ​Kent, “ ‘Single White Female,’ ” 41. 26. ​Kent, 54. 27. ​­Virginia Lee Chambers-­Schiller, “ ‘­Woman Is Born to Love’: The Maiden Aunt as Maternal Figure in Ante-­bellum Lit­er­a­ture,” Frontiers: A Journal of ­Women Studies 10, no. 1 (1988): 41.

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Chambers-­Schiller has examined the role of the antebellum “maiden aunt” as model maternal complement and helper, tracing her nineteenth-­century devotion to the ­family, her idealized perspective, and later-­century suspicions of her role. 28. ​­Virginia Lee Chambers-­Schiller, Liberty, a Better Husband: Single ­Women in Amer­ i­ca: The Generations of 1780–1840 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984), 1, 3. 29. ​Chambers-­Schiller, 157. 30. ​Chambers-­Schiller, 208. 31. ​Susan B. Anthony, “Homes of Single ­Women,” in The Elizabeth Cady Stanton–­Susan B. Anthony Reader: Correspondence, Writings, Speeches, ed. Ellen Carol DuBois (1877; repr., Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1992), 148 (emphasis in original). 32. ​Anthony, 147. 33. ​Anthony, 151. 34. ​Anthony, 146. 35. ​While Chambers-­Schiller has collected literary and cultural accounts of single ­women, I emphasize the role of fictional repre­sen­ta­tion. American fictions that explore single ­women are, from the late nineteenth ­century forward, disproportionately focused on domestic space. To generalize, nineteenth-­century single ­women dream of in­de­pen­dent housing, and fin de siècle and early twentieth-­century single w ­ omen pursue, secure, and fight to keep such housing. 36. ​Anthony, “Homes of Single W ­ omen,” 147. 37. ​Anthony, 147 38. ​“The El­derly Heroine,” Harper’s Bazaar (November 17, 1894), 918, American Periodicals Database. 39. ​Edelstein, Adulthood and Other Fictions, 1. 40. ​Edelstein, 9. Of course, Edelstein also notes the ways in which the novel “creates, enforces, and circulates normative ideas about development and age” (9). 41. ​Jack Halberstam, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (New York: New York University Press, 2005), 14. 42. ​Benjamin Kahan, Celibacies: American Modernism and Sexual Life (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013), 8. 43. ​The domestic flexibility experienced by later-­life single ­women was variable and historically situated, shifting de­cade by de­cade between sexual anxiety about midlife widowed ­women and re­spect for war­time ­w idows, and cycling through panics about queer never-­ married ­women. For a discussion of the relative advantage of British ­widows over spinsters, see Emma Liggins, Odd W ­ omen? Spinsters, Lesbians and W ­ idows in British ­Women’s Fiction, 1850s–1930s (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014), 30–36. 44. ​Wharton, “Mrs. Manstey’s View,” 4. 45. ​Susan Fraiman, “Shelter Writing: Desperate House­keeping from Crusoe to Queer Eye,” New Literary History 37, no. 2 (Spring 2006): 341. 46. ​Fraiman, 341. 47. ​Edelstein, Adulthood and Other Fictions, 2. 48. ​Julie Taylor, “Introduction,” in Modernism and Affect, ed. Julie Taylor (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), 1. 49. ​Woodward (“Age-­Work in American Culture,” 791) suggests that anger is the dominant emotional response, while Love (“Gyn/Apology”) suggests a range of emotions mark the queer “spinster aesthetic, including “melancholy” and “loneliness” (312). 50. ​Alice Brown, “Heartsease,” Atlantic Monthly, October 1894, 506. 51. ​Brown, 505. 52. ​Brown, 505. 53. ​Brown, 505. 54. ​Brown, 507. 55. ​Brown, 508. 56. ​Brown, 505, 506, 507.


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57. ​Brown, 508. 58. ​Brown, 508. 59. ​Brown, 510. 60. ​Brown, 508. 61. ​Brown, 508. 62. ​Wilkins Freeman, “A New E ­ ngland Nun,” 627. 63. ​Wilkins Freeman, 627. 64. ​Wilkins Freeman, 631, 630. 65. ​Wilkins Freeman, 631. 66. ​Wilkins Freeman, 630. 67. ​Wilkins Freeman, 627. 68. ​Wilkins Freeman, 627. 69. ​Wilkins Freeman, 628–629. 70. ​Wilkins Freeman, 632. 71. ​Wilkins Freeman, 630. 72. ​Wilkins Freeman, 630. 73. ​Wilkins Freeman, 630. 74. ​Wilkins Freeman, 634. 75. ​Wilkins Freeman, 626, 627. 76. ​Wilkins Freeman, 628. 77. ​Wilkins Freeman, 630, 628. 78. ​Wilkins Freeman, 630. 79. ​Wilkins Freeman, 629. 80. ​Wilkins Freeman, 629. 81. ​Wharton, “Mrs. Manstey’s View,” 1, 7, 1. 82. ​Wharton, 3. 83. ​Wharton, 2. 84. ​Wharton, 9. 85. ​Wharton, 1. 86. ​Wharton, 1, 3. 87. ​Wharton, 2. 88. ​Wharton, 2. 89. ​Wharton, 4. 90. ​Wharton, 4. 91. ​Wharton, 7, 8. 92. ​Wharton, 4. 93. ​Wharton, 1, 7, 10. 94. ​Wharton, 1. 95. ​See Edelstein, Adulthood and Other Fictions, for sustained analy­sis of the trou­ble with celebratory models of able-­bodied, healthy, self-­sufficient old age, and Andreá Williams in this collection for the dangers of championing single in­de­pen­dence. 96. ​Wilkins Freeman, “A New ­England Nun,” 630, 631. 97. ​Brown, “Heartsease,” 505. 98. ​Love, “Gyn/Apology,” 313. 99. ​Margaret Morganroth Gullette, Agewise: Fighting the New Ageism in Amer­i­ca (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), 209. 100. ​Barbara Welter, “The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820–1860,” American Quarterly 18, no. 2, pt. 1 (Summer 1966): 152. Nineteenth-­century True Womanhood, as defined by Welter, was characterized by “piety, purity, submissiveness and domesticity.” Welter notes that, though domesticity described the marital ­house­hold, exceptions ­were granted to the singly blessed who committed selflessly to ­family and community. 101. ​Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2004; repr., Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014), 165.

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102. ​Margaret Morganroth Gullette, “Valuing ‘Postmaternity’ as a Revolutionary Feminist Concept,” Feminist Studies 28, no. 3 (Autumn 2002): 556. 103. ​For further reading on “reproductive futurity” as the often-­internalized demand for po­liti­cal and personal action to remain in ser­v ice to the f­ uture, specifically that of the child, see Lee Edelman, No F ­ uture Queer Theory and the Death Drive (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007). 104. ​For the communal and familial contributions of single queer figures, see the model of the avunculate aunts and ­uncles who left “space for nonconformity,” reflecting relational possibilities beyond reproduction, in Eve Sedgwick, “Tales of the Avunculate: Queer Tutelage in The Importance of Being Earnest,” in Tendencies (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), 63. See also Sarah Ensor, “Spinster Ecol­ogy: Rachel Carson, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Nonreproductive Fertility,” American Lit­er­a­ture 84, no. 2 (January 2012): 409–435. 105. ​Ahmed, Cultural Politics of Emotion, 154. 106. ​The idea that the form of short fiction is particularly suited for queer repre­sen­ta­tion is discussed by Christopher Looby, “Queer Short Stories in Nineteenth-­Century Amer­i­ca,” in The Man Who Thought Himself a ­Woman and Other Queer Nineteenth-­Century Short Stories (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017), vii–­v iii. 107. ​Elizabeth Freeman, Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 3; Halberstam, In a Queer Time and Place, 10, 1. 108. ​Freeman, Time Binds, 5, 6. 109. ​Freeman, 3. 110. ​Liggins (Odd ­Women, 36) discusses the ways in which “this balance between respectability and celibacy was guaranteed by their married names (and maternal roles),” arguing “­widows could capitalise on their freedom and reap the benefits of living without husbands, diminishing the threat of abnormality.” 111. ​Though many singleness studies texts mention age, it is rarely a central category of analy­sis. Edelstein (Adulthood and Other Fictions, 2, 100) argues that age “remains conspicuously absent from scholarly discussions of nineteenth-­century American lit­er­a­ture and culture, specifically in terms of writing on singleness.” Both Edelstein, writing about nineteenth-­century American aging fictions, and Liggins, in her history of Victorian and modern British single ­women, consider the intertwined categories of age and singleness. 112. ​I lean heavi­ly on the work of Edelstein, Gullette, and Woodward, all of whom have traced the medicalization and marginalization of ­later life, while si­mul­ta­neously troubling narratives of ability and in­de­pen­dence, and acknowledging sites of privilege in race and class. 113. ​See demographic work on Black single ­women in New York by Jane  E. Dabel, A Respectable ­Woman: The Public Roles of African American ­Women in 19th-­Century New York (New York: New York University Press, 2008). 114. ​See Hazel Carby, “Policing the Black ­Woman’s Body in an Urban Context,” Critical Inquiry 18, no. 4 (1992): 738–755; and Jane Dabel, A Respectable ­Woman. 115. ​Kent, “ ‘Single White Female,’ ” 22. 116. ​Sianne Ngai, Ugly Feelings (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), 7. 117. ​Wharton, “Mrs. Manstey’s View,” 3. 118. ​Brown, “Heartsease,” 507–508. 119. ​Chambers-­Schiller, Liberty, a Better Husband, 212. 120. ​Catharine Beecher, “Comfort for a Discouraged House­keeper,” in Miss Beecher’s House­keeper and Healthkeeper: Containing Five Hundred R ­ ecipes for Eco­nom­ical and Healthful Cooking; also Many Directions for Securing Health and Happiness (New York: Harpers and ­Brothers, 1873). 121. ​Helen Stuart Campbell, Miss Melinda’s Opportunity: A Story (Boston: Roberts ­Brothers, 1886); Charlotte Perkins Gilman, What Diantha Did, intro. Charlotte  J. Rich (1909–1910; repr., Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005). 122. ​Corinne T. Field, “ ‘What Does Come ­After?’: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Speculative Sociology of Aging,” Studies in American Fiction 46, no.  2 (Fall 2019): 297, 294. It is worth


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noting that Field demonstrates the raced, classed, and ableist dimensions of Gilman’s efforts to “write [educated] old maids, middle-­aged matrons, and grand­mothers into evolutionary narratives of social change,” noting that their utility depended on “avoiding . . . ​the conditions associated with old age” and on ser­vice to a par­tic­u­lar ideal of Anglo-­Saxon civilization. 123. ​Chambers-­Schiller, Liberty, a Better Husband, 2. 124. ​For more on emotional communities, see Barbara Rosenwein, “Worrying about Emotions in History,” American Historical Review 107, no. 3 (2002): 821–845. 125. ​William Reddy, The Navigation of Feeling: Framework for a History of Emotions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 124–129. 126. ​Reddy, 129. 127. ​M ichael Warner, “Publics and Counterpublics,” Public Culture 14, no.  1 (January 2002): 81. 128. ​Fraiman, “Shelter Writing,” 341. 129. ​From the early boarding­house novels of Catharine Maria Sedgwick (A New-­England Tale, 1822; Hope Leslie, 1827; and Married or Single?, 1857), Nathaniel Hawthorne (The House of Seven Gables, 1851), and Fanny Fern (Ruth Hall, 1855) at midcentury, to the modern boarding­ house, lodging ­house, and apartment novels that followed, fiction explored single ­women’s emerging access to in­de­pen­dent domestic spaces, to homes outside the f­ amily. For key writings on w ­ omen’s literary architectures of singleness in the American context, see Judith Fryer, Felicitous Space: The Imaginative Structures of Edith Wharton and Willa Cather (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986); Wendy Gamber, The Boarding­house in Nineteenth-­Century Amer­i­ca (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007); Elizabeth Klimasmith, At Home in the City: Urban Domesticity in American Lit­e r­a­ture and Culture, 1850–1930 (Lebanon, NH: University of New Hampshire Press, 2009); Joanne Meyero­w itz, ­Women Adrift: In­de­pen­dent Wage Earners in Chicago, 1880–1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006); Erin Sweeney, “Boarding­house Fiction and the American ­Family in the Boarding-­House of the Seven Gables,” J19: Journal of Nineteenth-­Century Americanists 4, no. 2 (2016): 331–357; Michelle Gaffner Wood, “Inhabiting the Liminal: The Architecture of Single Life in Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s Fiction,” in Liminality, Hybridity, and American ­Women’s Lit­er­at­ ure: Thresholds in ­Women’s Writing, ed. Kristin J. Jacobson, Kristin Allukian, Rickie-­ Ann Legleitner, and Leslie Allison (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 125–144, e-­book. 130. ​P ublic anxiety swirled over the fate of young “­women adrift” and the public and commercial nature of the lodging h ­ ouses and boarding­houses that ­housed them. See Meyero­ witz, ­Women Adrift. Controversy also surrounded turn-­of-­century texts that explored in­de­ pen­dent domestic space, from ­Sister Carrie to Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (1899). 131. ​Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905; repr., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 99. 132. ​Sara Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, ­Others (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 10. 133. ​Theodore Dreiser, ­Sister Carrie (1900; repr., New York: Signet Classic, 2009), 234.

chapter 9

“Spinsters’ Rest”? the discomforts of home in british ­women’s short stories of the 1920s to the 1940s Emma Liggins

Ideologies of the home as a haven for f­ amily life dominated ways of thinking about privacy in the early twentieth c­ entury, even as Victorian gendered distinctions between public and private spheres continued to break down. Yet, in the postwar world, single or “surplus” ­women ­were increasingly liberated from the ­family home, with its rules and regulations, and ­were fashioning homes of their own. In her feminist tract The ­Women’s Side (1926), Clemence Dane argued for the validity of singleness. Paradoxically, she also claimed that the “odd w ­ oman” chafes against her oddity; “she wants to fall in love and make a home with a man and have c­ hildren by him.”1 At a time when ­women’s attitudes ­toward the home ­were shifting, what did it mean to “make a home” without a man or c­ hildren? How did changes in the domestic ideal impact on single w ­ omen, often positioned outside the ­family unit and unable to afford the new suburban h ­ ouses available to the m ­ iddle classes? In her discussion of the sanctioning of “narrative and material spaces outside the ­family” in the writing of in­de­pen­dent Black American ­women, Katherine A. Fama has highlighted the importance of an emerging “architecture of singleness” in the celebratory portraits of fin de siècle lodging h ­ ouses.2 I pursue this notion of the “architecture of singleness” in short fiction written by middle-­class White British female authors about the housing experiences of working ­women struggling to survive on l­imited incomes. In both Britain and the United States in the early twentieth ­century, new forms of habitation for single ­women, particularly lodging h ­ ouses and flats, prompted the telling of new stories about dwelling and singleness. The working ­woman’s occupation of private space became a key concern of modernist fiction. Feminist critics have identified the meanings of privacy as central to understandings of modernity. Noting the transgressive nature of the single ­woman’s increased access to the public sphere, Emma Sterry has usefully highlighted the prob­lems of assuming that this constituted a “refusal to be contained within the 157


Emm a Liggins

home.” As she elaborates, single w ­ omen very much occupied domestic spaces and so “­were therefore still negotiating domestic scripts,” a negotiation that deserves further consideration.3 Victoria Rosner’s impor­tant discussions of the “architectural dynamics of privacy and exposure” 4 that underpin modernist fiction by well-­k nown figures such as ­Virginia Woolf and Jean Rhys can be developed in relation to other ­women writers who recorded their observations on the spinster’s self-­fashioning of private space. As Rosner notes, “spatial arrangements” and detailed repre­sen­ta­tions of domestic interiors became essential to modernism, as the “reor­ga­ni­za­tion of home life,” the emergence of new domesticities, mirrored broader social changes.5 In order to accommodate herself into modernity, the spinster had to set her h ­ ouse in order; the difficulties of d ­ oing this on a l­ imited income are played out in diverse ways. Domestic scripts do not always fit with her troubled occupation of space. This chapter explores repre­sen­ta­tions of new architectural configurations such as the rented flat and the boarding­house aimed at single w ­ omen, and the diverse ways in which they functioned as settings in w ­ omen’s short stories between the 1920s and the 1940s. Despite coupling singleness with the cherished in­de­pen­dence of the ­woman worker, modernist short stories exposed rented domestic space as fragile, troubling, claustrophobic, and dark. W ­ omen who pay for their own rooms are shown as unable to enjoy them, or taunted for their oddity, in recompense for the threat they pose to the normalized f­ amily unit. Debates within singleness studies have often centered on definitions of the single w ­ oman, w ­ hether it is more revealing to group together the never-­married or to include ­w idows and divorcees within a broader conceptualization of potentially outcast ­women. As I have argued elsewhere, the spinster or odd ­woman (derogatory labels for never-­married ­women) clearly shared her perceived oddity and abnormality with w ­ idows and lesbians, all of whom w ­ ere used to challenge heteronormative assumptions and paradigms.6 Yet the spinster can also usefully be examined in terms of her distinct identity and threatening of the heterosexual economy, particularly in relation to her overturning of notions of the ideal home. Spinster fiction, with its explorations of the alternative destinies available for w ­ omen outside marriage, became a recognizable subgenre in the early twentieth ­century.7 Developing from the New ­Woman fiction of the 1880s and 1890s, which sometimes challenged the marriage plot by allowing young working w ­ omen to remain f­ree from the constraints of patriarchal partnerships, spinster novels and stories became popu­lar in both Britain and the United States as the number of surplus ­women in society steadily increased. Having proved themselves more than capable of taking on men’s jobs during the First World War, British w ­ omen did not all retreat from the workplace as is sometimes suggested, preferring to assert their in­de­pen­dence by the continued occupation of the public sphere. In a genre that specialized in documenting marginality, the single w ­ oman, usually a figure who moves between the workplace and the home, could take center stage. Short stories about spinsters allowed ­women writers to imagine the possibilities  of alternative domesticities. The spinster’s home can be seen as one of the

“S p i n s t e r s ’ R e s t ”?


“in-­between” or transitional spaces identified by Claire Drewery as typical settings of modernist short fiction, which accord with its preoccupation with liminality.8 Snapshots of t­hese transient abodes, where a coveted privacy was often hard to achieve but certainly pos­si­ble, captured the contradictions of living outside the normalized, yet illusory, “ideal home.” Fama contends that the single ­woman’s abode can signify a “stable domesticity and community,” yet its sustainability is often ­limited by “the contingency of [her] spatial in­de­pen­dence.”9 Terri Mullholland has argued that “single rooms can be both liberating and imprisoning, and sometimes both si­mul­ta­neously,” with boarding­house narratives reflecting “the wider spatial, economic and sexual constraints placed on ­women living alone in the city.”10 The se­lection of stories discussed in this chapter primarily focus on ­women’s sole occupancy of flats and boarding­houses for the purposes of developing discussions of the spatial constraints impacting on single w ­ omen. By comparing t­ hese vignettes of the single dwelling with anx­i­eties about the unfulfilling home life of the unmarried in nonfictional accounts of the period, I argue that, as in New ­Woman fiction, the unwelcoming spinster flats and rooms depicted in modernist ­women’s short fiction both reflected and refracted dominant ways of thinking about the oddity and dangers of sole occupancy of space for working w ­ omen. The abode of the modern British single ­woman was often represented as a haunted or disturbing space, associated with emptiness, alienation, and discomfort, or inducing feelings of trauma and lack. As the number of lodging h ­ ouses grew and the New W ­ oman’s dreams of freedom seemed to be attainable with the extension of the suffrage to w ­ omen over age thirty in 1918, modernist ­women writers still had to tread a fine line between openly celebrating the benefits of the spinster flat and dismissing single occupancy as out of reach both financially and morally. The first two stories I examine center on the overworked spinster as a figure of lack, whose sterility is mirrored in her architectural space. Katherine Mansfield’s “Miss Brill” (1922) exposes the darkness of the spinster’s dingy bedsit, a claustrophobic retreat from a society made up of c­ ouples. Clemence Dane’s “Spinsters’ Rest” (1926) uses the fantastic mode to explore the single ­woman’s attitudes to her own childlessness. The fairy-­tale h ­ ouse, haven for single w ­ omen, beckons the exhausted Miss Pawle t­ oward its phantom nursery, which taunts her with her lost maternity. Stories of the 1930s and 1940s have more to say about the isolation and lack of privacy of living in flats. May Sinclair’s “The Pin-­Prick” (1930) traces the sudden death of its “queer” heroine back to her single occupancy of a London studio, where she becomes an object of ridicule and concern to her neighbors. As war­time stories in which domesticity is threatened, Elizabeth Bowen’s “The Inherited Clock” (1944) and Rose Macaulay’s “Miss Anstruther’s Letters” (1942) figure the single w ­ oman’s occupation of domestic space as makeshift, dissatisfying, and easily invaded by unwanted ­others.

Female Singleness and Home Life The home life of the single w ­ oman became a par­tic­u ­lar concern at a time when “ideal homes” and “homes fit for heroes,” both catchphrases of the interwar period,


Emm a Liggins

­ ere presumed to be or­ga­nized around the traditional male-­headed nuclear ­family. w Census statistics show that the losses of the First World War increased the number of surplus ­women in Britain, whose inability to find husbands, seen in terms of failure and lack, was partly due to the diminished number of available men.11 As Deborah  L. Parsons has noted, the wider availability of bedsits and self-­ contained flats, as well as the new women-­only boarding­houses established at the turn of the ­century, w ­ ere aimed at educated working ­women, helping to legitimize their position in urban culture.12 Katherine Holden has analyzed “the range of housing possibilities” available for the growing numbers of single men and ­women in the first half of the twentieth c­ entury, arguing that t­ hese “offered the possibility for single ­people to form significant relationships and friendships, which, ­because they did not conform to the model of a nuclear ­family, have been largely invisible.”13 As ­Virginia Nicholson concurs, at a time when rules for living ­were being reinvented, “the nuclear ­family was not the only way . . . ​one could . . . ​live differently.”14 Living differently and reaping its advantages was often, however, dependent on income and could expose single ­women to censure and criticism. As Mullholland has argued, “Accommodation for the single w ­ oman is never discussed in its own terms, but is constantly set against the ideal of the private home, where ­family values and moral behaviour are upheld.”15 ­Family homes, increasingly available to own as h ­ ouse prices fell, w ­ ere privileged over the rooms rented by the unattached, widely perceived to foster promiscuity and immorality as well as loneliness. Transformations in the domestic ideal, as well as its contradictions, ­were apparent in cultural debates in the interwar period. Notions of the “ideal home,” according to Deborah Sugg Ryan, influenced suburban housing design and interior decoration.16 Homemaking was celebrated as a socially acceptable form of female creativity, with wives encouraged to center their identities in the ­family and the domestic realm. ­These ideologies ­were promoted in magazine articles, medical texts, and advice lit­er­a­ture aimed at ­women. In The Ideal Home and Its Prob­lems (1911), an advice text made up of articles that first appeared in the British press, Mrs. Eustace Miles (Hallie Killick) revealed some of the assumptions about the domestic ideal and its supposed exclusion of women-­only ­house­holds. She claimed: The complete home must moreover contain a masculine ele­ment, men or boys, and the most ordinary type of home has ­children, though t­here can be true homes without ­children. Marriage is not necessary to form a home. A ­sister may set up home for a ­brother; an aunt can set up a home for nephews and nieces; but the home of two ­women, excluding all men and boys, does not express a complete home to us . . . ​but I have known sweet, restful homes with only one or two w ­ omen living together, which expressed the atmosphere of homeliness, ­because they themselves had once lived in a f­amily home, and knew all that home o ­ ught to mean.17

“S p i n s t e r s ’ R e s t ”?


In this way of thinking, homes are achievable outside marriage but incomplete without men. Restful homes occupied solely by ­women only become homely by borrowing from the atmosphere of the ­family home, with no acknowl­edgment that single ­women might be able to set up a new kind of domestic space for themselves. Rather than being s­ isters, aunts, and m ­ others, the unattached could choose to separate themselves from traditional understandings of the ­family. However, Miles does suggest that alternative housing might release ­women from some of the monotonies of home life. Flats are increasingly “thinkab[le]” but may induce “a cramped and restricted feeling.”18 Lack of space could be offset by what in­de­pen­ dent living (which might include communal catering and cleaning) symbolized: “In a flat a ­woman is likely to find more freedom, which means time for other ­t hings, and she can still have the home atmosphere, which means so much to us all!”19 The freedoms of occupying less space do not necessarily have to entail a sacrifice of domesticity. It is also likely that married ­women’s anx­i­eties about getting by in smaller, possibly servantless, suburban h ­ ouses ­were projected onto spinster dwellings to cover up the prob­lems of ­family homes transformed by modernity.20 Shared space was usually seen as preferable to the dangers of living alone. Even ­Virginia Woolf’s celebrated vision of female space, of the freedoms of “a quiet room” in A Room of One’s Own (1929), included the concept of sharing. In Woolf’s forward-­ looking paradigm, ­women’s occupation of a symbolic room, engendering “the habit of freedom” away from the interruptions and noise of ­family life, could enable them to work and live in­de­pen­dently.21 Yet in her essay “Professions for W ­ omen” (1931), Woolf wrote of the phantoms that haunt the professional w ­ oman who pays her own rent: “This freedom is only a beginning; the room is your own, but it is still bare. It has to be furnished; it has to be decorated; it has to be shared.”22 The bareness of the ­woman’s room may detract from the freedoms it symbolizes. Holden has discussed some of the pessimistic views on living alone in the 1930s but argues that “the idea that spinsterhood meant loneliness would . . . ​have been refuted by ­those who found companionship with other w ­ omen.”23 In a 1949 essay titled “The Unmarried,” the physician and psychoanalyst Laura Hutton considered the “prob­ lem of excess ­women” in relation to cultural investment in the traditions of “love, marriage and home.”24 For ­those ­women “condemned to a single life,” doomed to “frustration and deprivation,” the home, a heterosexual enclave, remains out of reach.25 This is borne out in her suggestion that single w ­ omen often divert into their c­ areers “the energy which, ­u nder dif­fer­ent circumstances, might have gone into home-­making.”26 Yet alternative ways of surviving are also given some credence, as she advises that “friendship may yet provide the best, and possibly the only, outlet for all ­those unused forces originally intended for marriage and home.”27 By insistently coupling marriage and home together in this chapter, Hutton reinforces the unhomeliness of domestic spaces outside the heteronormative. Friendship with other w ­ omen can help the single ­woman “to build a life for herself,” offering “the best of all solutions and compensations,” even if this means accepting “homosexual friendships.”28 Her consideration of alternative domesticities betrays the cultural difficulties in


Emm a Liggins

accepting all-­female ­house­holds or, what is worse, w ­ omen living alone. The “shared home,” with all its deficiencies, is more “natu­ral” than living alone, seen as problematic in relation to “proper feeding,” illness, and “the almost inevitable loneliness,” further away from the revered “­family ties” that prop up social norms.29 In her feminist polemic, ­Women and a Changing Civilization (1934), the novelist and journalist Winifred Holtby debunked dominant perceptions of the frustrated spinster, instead emphasizing the numbers of w ­ omen who actively chose the single life to foster creativity, fulfilling work, and po­liti­cal action. Calling into question what is meant by “home life” and the encumbrances of “the tradition of w ­ oman as home-­maker,” she radically exposed “­family homes” as “stultifying,” “enervating” spaces: “We s­ hall never ­really be able to live comfortably in homes till we have destroyed the legend of their sanctity.”30 Advocating changes in h ­ ouse­keeping to address w ­ omen’s enclosure in space, she located loneliness within marriage rather than singleness, pointing out that “unmarried ­women suffer—­from their identification with domesticity.”31 Her modernist novels and stories, including The Crowded Street (1924) and South Riding (1936), set out to validate the alternative domesticities made pos­si­ble by working ­women’s increased occupation of the public sphere. One of Holtby’s more polemical short stories, “Episode in West Ken­ sington” (1932), is a ­bitter conversation between the married, pregnant Jean Durrant and the self-­styled “embittered, jealous spinster” Evelyn Raye, who inhabits a two-­roomed flatlet up eighty-­two steps smelling of “unwashed prams, tom-­ cats and dead dinners.”32 In this narrative, the spinster’s life is one of resentment, sacrifice, and “slavery” paid for by the woefully inadequate wage of four pounds a week. Despite the shortcomings of the filthy flat, however, singleness is still presented as just as (un)desirable as marriage: outside the flats, “girl typists, hurrying home to boil their supper eggs over gas-­rings, gazed wistfully at the young m ­ others pushing prams in the park; and the young ­mothers, tired and depressed, gazed wistfully at the smart unburdened typists.”33 Recording her resentment at inadequate pay for working ­women, Holtby’s story also challenges assumptions about domesticity for spinsters both embittered and unburdened. Living outside the ­family home could be presented as a breaking down of the restrictive sanctity of the domestic, a necessary form of homemaking. In her discussion of architecture, Elizabeth Grosz has called for a rethinking of the relations between w ­ omen and space, highlighting the complicated prob­lem that “­t here has never been a space by and for w ­ omen. Even women-­only spaces . . . ​ are ones set up in reaction or opposition to patriarchal cultural space.” In “The Unmarried,” Hutton advised cohabitation, as for w ­ omen who “set up h ­ ouse together,” “something in the way of a home is secured . . . ​and all ­women long for a home.”34 But setting up ­house in the early twentieth ­century was still mea­sured in relation to patriarchal notions of home and security, and therefore the cohabiting of ­women was judged as deficient. Grosz’s arguments about the “dif­fer­ent terms” needed to understand space and spatiality are relevant to a consideration of how ­women might “reoccupy [space] as their own.”35 At a time when ­women architects and designers ­were starting to break into the profession, and ­women

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often supervised the renovation of the h ­ ouses they bought or inherited, or transformed the environments they rented, it seems inaccurate to conceive of space as always already patriarchal. Focusing on ­women and the making of built space between 1870 and 1950, Elizabeth Darling and Lesley Whitworth have argued for the legitimacy of focusing on “the home as the most obvious location of ­women’s space-­making.”36 Their desire for a reframing of “­women’s praxis in the shaping of our material environment” has broader resonances for modernist ­women’s short stories that interrogated what it meant for single w ­ omen to occupy, reorder, or “make” space.37 Holtby’s counterargument to the more conservative voices defending the notion of the ­family home is echoed in a muted form in the stories of single w ­ omen to be discussed in the following sections. Modern ­women are shown to shape their environments or (partially) realize new domesticities in a range of modernist w ­ omen’s short stories that paradoxically reiterate the constraints that operated in establishing space for the spinster.

Sterility, Lack, and Marginality: Stories of the 1920s The childlessness of the single working w ­ oman, linked to fears about the falling birth rate, was a key concern of the 1920s. Anx­i­eties about sterility and its potential origins in the overworking of spinsters haunted architectural descriptions in a number of stories, where isolation and lack manifest themselves in dark, decaying, and empty rooms. Both British and American stories about spinsterhood emphasized the correlation between the dowdiness of the forgotten, unmarried ­woman and the unhomeliness of her living space. In Edith Wharton’s ghost story “Miss Mary Pask” (1926), the eponymous spinster inhabits an “old-­maidish flat decorated with art-­tidies,” like “hundreds of other dowdy old maids, cheerful derelicts content with their innumerable ­little substitutes for living.”38 As this language suggests, an undesirable old-­maidishness (a more outmoded label for spinsterhood)39 manifests itself in the unlivable architecture of singleness, even as the dowdy spinster body appears “derelict.” The uncanniness of the story rests on ­whether the Miss Pask, who receives visitors in her secluded Brittany “hermitage,” is alive or dead. Although rumors of her death are proved false, the ghostliness of the aging ­woman in her dark “Mary Pask ‘interior’ ” is the sign of her marginality and disturbing dereliction, evoking compassion for her “lonely life.” 40 Katherine Mansfield’s story “Miss Brill” (1922) has also been read as an indictment of the loneliness of the spinster, who becomes the subject of public derision with her worn-­out fur necklet.41 The story’s spinster heroine is an ambiguous figure who delights in being “part of the per­for­mance” of everyday life in the French park, yet is also a signifier for what is lacking in singleness. She is a melancholy eavesdropper, “sitting in other p ­ eople’s lives just for a minute while they talked around her.” 42 Yet issues of space in the story have received less attention. Miss Brill’s cramped lodgings fit with the spinster persona she has to take on, as she inhabits “the l­ ittle dark room—­her room like a cupboard” at the top of the stairs. With its red eiderdown and k­ ettle, it can function as a cheery place to eat her


Emm a Liggins

Sunday honey cake, but it is also a place of enclosure, a required retreat from society. The young girl in the park asks unkindly: “Why does she come ­here at all—­ who wants her? Why ­doesn’t she keep her silly old mug at home?” 43 Although Miss Brill can move between public and private space, this suggests that her oddity, subject to censure, should be hidden away. She is aligned with the other nameless p ­ eople in the park, who display their peculiarity, “odd, s­ ilent, nearly all old, and from the way they stared they looked as though ­t hey’d just come from dark ­little rooms or even—­even cupboards!” The park is full of ­couples and pairs, as well as a “cold, pale nun,” reinforcing the sterility of ­t hose confined to dark ­l ittle rooms with restricted daylight.44 As a working w ­ oman who atones for the dullness of her two jobs by the fleeting enjoyment of her Sunday after­noons in the open air, Miss Brill is a prototype of the modernist spinster, making the best of her cramped lodgings. She is likely to have been struggling on very l­ittle money; as Holden notes, the rent charged in boarding­houses was often too high for unmarried ­women “to survive without hardship.” 45 The returning of her ridiculed fur, “without looking,” to its box under­neath her bed is a refusal to acknowledge her own shabbiness and fading attractions, but also symbolizes the necessary hiding of past secrets, which must be contained within her dark dwelling.46 Modernist w ­ omen writers also explored notions of singleness and spatiality in the realms of fantasy, a mode popu­lar in the 1920s. As Luke Thurston has highlighted, fantastic spaces became significant in terms of “gendering the super­ natural” in the 1920s, as w ­ omen tried out new ways of “writing the space of fantasy as a space of female power.” 47 Clemence Dane’s uncanny story “Spinsters’ Rest” is a reworking of the Grimm fairy tale of M ­ other Holle, in which a maternal figure rescues a poor, overworked girl spinner and rewards her with gold. Dane’s restless spinster, Mary Pawle, desperate for change, takes employment in the large rural h ­ ouse of an el­derly lady in order to escape ten years of office work in London. Significantly, her drudgery has been sustained by her fantasies of a husband and ­children, with the word ­children repeated mantra-­like throughout the story: “I’d have been such a good m ­ other.” 48 Miss Pawle is said to “long for her own past with a sick vio­lence of regret that thinned her cheeks,” mourning a potential lover dead in the trenches and locating her restlessness in the lost possibilities of motherhood. Her dreams of a lost maternity are like “the secret flowers withering in your heart like pansies in a London window-­box,” a secret to be exposed in the Gothic, prisonlike Spinsters’ Rest, which replaces the London boarding­house as her domestic space.49 In the fantasy “counter-­world” of the female ­house­hold, owned by her aging employer, a witchlike ­Mother Holle figure, the “modern girl” is granted the opportunity to indulge her desire for ­children on the day when slum ­children visit the ­house to be fed and entertained.50 Spinsters’ Rest, “a very factory of oddness,” is the symbolic name for the remote ­house in both a “stagnant” village and a “tapestry world.” It is a ­house that takes birds, ­children, “tramps and trollops,” “not ­people to be missed,” like some kind of magic hostel welcoming the odd and the forgotten.51 The ­house has traces of its former existence as a Roman t­ emple to Minerva, patroness of spinners, a nunnery,

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and the abode of a witch burned to death on its blackened doorstep. As a potential place of rest, it brings together dominant conceptualizations of female singleness in terms of oddity and enchantment, stagnancy and sterility, as well as strangely drawing ­children and unattached w ­ omen into its environs. Although Miss Pawle “settled down, as far as unpacking a thin suit-­case went” in the inn in the village, she never fully inhabits the ­house, so that the “lodging” that goes with her post as companion is strangely not on the premises. Sleeping in the bed where Elizabeth I had reputably slept, she b ­ attles against the legacy of childlessness of the former “spinster queen.”52 The upstairs at Spinsters’ Rest is an enchanted place with many doors and a sharp turn “like a rabbit’s bolt-­hole.”53 The strangely infinite upstairs space seems to include working ­women of dif­fer­ent generations and time zones, and to be a place of dreams and rest, harboring a lost child apparently left b ­ ehind ­a fter the day of entertainment. The haunted nursery ­here is “her own [. . .] but ­whether the nursery of her yesterday or to-­morrow she could not tell.” It combines food and fireguards from “ancient history,” but also a frieze, floor games, and glass doors from her plans for the ­f uture. Her dreams of the “fairyland” upstairs space even include Queen Elizabeth I, “the ­grand, starved ghost” bemoaning her childlessness.54 ­Mother Holle encourages her to visit the forbidden upstairs space, to “prowl about the ­house. . . . ​Beds to rest on. Beautiful view—­upstairs.” As an enchanted haven, the upstairs with its queer corridors is a place of spatial impossibilities, where c­ hildren can hide for days and w ­ omen can rest from their trou­ bles, like the charwoman who relishes the “quiet” of spending her Sundays ­behind “my door.”55 As Louise McDonald argues, Dane’s fantastic narratives “open up time and space” to create “fairy and ghostly domains,” which “call to mind Julia Kristeva’s semiotic.”56 McDonald also compares the text to Sylvia Townsend Warner’s fantastic novel Lolly Willowes (1926), with its embracing of a magic utopian space that atones for the isolation of the witchlike spinster heroine. The female space of the upper story becomes the fantasy space of rest and maternal plea­sure, contrasting with the cold, emotionless sterility of the boarding­house, where “I d ­ on’t feel much any more. I’m only tired.”57 This restlessness and inability to ­settle seems a constant in modernist spinster fiction, where the single ­woman has a series of new addresses yet finds it difficult to ­settle down. Musing on the “new world” she occupies, Mary Pawle writes of “accustom[ing] oneself to change and novelty and a new address,” adding that “she had hoped to detach, to re-­attach herself, to fling new tendrils, to strike new roots,” a hope frustrated by the dull sameness of space: “What more did Spinsters’ Rest give her than London gave?”58 ­After her employer’s death, she re-­enters her room upstairs, which now has a “curtainless high win­dow,” a broken pane, dirtied cobwebs: “Empty stood the room, empty as her ­future, empty as her life.” But this symbolic emptiness and her misery at her broken dreams are interrupted by a sound, “the wail of a lost child,” as she sees in the light of the winter moon a crouched bundle and some “small unmothered arms” that reach out to her. In the fairy-­tale ending, she steals down the stairway with the child safe and warm ­under her cloak and flees, ghostlike, “from that ­house of rest, unheard, unseen.”59 Referring back


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to the M ­ other Holle tale, the final lines repeat the moral, “This is the reward of your ser­v ice,” though in this updated version, the reward is the lost child rather than gold. Dane’s reworking of the fairy tale unusually allows the emptiness of the haunted, disused nursery to reward the single w ­ oman with an unmothered child who ­w ill change her empty ­future. The fantasy of “home—­husband—­children,” associated with the boarding­house self, is exposed as unrealistic. Mary’s delighted flight with the stolen child, “two forlorn creatures,” suggests the fulfillment to be achieved in adopting or fostering.60 The freedom of the final lines lies in the “won­ der” of hurrying along the unlighted eve­ning lanes ­toward the station, with the ­f uture home left uncertain and beyond the frame of the narrative.

Self-­Effacement and Vulnerability in Space: Stories of the 1930s and 1940s The attractions of living alone are shown to wear thin in a number of stories of the 1930s and 1940s, which demonstrate the vulnerability of single working ­women ­behind the thin walls of their lodgings. Refuting notions of the modernist home as progressive, Victoria Rosner contends, “The walls of the home proffer an umbrella of privacy, an apparent ability to retreat from the general gaze, but . . . ​t he home does not proffer its protection equally to all h ­ ouse­hold members, nor does its protection invariably extend autonomy to ­t hose who dwell within.” 61 By the 1940s, when ­women’s ­labor was once again legitimized during war­time,62 single w ­ omen workers w ­ ere both admired and alarming, a potentially dangerous presence in the city. Their occupation of urban housing, still seen by some as abnormal and viewed in relation to “age prejudice,” according to Holden, is represented in terms of vulnerability and violability in short fiction by w ­ omen.63 Yet the queerness of the spinster is less pathologized than treated sympathetically in order to reinforce the significance of her occupation of the city. In May Sinclair’s “The Pin-­Prick” (1930), the unhomely spinster flat operates as an unsettling place of isolation and repression for “poor” May Blissett, a struggling artist who comes to the city to work and “to feel alone.” Her single occupancy of an unlet studio makes her the responsibility of the other dwellers in the building, who reproach themselves for failing to prevent her suicide. Significantly, she is the first ­woman to take one of the studios, “uncomfortable enough for a man who ­isn’t fastidious,” with “no ser­v ice to speak of,” setting her apart from ­women used to home comforts.64 Although May prefers to lodge near to men rather than ­women, as men and ­women are less likely “to get in each other’s way,” her championing of in­de­pen­dent living is undercut by her friend Frances’s pointed reminders that Simpson ­w ill have to “look ­a fter” his new tenant. His fears that she may try to seduce him are met by Frances’s rejoinder that her friend is not dangerous b ­ ecause she is “past it. Gone through it all,” making her “not like a w ­ oman.” 65 If a boarding­ house constitutes “a shared domestic space that offers . . . ​neither permanency nor privacy,” as Sterry attests, then May’s sharing of space in the block of studios also dooms her to transience and the “awkward[ness]” of living alongside strangers.66

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To survive in unhomely rented accommodation, argues Emily Cuming, the inhabitants must play a role in order to “preserve their own fragile sense of self” amid strangers.67 The occupancy of the male studio is then only made pos­si­ble by the discarding of femininity and the denial of her sexuality. As a divorcée whose child had died, May Blissett is another spinster haunted by a lost maternity, whose desire for the aloneness of work is to atone for the “horrors” of her previous existence. Divorcées, usually outcast and seen as dangerously outside traditional ­family structures, despite relaxations in divorce laws in the United Kingdom and the United States, shared many characteristics with single w ­ omen at this time, particularly if childless.68 Sinclair’s male narrator Simpson detects in May “something . . . ​ mysteriously and secretly malign,” as if she constitutes a threat to patriarchal notions of dwelling. Singleness in this story is always associated with “queerness,” a notion annexed to the spinster’s “mystery . . . ​her passionate per­sis­tence and her pluck,” as well as her dubious artistic talents.69 The spinster as queer reflects both fear of, and envy for, the single life in the 1930s: in Holtby’s “Episode in West Ken­sington,” Evelyn also prophesies that as a single ­woman she ­will “grow queerer and queerer,” even as she w ­ ill “flaunt [her] freedom” at her married friend “tied to [her] c­ hildren.”70 The sense that the single ­woman takes up less space, as if forced to embrace her discomfort and self-­effacement, runs throughout the story. Having moved in while Simpson was away, May is a ghostlike presence. Simpson states: “I literally d ­ idn’t know that she was ­t here, so secret and so ­silent was she in her movements overhead. I c­ ouldn’t have believed it pos­si­ble for a w ­ oman to be so effacing and effaced. It was super-­feminine; it was, as Frances said, hardly ­human.” This sense that, in her effacement, the ­silent spinster becomes “super-­feminine” almost to the point of uncanniness seems a comment on w ­ omen’s occupation of space, their silence both entirely expected and subtly unnerving. When she attends parties at Simpson’s studio, May “took hardly any room . . . ​and hardly any part in the conversation,” while conveying that she was happy to be asked.71 However, her plea for leaving early ­because she was busy is dismissed by Simpson as “somehow preposterous.” Their meetings on the stairs, in the quasi-­public spaces surrounding their rarely glimpsed private realms, are not marred by May’s “overdoing it” by “insisting on her detachment, her isolation”; rather, her detachment is accepted as a legitimate stance for her work.72 In “The Unmarried,” Hutton argued that living alone often resulted in “a narrowing of interests” and “a general intolerance of interference which ultimately alienate friends,” a perspective partly borne out ­here by the single ­woman’s withdrawal from ­t hose who live near to her.73 The male tenant’s observations of May r­ unning up the stairs smiling, as if to a “joyous activity,” suggest that her smiles may be a pretense, covering up the loneliness b ­ ehind her 74 studio door. The suicide of the spinster, ­after three years in her studio, is linked to her overstaying her welcome at Frances’s rooms, where she had “stayed interminably,” preventing Frances from sharing confidences about men with another friend, Daisy. This is the “pin-­prick” of the title, a seemingly inconsequential act that reveals the vulnerability of the lonely visitor. May is represented as “obtuse to [the] vibrations”


Emm a Liggins

in the room, as her detachment not only prevents her from reading social signs but seemingly makes her oblivious to the workings of compulsory heterosexuality. By this stage in the story, her silence has become disturbing. Described as “in one of her silences, ­t hose fits which gave her so often the appearance of stupidity,” the spinster’s odd be­hav­ior is experienced as “exasperating” as well as fake, her smiles taken as signs of “that illusion of happiness she had covered herself up in.”75 Sterry’s point that the single ­woman in modernist narratives is “often in search of an elusive subjectivity” seems particularly pertinent ­here, where the reader does not have access to the heroine’s thoughts.76 Exposing the single w ­ oman’s joyousness as illusory, the story suggests that May had been unable to articulate her feelings of anxiety to her friends, preferring to stage her death in her private space. Simpson is aware that May was in as he knocks at her door, but is unsure ­whether he i­ magined that she had come out onto the stairhead and leaned over to see “what was t­ here,” again positioning her in the in-­between space of the stairs where she can achieve social interaction.77 Her death necessitates the forced entry of her studio by the hall-­porter and Simpson, who cut open the sealed door with knives, as if to signify malevolent intent. She is discovered in her nightgown on a couch “dragged into the ­middle of the ­g reat bare studio, all ready,” the sulfur candles making the room dim, displaying the difficulties of achieving comfort in inhospitable surroundings. Her ghost seems to haunt the room, with her mysterious smile, as if to demonstrate “how beautifully she had managed and how she had saved us all.”78 The story concludes by comparing the responsibilities of Simpson and Frances for the suicide with the female friend accepting that her responsibility “went deeper” b ­ ecause of her fear of May, “not her queerness. Her loneliness. She had been afraid that it would cling, that it would get in her way. She had compelled her to suppress it. She had driven it in, and the t­ hing was poisonous.” This fear of the clinging loneliness of the spinster, which, it is implied, should not have been repressed, makes this a dark narrative of lost possibilities. Sinclair emphasizes the poisonousness of retreating b ­ ehind the studio door into its bare, unwelcoming space. Although Simpson tries to pass off May’s despair as insanity, he contemplates in the final lines, “If I had run back and caught May Blissett on the stairs—­ But, you see, I w ­ asn’t absolutely sure she was t­ here.”79 By the 1930s, the overworked and embittered spinster had become a cautionary figure, whose contagious queerness had to be kept in check; as Sterry notes, in both the United Kingdom and the United States, “the femininity and sexuality of working w ­ omen remained ­under suspicion,” as ­women ­were disincentivized from staying in the ­labor market.80 Reinforcing the importance of the interactions on the stairs to offset the potential invisibility of singleness, Sinclair’s story becomes a plea for recognizing responsibility t­ owards ­those who live alone, for looking ­behind the mysterious smile of the spinster. In the stories of the Anglo-­Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen, the single w ­ oman, often similarly mysterious and marked by trauma, strug­gles to achieve the space that she desires. Typically anthropomorphizing h ­ ouses, furniture, and ornaments in her fiction, Bowen highlights the transient sense of homeliness experienced by

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­ omen, particularly ­t hose who live alone. In her war­t ime story “The Inherited w Clock” (1944), the oppressive skeleton clock bequeathed by a dead cousin is a threatening, half-­a live presence in the spinster flat of thirty-­year-­old Clara Detter. Concealing a repressed childhood trauma, the clock with its insides disturbingly vis­i­ble, is “a ­little too large for the room” in the small St John’s Wood flat. It is an inheritance from the much grander rural ­family home, which, like the spinster transposed to the urban space, seems horribly out of place. With its telephone, porter, and lift, the flat on the eighth story aligns the single w ­ oman with modernity but shows this modernity to be transient and dissatisfying. The flat induces sleeplessness and panic, is difficult to find in the blackout and in a potentially dangerous area, hinted at in the mention of “an unnerving return home.”81 Desiring to buy herself “surroundings that suited her” with her expected inheritance, Clara instead seems doomed to the “humiliating uncertainties” of her nine-­year relationship with a married man who has no intention of leaving his wife. Her singleness is associated with long working hours and the boredom of waiting, which operates “like an illness.”82 According to Allison Pease, “Modernist narratives of female boredom register discontent and e­ ither passively or actively reject this discontent,” though in this instance the discontent prevails.83 The clock, juxtaposed with the mirror, which denies her exultation, ticks away her youth, like an uncanny biological clock marking her loss of happiness, recalling “how many seconds had gone to make up her years, how many of t­ hese had been e­ ither null or b ­ itter, how many had been void before the void claimed them.” The nothingness haunting Bowen’s fiction is ­here annexed to the uncertainties of Clara’s ­f uture as well as her traumatic past: “It’s with me now, in this room.” The clock and all it symbolizes become a source of terror—­“I ­can’t bear this clock! I dread it; I c­ an’t stay with it in the room!”—­ evoking the dread of domestic enclosure.84 The uncanniness of the male appropriation of female space, a recurring trope in spinster fiction, suggests the vulnerability of ­women living alone, unable to escape their past. The door to the flat, left open to admit a clock winder, also admits Clara’s malevolent cousin Paul, who is discovered “in possession” of the flat, having arranged the curtains and turned the lights on. His appropriation of her space is telling; despite her affected nonchalance of putting up her feet on “her sofa,” his presence continues to disturb her. A ­ fter telling her to look in the mirror, Paul acquires power in the space and “pushed her feet off ­gently to make room for himself,” his nearness “frightening b ­ ecause it was acutely familiar, more frightening ­because she could not guess at its source.”85 Having considered throwing the clock out of the win­dow, she is partly prevented ­because “the nothing that had shown through its skeleton form continued to bear its skeleton shadow.” Within the spinster flat, the unwanted intruder, making room for himself, is able to re-­enact the childhood cruelty of forcing Clara’s fin­ger into the cogs, ostensibly to make time stop but symbolically to assert his power over his cousin. The end of the story shows Clara ordering Paul out of the flat with the clock, preferring to “sit with my memories.” His refusal to take the object with him on his date leaves her still in possession: “­There is no reason why it should be in my way; as I say, I expect to move to


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a larger flat.”86 Exposing her occupation of home as makeshift, temporary, but also very much tied to a traumatic past, the broken clock and its disturbing nothingness suggest the violability of the spinster’s space. As in Sinclair’s story, this tenuous occupation of the modern flat is linked to the queerness of the spinster whose assertion of a positive singleness appears as a form of masquerade. The spinster flat as makeshift and fragile is also explored in another war­time story by Bowen’s friend and mentor Rose Macaulay. “Miss Anstruther’s Letters,” commissioned by Storm Jameson for her collection London Calling (1942) for the American Red Cross, was based on Macaulay’s own traumatic experience of being bombed out of Luxborough House, a block of flats in Marylebone. In a letter written immediately afterward, Macaulay recorded her experience of loss in terms of an obliterated domesticity: “House no more—­bombed and burned out of existence, and nothing saved. I am bookless, homeless, sans every­t hing but my eyes to weep with.”87 The story opens with a vision of this traumatic homelessness: Miss Anstruther, whose life had been cut in two on the night of 10 May 1941, so that she now felt herself a ghost, without attachments or habitation, neither of which she any longer desired, sat alone in the bed-­sitting-­room she had taken, a small room, littered with the grimy, broken and useless objects which she had sal­vaged from the burnt-­out ruins round the corner. It was one of the many burnt-­out ruins of that wild night when high explosives and incendiaries had rained on London and the ­water had run short: it was now a gaunt and roofless tomb, a pile of ashes and rubble and burnt, smashed beams. Where the floors of twelve flats had been, ­t here was empty space.88

This framing of the narrative in terms of the ruined home evokes the ghostliness of w ­ omen severed from domestic space. Deprived of both habitation and attachments, the distraught spinster feels that her memories, the lost letters of the title, are in ruins as well as her home. Her smashed block of flats becomes tomb-­like and unnerving, “empty space” instead of dwelling place. The twelve floors seem flimsy, as the tall, slim Mortimer House swayed with the bombing before it came crashing down. Emily Cuming reads the story in terms of “a symbolic de­mo­li­tion of the cherished Victorian bourgeois interior,” in which the bedsit space fits with the heroine’s “condition of shell-­shocked blankness.”89 Yet this emptiness of the ruin also highlights the alienating emptiness of the spinster flat, made up of possessions and memories that can easily be destroyed, broken, or burned out. Often necessary for working w ­ omen whose newfound identities depended on their escape from the f­ amily home, lodging h ­ ouses, flats, and bedsits represented what Terri Mullholland has called “alternative domestic spaces,” offering “dramatic opportunities” for interwar w ­ omen writers, who used “the space of the boarding ­house to articulate ­women’s changing social roles.”90 If the shabby and cramped boarding­house room operated as “a site of anti-­domestic values,” according to Mullholland, then its typical occupation by the single working ­woman set her in opposition to homeliness, never r­ eally achieving the satisfactions of dwelling.91 The reference to the unhomely bedsit in Macaulay’s story, “littered” with “useless

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objects,” suggests the difficulties of making small rooms welcoming, and the time needed to make them comfortable. ­Later in the story, the bedsit becomes “the alien room” in which the spinster cannot access her memories and cries herself to sleep, better than the “rest centre” suggested by the kindly warden, but hardly a place of rest.92 The other female inhabitants of Mortimer House, the unnamed basement tenant and Mrs. Cavendish (who is carried out, possibly dead), seem to be single ­women, who are perhaps acquaintances rather than friends. Miss Anstruther’s flat has, significantly, collapsed into that of the basement tenant four floors below, so that the ­women’s blackened possessions are mingled in “indistinguishable anonymity together.” “Burrowing among the chaotic mass that had invaded her home from the dwellings of her co-­tenants above,” the basement tenant also finds her space invaded by Miss Anstruther, who joins her search for lost possessions.93 While the tenant searches for her motoring trophies, Miss Anstruther looks for her books, her manuscripts, and then the lost letters from her lover, of which only burned fragments remain. Judith Flanders has written of the importance of objects, “the possession of possessions,” to the experience of comfort and belonging, a key aspect of w ­ omen’s space-­making.94 The possessions that give domestic spaces value, transforming them into dwellings that bolster subjectivity, are destroyed in the blast. The single ­woman’s haunting of the ruined flat, ­until she is told it is now “dangerous” to enter, suggests her attachment to what the space represents. The valuing of the lost letters, seen as more precious than her typewriter, radio, china cow, and suitcase full of books, suggests that the inhabitation of the spinster flat is sustained by the memories of a love affair. Like Dane’s grieving heroine, Miss Anstruther is struggling to cope with her lover’s death, possibly in combat, where the loss of the male both detracts from the oddity of the spinster and reinforces her incompleteness. At the end of the story, the heroine “took another flat,” where she reassembles her existence with donations from kind friends, a new typewriter and wireless set, as well as “necessary” but expensive furniture.95 The assembling of a living space from possessions that yield value yet reinforce poverty suggests the provisionality, the lack of permanence of the spinster flat. The melancholy tone of this resolution is jarring, reinforcing her isolation and detachment: she is “alone with a past devoured by fire and a charred scrap of paper which said you ­don’t care twopence, and then a blank, a ­great interruption, an end.”96 The lost h ­ ouse becomes her missing past, for which the blankness of her current existence, in which she remains “a drifting ghost,” is a poor substitute. Reading her scavenging of fragments as deadly and nullifying, Leo Mellor interprets this ending in terms of a failure to find “anything affirmative beyond damp and tattered shards.”97 Yet what is also sal­vaged from the wreckage is a cherished and renewable notion of the spinster dwelling. To follow Elizabeth Grosz, this constitutes a female “reoccupation” of space, a refusal of male rules about entering.98 By taking another flat, the spinster once again participates in the act of homemaking, creating a space to invite friends and to be connected through technology, a place for solitary writing at the heart of the city, however dangerous and provisional.


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To reconsider spaces for spinsters in w ­ omen’s stories of the 1920s to the 1940s is to become aware of the diversity of living arrangements and the new forms of domesticity they created. The potentially unsatisfied longing for home and security, identified as a prob­lem in nonfictional debates about singleness, does not have to be satisfied in dwelling with o ­ thers, as short stories about single occupancy suggest, though living alone on a ­limited income is not often represented positively. Working w ­ omen find their spaces invaded by unwanted o ­ thers and their identities threatened. Privacy for t­ hese modern spinsters is e­ ither hard to achieve or fraught with menace. Reflecting on the shortcomings of “lived spatiality” for ­women in a patriarchal world, Grosz writes that what is at stake is “how to produce new spaces as/for w ­ omen.”99 In the fantasy mode, Clemence Dane comes closest to granting her spinster heroine the “new space” she needs, but it is difficult to sustain this vision in more realist forms. The fantasy of a space of one’s own never seems to be fully realized in British modernist ­women’s short stories, which suggest that the architecture of singleness is haunted by anxiety, oddness, and instability.

notes 1. ​Clemence Dane, The ­Women’s Side (London: John Herbert, 1926), 127. 2. ​Katherine A. Fama, “The Single Architecture of Contending Forces: Lodging In­de­pen­ dent ­Women in Pauline E. Hopkins’s ‘­Little Romance,’ ” MELUS: Multi-­Ethnic Lit­er­a­ture of the United States 41, no. 4 (Winter 2016): 196. 3. ​Emma Sterry, The Single ­Woman, Modernity and Literary Culture (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 134. 4. ​Victoria Rosner, Modernism and the Architecture of Private Life (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), 2. 5. ​Rosner, 8, 11. 6. ​Emma Liggins, Odd W ­ omen? Spinsters, Lesbians and W ­ idows in British W ­ omen’s Fiction, 1850s–1930s (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014), 2–3. 7. ​Liggins, 130–131. 8. ​Claire Drewery, Modernist Short Fiction by ­Women: The Liminal in Katherine Mansfield, Dorothy Richardson, May Sinclair, and V ­ irginia Woolf (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2011), 3. 9. ​Fama, “Single Architecture of Contending Forces,” 206, 197. 10. ​Terri Mullholland, British Boarding Houses in Inter-­war ­Women’s Lit­er­a­ture (London: Routledge, 2017), 2. 11. ​Maroula Joannou, “Ladies, Please ­Don’t Smash Th ­ ese Win­dows!”: ­Women’s Writing, Feminist Consciousness and Social Change, 1918–38 (Oxford: Berg, 1995), 78. 12. ​Deborah  L. Parsons, Streetwalking the Metropolis: W ­ omen, the City and Modernity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 111. 13. ​Katherine Holden, The Shadow of Marriage: Singleness in E ­ ngland, 1914–60 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), 218. 14. ​­Virginia Nicholson, Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living, 1900–1939 (London: Penguin, 2013), 40, 44. 15. ​Mullholland, British Boarding Houses, 12. 16. ​Deborah Sugg Ryan, Ideal Homes, 1918–39: Domestic Design and Suburban Modernism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2018), 17–18. 17. ​Mrs. Eustace Miles, The Ideal Home and Its Prob­lems (London: Methuen, 1911), 4–5. 18. ​Miles, 13. 19. ​Miles, 16. 20. ​Sugg Ryan writes about the “compact space” of the suburban home, which could easily become overcrowded with furniture (see Ideal Homes, 75).

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21. ​­Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1929), in A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas, ed. Michèle Barrett (Harmonds­worth: Penguin, 1993), 48, 102. 22. ​­Virginia Woolf, “Professions for W ­ omen” (1931), in Selected Essays, ed. David Bradshaw (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 144. 23. ​Holden, Shadow of Marriage, 37. 24. ​Laura Hutton, “The Unmarried,” in Sex in Social Life, ed. Sybil Neville-­Rolfe (London: Allen and Unwin, 1949), 415. 25. ​Hutton, 420. 26. ​Hutton, 423. 27. ​Hutton, 429. 28. ​Hutton, 428. 29. ​Hutton, 433. 30. ​Winifred Holtby, ­Women and a Changing Civilization (1934; repr., New York: Longmans, Green, 1935), 146. 31. ​Holtby, 150, “Episode in West Kensington.” 32. ​Winifred Holtby, “Episode in West Ken­sington,” in Remember, Remember! The Selected Stories of Winifred Holtby, ed. Paul Berry and Marion Shaw (London: Virago, 1999), 99, 94. 33. ​Holtby, 91, “Episode in West Kensington.” 34. ​Hutton, “The Unmarried,” 433. 35. ​E lizabeth Grosz, “Embodying Space: An Interview,” in Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and Real Space (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001), 25. 36. ​Elizabeth Darling and Lesley Whitworth, ­Women and the Making of Built Space in ­England, 1870–1950 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), 3. 37. ​Darling and Whitworth, 6. 38. ​Edith Wharton, “Miss Mary Pask,” in The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton (London: Virago, 1996), 122–33, 123. 39. ​See Liggins, Odd ­Women?, 34, for a discussion of the replacement of the Victorian label of “old maid” with “surplus ­woman.” 40. ​Wharton, “Miss Mary Pask,” 125. 41. ​Joannou, “Ladies, Please ­Don’t Smash Th ­ ese Win­dows!,” 77. 42. ​Katherine Mansfield, “Miss Brill,” in The Garden Party and Other Stories, ed. Lorna Sage (1922; repr., London: Penguin, 2007), 111. 43. ​Mansfield, 113. 44. ​Mansfield, 111, 112. 45. ​Holden, Shadow of Marriage, 47. 46. ​Mansfield, “Miss Brill,” 114. 47. ​Luke Thurston, “Profoundly and Irresolvably Po­liti­cal: Fantastic Spaces,” in The Female Fantastic: Gendering the Super­natural in the 1890s and 1920s, ed. Lizzie Harris McCormick, Jennifer Mitchell, and Rebecca Soares (New York: Routledge, 2019), 68. 48. ​Clemence Dane, “Spinsters’ Rest,” in The Ghost Book: Sixteen Stories of the Uncanny, ed. Cynthia Asquith (London: Hutchinson, 1926), 107–34, 110. 49. ​Dane, 114, 108. 50. ​Thurston, “Profoundly and Irresolvably Po­liti­cal,” 67. 51. ​Dane, “Spinsters’ Rest,” 125, 113, 116. 52. ​Dane, 113, 117. 53. ​Dane, 117. 54. ​Dane, 127, 130. 55. ​Dane, 119, 126. 56. ​Louise McDonald, “Clemence Dane’s Fantastical Fiction and Feminist Consciousness,” in Middlebrow and Gender, 1890–1945, ed. Christoph Ehland and Cornelia Wachter (Leiden: Brill Rodopi, 2015), 166. 57. ​Dane, “Spinsters’ Rest,” 111. 58. ​Dane, 125. 59. ​Dane, 133, 134.


Emm a Liggins

60. ​Dane, 110, 134. 61. ​Rosner, Modernism and the Architecture of Private Life, 5. 62. ​Sterry, The Single ­Woman, Modernity and Literary Culture, 32. 63. ​Holden, Shadow of Marriage, 43. 64. ​May Sinclair, “The Pin-­Prick,” in Tales Told by Simpson (London: Hutchinson, 1930), 247, 246. 65. ​Sinclair, 247, 248. 66. ​Sterry, The Single ­Woman, Modernity and Literary Culture, 138. 67. ​Emily Cuming, Housing, Class and Gender in Modern British Writing, 1880–2012 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 92. 68. ​Sterry, The Single ­Woman, Modernity and Literary Culture, 5, 46–47. 69. ​Sinclair, “The Pin-­Prick,” 246, 245. 70. ​Holtby, “Episode in West Ken­sington,” 106. 71. ​Sinclair, “The Pin-­Prick,” 250. 72. ​Sinclair, 251, 250. 73. ​Hutton, “The Unmarried,” 433. 74. ​Sinclair, “The Pin-­Prick,” 250. 75. ​Sinclair, 252. 76. ​Sterry, The Single ­Woman, Modernity and Literary Culture, 33. 77. ​Sinclair, “The Pin-­Prick,” 253. 78. ​Sinclair, 254. 79. ​Sinclair, 255. 80. ​Sterry, The Single ­Woman, Modernity and Literary Culture, 32. 81. ​Elizabeth Bowen, “The Inherited Clock,” in Collected Stories, ed. Angus Wilson (London: Vintage, 1999), 633, 634. 82. ​Bowen, 630, 631. 83. ​Allison Pease, Modernism, Feminism, and the Culture of Boredom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 34. 84. ​Bowen, The Inherited Clock,” 631, 632. 85. ​Bowen, 632, 634. 86. ​Bowen, 635, 640. 87. ​Quoted in Sarah LeFanu, Rose Macaulay: A Biography (London: Virago, 2003), 157. 88. ​Rose Macaulay, “Miss Anstruther’s Letters,” in Wave Me Goodbye: Stories of the Second World War, ed. Anne Boston (London: Penguin, 1989), 40. 89. ​Cuming, Housing, Class and Gender, 97, 98. 90. ​Mullholland, British Boarding Houses, 1. 91. ​Mullholland, 2. 92. ​Macaulay, 45. 93. ​Macaulay, 41. 94. ​Judith Flanders, The Making of Home: The 500-­Year Story of How Our Houses Became Homes (London: Atlantic, 2014), 281. 95. ​Macaulay, “Miss Anstruther’s Letters,” 47. 96. ​Macaulay, 47. 97. ​Leo Mellor, Reading the Ruins: Modernism, Bombsites, and British Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 191. 98. ​Grosz, “Embodying Space,” 75. 99. ​Grosz, 47.

chapter 10

All the Single Nannies reforming elite domesticity and the cultural imaginary Ann Mattis

Narratives about domestic workers are reminders that the privileged locus of domesticity—­t he White ­family home—­has been far from a hermetically sealed receptacle; nonkin laborers and lodgers have always perforated the literal and figurative spaces of privatized home life. Single, White, middle-­class-­identified caregivers in elite or bourgeois h ­ ouse­holds have especially held a prominent place in the cultural imaginary if we consider the rich literary tradition of En­glish governesses like Charlotte Brontë’s eponymous Jane Eyre; the iconic nannies of the 1960s, Mary Poppins and The Sound of ­Music’s (1965) Fraulein Maria; and their more recent successors in varied fiction, such as Nicola Kraus’s and Emma McLaughlin’s chick-­lit romance The Nanny Diaries (2002). ­These nannies are liminal figures who evince a charged indeterminacy; they have a low social status but often discombobulate upper-­class domesticity in ways that question ideals, or critique established norms and hierarchies.1 Ultimately, however, gentrified care workers are not radical figures. Rather, they shed light on the prob­lems of elite domesticity in order to ­gently reset mainstream domestic values. Although ­t here are exceptions or at least some temporary challenges to dominant cultural norms in the texts I w ­ ill discuss, single nannies in commodified ­women’s culture tend to be geared ­toward the “reformed” marriage plot. In being charged with supplementing inadequate feeling or sentiment in the elite h ­ ouse­hold, gentrified care workers often deflect from the larger socioeconomic and cultural injustices that are supported by their wealthy employers. Con­temporary governesses and nannies are palimpsestic archetypes that beg us to examine how single White womanhood intersects with broader domestic and affective ideologies that naturalize gender, racial, and class inequalities in the home. Nannies’ care work supplements the affective economy of the bourgeois ­house­hold, but nannies can also corrode the fiction of its integrity and autonomy. They threaten to debunk the fantasy that nuclear ­family living and intensive motherhood run 175


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exclusively on the energy of efficient bourgeois wives and their “woke” husbands. Even if she is merely on her own journey of upward mobility through marriage, the single nanny stands in opposition to the bourgeois mother-­wife as a lower-­class counterpart, but she is also her savior, as indispensable as she is invisible. As wage earners in the domestic sphere, single nannies are thus both tangential and seminal to bourgeois institutions of marriage and motherhood. Th ­ ese discursive contradictions make them a vexed or at times a dangerous presence in the ­house­hold, even if they are the ones who save it. At the very least, nannies risk being an intrusive presence in an ideally privatized space of domestic tranquility; so often, tabloids report salacious rumors that celebrity marriages have broken up on account of husbands’ trysts with their ­children’s nannies.2 But apart from their scandalous attachment to celebrities or civil servants, mi­grant caregivers tend not to pique much interest at all, given that they belong to feminized and racialized occupations that global capitalism renders unimportant, almost invisible. Most real nannies thus appear as flat characters in a crude headline, and they are regarded quite differently than the fictional nannies who have remained highly developed fixtures in the cultural imaginary. Emerging from the gentrified figure of the governess in eighteenth-­and nineteenth-­ century British fiction (such as Jane Eyre), con­temporary nannies are White, single, and encoded as middle-­class in spite of their abject profession. Th ­ ere is a large gap between them and the a­ ctual workforce of nannies who vary in age and nationality, as well as in marital, documented, and educational status. In their more popu­lar iterations, fictional nannies have provided a domestic template for single White womanhood as it has changed over time. The cultural fetish of the single White nanny prevails precisely ­because it reworks hegemonic domestic ideologies on a deeply affective level, while obfuscating the complex experience and exploitations of waged care workers. Tropes of caregiving in popu­lar texts operate typically in the interests of White, bourgeois domesticity. Even when domestic fiction and film revolve around vulnerable domestic workers of color who navigate an alienating and often exploitative h ­ ouse­hold, the most popu­lar narratives tend to be filtered through a lens of White womanhood. For instance, in both the film and book versions of The Help (2009; 2011), Black domestic workers’ exploitation in the civil rights era American South is anchored by the narrative of Eugenia, a White female journalist who rejects the domestic ideals of leisure-­class femininity. B ­ ecause The Help privileges the affection and intense feelings shared between caregivers and ­children, it softens the entrenched racism of l­abor arrangements in the segregated South. Like many reviewers of the book, I responded with b ­ itter cynicism to the scenes that involve Aibileen, the Black cook, cleaner, and child minder, comforting her White employer’s emotionally neglected child Mae Mobley through the incantation: “ ‘You is kind,’ she say. ‘You is smart. You is impor­tant. I love you. Oh Law.’ I hug her hot ­little body to mine. I feel like she done just given me a gift.”3 ­These scenes are also visualized in the film version of The Help (2011). ­Because t­ hese interactions occur between an adult and a child, they seem only slightly more progressive than when

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Hattie McDaniel, in her Oscar-­winning role as Mammy, laces up a corset for spoiled plantation brat Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) in the film Gone with the Wind (1939), or when another Black servant, played by Louise Beavers, rubs the feet of another White ­woman (Claudette Colbert) in Jonathon Stahl’s film version of Imitation of Life (1959). In 2011, it was especially disturbing to still see this filmic spectacle of the Black w ­ oman as primordial, maternal surrogate, whose l­ abor of love is eternal devotion to the delicate bodies and fragile egos of White ­women and girls. Black caregivers’ intense adoration for their White employers and c­ hildren has long been a racist trope in American sentimentalism, which has naturalized and idealized White f­ amily life to justify class and racial hegemony. For June Howard, sentimental conventions emerged in literary depictions of the nineteenth-­century American ­family, which had to be reinforced as a new, demo­cratic social order, one that supported ironically racial and gendered divisions of l­ abor.4 ­Because caregivers place the wealthy child’s well-­being at the center of the narrative, t­ hese narratives’ subtext are preoccupied with the f­ uture civic impact of failed domesticity. Commodified ­women’s culture that revolves around the nanny is grounded in this sentimental tradition, consolidating narratives of the ­family and cultivating, as Lauren Berlant calls it, an “intimate public” that generates “affective knowledge,” establishing a collective based on homogenized feminine feelings that reproduce conventionality and normativity.5 In popu­lar domestic fiction and film, gentrified caregivers usually do the hegemonic work of justifying disparities of wealth, even if they provide a moralistic or psychological critique of leisure-­class lifestyle. ­These popu­lar sentimental tales signal how hegemonic ideologies of domesticity, affect, and reproductive l­abor are intertwined, but also how they are in a constant state of flux. In Profit and Plea­ sure, Rosemary Hennessy argues that affect is always “historically or­ga­nized” even though affects belong to a “repressed domain of social life” or a highly naturalized field of sensation and feeling that ideology inevitably exploits in order to justify cap­i­tal­ist modes of production.6 Thus, the genealogy of gentrified care workers in lit­er­a­ture and culture exhibits how popu­lar affective discourse tends to reinforce the ruling class’s interests even if they critique its domestic vices. Indeed, one of the first British novels, Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1748), revolves around a caregiver, the eponymous female protagonist, who is abused, assaulted, and kidnapped by her master, a rakish aristocrat. ­A fter managing to fight him off and reform him, Pamela is “rewarded” for maintaining her virtue by getting a marriage offer from him. Analyzing Pamela and other early novels, Nancy Armstrong contends that domestic fiction became a modern po­liti­cal apparatus that served to consolidate feminine subjectivity and extol middle-­class womanhood over aristocratic womanhood.7 This narrative arc of single womanhood resonates with the ­later governess figure, including Jane Eyre,8 and even the con­temporary nanny figure, revealing how single female caregivers have long functioned as pedagogical embodiments of domestic virtue that is distinctly White, feminine, and middle-­ class, even if the figure is technically “the help.” The single, upwardly mobile female domestic’s perspective confirms the nefarious excess of elite domesticity, and her


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triumphs naturalize middle-­class sentimentality as an affective remedy to any social illness, including patriarchal domestic vio­lence. For Armstrong, domestic fiction functioned as a way to promote a modern politics based on psychic and affective individuation, thus displacing other collective forms of po­l iti­cal re­sis­ tance.9 Plots that revolve around servants and governesses reforming gender-­ based domestic roles thereby minimize or defuse the obvious class and race antagonisms between domestic workers and their employers in the society at large.10 Con­temporary tropes of single White nannies rest on this transatlantic domestic culture, but they also reflect the specific ways single ­women’s subjectivity and agency are defined by affective and domestic ideologies at any given cultural moment. The governess figures in Mary Poppins (1964) and The Sound of ­Music articulate and resolve anx­i­eties surrounding single ­women’s newfound agency in the 1960s American w ­ omen’s movement. More con­temporary nannies’ contradictions are entangled in t­ hese inherited archetypes as well as the intersecting discourses of neoliberalism and postfeminism that narrativize and constrain single womanhood at large. Anthea Taylor has argued that the fraught discourse of singleness in con­temporary texts reflects other more general trends in neoliberal postfeminist media culture.11 On the one hand, postfeminist media culture celebrates singleness in specific commodified forms of empowered femininity, such as Sex and the City (HBO 1998–2004); on the other, single w ­ omen, especially ­t hose featured in postfeminist romances, register the pitfalls of feminism and constricted narratives surrounding singlehood.12 As Angela McRobbie notes, postfeminist media culture emerges out of a neoliberal paradigm that promotes “female individualisation” yet “disarticulates” t­ hose forms of agency from a feminist agenda of social change.13 Moreover, though postfeminist media culture generates an ethos of girl-­power sisterhood, the girlfriend apparatus in texts like Sex and the City, as Alison Winch has pointed out, merely supports and manages the normative and individuated quests for professional and heterosexual fulfillment.14 According to Taylor, one of the ways in which singleness is policed in the popu­lar media culture is the under­lying imperative that the heroine, as an individual, must undergo a make­over in order to release her from her single state. Vari­ous technologies of gender mediate the exigencies surrounding singleness, compelling her ­toward compulsory heterosexuality.15 Lauren Berlant echoes this assertion in The Female Complaint: “­People who are unhinged or unhitched are frequently seen both as symptoms of personal failure and threats to the general happiness, which seems to require, among other t­ hings, the positioning of any person’s core life story in a plot of love’s unfolding, especially if that person is a ­woman.”16 This narrative trope of singlehood is often twisted or reversed altogether when nannies become protagonists. In t­ hese texts, nannies restore happiness by regenerating the domestic sphere. The single, childless nanny is endowed with expertise or suffused with the intuitive maternal knowledge to remake the cultural terms of motherhood and even marriage. While destabilizing the status quo of the elite ­house­hold, nannies tend not to have a radical function. On the one hand, the nanny’s infiltration of elite spheres of domesticity has often served a normative function: she provides a

All the Single Nannies


critique of the wealthy h ­ ouse­hold’s domestic flaws and asserts an agenda of middle-­ class domestic virtue, without calling for larger social interventions. If she marries her wealthy employer, which is a common trope, she is not condemned for social climbing but exalted for reforming the domestic sphere. On the other hand, nannies who remain single—in the style of Mary Poppins—­have dif­fer­ent narrative implications. They may reform domesticity, but in retaining their alterity from marriage and motherhood, ­these singletons suggest possibilities for dif­fer­ent models of womanhood that remain uncoupled from marriage and motherhood. In con­temporary iterations of the nanny, the discourse of singlehood is constrained by ­t hese tropes but also by the narrative determinacies of “female individualization” that contain and defuse the po­liti­cal orientations of t­ hese texts that represent an exploited l­ abor force.

Fraulein Maria and Mary Poppins: Solving Prob­lems of Untethered Single Womanhood Following the well-­grooved narrative pattern of domestic fiction and culture, both Mary Poppins and The Sound of ­Music revolve around plots that enlist single female protagonists to reform bourgeois domesticity. Although Mary Poppins is set in ­England before World War I, and The Sound of M ­ usic is set in Austria before and during World War II, t­ hese films are American productions (Disney and Rod­gers and Hammerstein, respectively), and engage U.S. domestic and gender ideologies of the mid-1960s. Other critics have interpreted ­these films as allegories for U.S. culture and politics.17 In his reading of The Sound of ­Music, Raymond Knapp rightly notes how the film is invested in recuperating American viewers’ nostalgic identification with a pure Eu­ro­pean past ­after World War II.18 In her smart reading of t­ hese two films, Anne McLeer argues that the nannies are invited to “modernize” patriarchal power in the domestic sphere during the American w ­ omen’s movement, when gender roles w ­ ere being contested. Nannies promote updated child-­rearing tactics that resignify the postwar home as the site of fun, imagination, and plea­sure for men. She asserts: “In the case of Mary Poppins, ­family stability is analogous to the foundation of security as well as modernization in the cap­i­tal­ist marketplace, whereas in The Sound of M ­ usic it represents the foundation of nationalist strug­gle against military and ideological aggression.”19 With a dif­fer­ent focus on the two films’ discourses of American single womanhood, I ­will build on McCleer’s reading and explore how ­these sixties nannies are enlisted as fetishized maternal agencies and authoritative spokeswomen for repairing, reinventing, and reproducing bourgeois families in crisis. Nannies further become vehicles for exploring single womanhood when unhinged from the institution of the f­ amily. While both The Sound of ­Music and Mary Poppins uphold gender, class, and racial conservatism as it pertains to the American ­family, they each offer up dif­fer­ent loopholes for single womanhood that compete with the reinvention of patriarchalism. In The Sound of M ­ usic, the prob­lem of single womanhood is as central as the prob­lem of the ­family. What to do about single ­women once they reach a certain


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age is a question posed in the very opening scene when the nuns at Nonnberg Abbey reflect on the novice Maria’s off-­k ilter be­hav­ior, especially her incessant singing and tardiness, which makes her an inappropriate candidate for the sisterhood. While explic­itly posing Maria’s be­hav­ior as a “prob­lem” in the song “How Do You Solve a Prob­lem Like Maria,” they do not describe her antics as sinful or threatening. The nuns regard her more like a misguided child, an infantile spirit that they liken to a “cloud” or a “moonbeam” that simply could not be contained by the convent rules. In fact, some of the nuns view her be­hav­ior in amusing terms, “A flibbertijibbet! A will-­o’-­t he wisp! A clown!”20 ­Because Maria is an orphan, the Reverend M ­ other Abbess decides to send her to work as a governess for the prestigious von Trapp ­family. A former sea captain and widower, Georg von Trapp runs his ­house­hold in a militant and rigid manner, which proves to be just as incompatible an environment for Maria’s free-­spirited nature as the convent; however, it becomes clear that Maria’s problematic disposition is actually the solution to the von Trapp ­children’s thwarted home life. Her child-­centered brand of empathy and sensuality reawakens the spirit of domesticity in the widower. McLeer argues that Maria represents the popu­lar postwar version of the “libidinal ­mother” who is playful and childlike herself and thus utterly satisfied by motherhood. Libidinal ­mothers are well positioned to soften patriarchs who, in the postwar era, ­were being called to establish more intimate and personal bonds with their ­children.21 Maria is given a professional opportunity to channel her childlike spirit into childcare and develop an awareness of her calling. Unlike the abbey, which has an infantilizing effect on Maria, the von Trapp h ­ ouse­hold hones and matures her convictions regarding child-­rearing. By committing herself to the proj­ect of maternal surrogacy, Maria comes of age as a governess, but she remains stunted romantically by the abbey; she is incapable of viewing herself as an object of male desire or as fit to be a wife. Maria’s unworldliness and lack of wifely ambition are set in opposition to the Baroness Elsa, who is angling to be Captain von Trapp’s next wife. She is quite aware that Maria poses a threat to this desired engagement. The baroness’s lack of nurturance makes her Maria’s foil and an unfit ­mother, once the Captain is moved by Maria to question his militant patriarchal rule. The Sound of ­Music thus demystifies Eu­ro­pean aristocratic excess as incompatible with healthy domesticity, through its portrait of the baroness as a cold stepmother. As Knapp notes, Maria has an American ethos geared t­ oward a U.S. audience.22 The unadorned Maria stands in for the masses, but she also embodies a robust form of American femininity that is endowed with exceptionalism, resourcefulness, and a strong work ethic; she regards all her governess responsibilities with g­ reat determination and even converts her bedroom curtains into utilitarian playclothes for the c­ hildren. Not only is she represented as deserving of upward mobility; Maria also strengthens domestic virtue in a vulnerable Eu­ro­pean home, which extends to the homeland at large. Her function as a sentimental muse restores a heterogendered division of l­abor in an aristocratic ­house­hold that is characterized by con­spic­u­ous leisure and excess; both the Captain and the Baroness loaf with their effeminate friend Max while Maria tends tirelessly to the ­children. Through this matriarchal com-

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plement, the Captain transforms into a gentle and dedicated ­father who is plugged into the quotidian pleasures and intimacies of domesticity. His domestic transformation fuels his charismatic opposition to the Nazi invasion and affirms his status as noble Austrian aristocrat. With ­little reference to the Holocaust, the po­liti­cal repudiation of Nazi Germany is a sentimental assertion of nationalist pride. The pedagogical role of the governess thereby affirms gender normativity but also class and racial hegemony in its suggestion that elite, White Eu­ro­pean ­house­holds merely need small psychological tweaks to justify their power and alleged moral superiority. Resolving anx­i­eties surrounding single womanhood extends beyond Maria in The Sound of M ­ usic and sends a message to the unruly sixties youth culture that repudiated parental authority and asserted new sexual prerogatives outside of marriage. The von Trapp’s eldest ­daughter, Liesl, who is famously “sixteen ­going on seventeen,” seems to sorely need the maternal mentorship that Maria provides. ­There are thematic parallels to be drawn between her and Maria’s coming-­of-­age, even though Liesl’s transgressions are sexually charged. Like Maria in the first scene, Liesl is caught fleeing the premises at an inappropriate time. However, instead of frolicking and singing on the hillside, Liesl is sneaking off to kiss and flirt secretly and ­after dark with the tele­gram delivery boy Rolfe.23 Like Maria, Liesl possesses a childish naivete about the “world of men,” which only enhances her desirability. Significantly, the romance fizzles b ­ ecause the tele­gram delivery boy becomes a Nazi devotee and disapproves of her ­father’s Austrian nativism. Rolfe accuses Leisl’s f­ ather of being “too Austrian.” At the end of the film, Maria, now officially Mrs. von Trapp, prods Liesl to preserve her chaste innocence, which is now aligned with her ­father’s nationalism. Maria assures Liesl that she ­w ill one day know what it feels like to become a man’s wife, but that she should wait “a year or two.” The film suggests that the abbey preserved Maria’s innocence, confirming the benefits of extending childhood and tempering adolescent lust for exuberant young w ­ omen who could other­wise be tainted prematurely by the cantankerous ways of the world. At first glance, the narrative privileges a feminized sensuality that has the capacity to lubricate the rigid institutions of faith, ­family, and nation. Upon a closer look, the narrative places the management of single w ­ omen’s agency and sexuality at the center of t­ hose institutions’ reforms. More than merely suggesting that single ­women’s social maturity be channeled safely into the institutions of marriage and motherhood, The Sound of ­Music endorses an extended infantilization of single ­women. Though presented as an unlikable figure at best, the Baroness Elsa provides a subversive counterpoint to this master narrative of single womanhood. She retreats from the engagement, but not in a pathetic way. Rather, she acknowledges her and Captain von Trapp’s incompatibility and suggests that the Captain’s own wealth and financial autonomy proved to be an obstacle to their success, as she preferred to have men rely on her wealth. Elsa’s financial autonomy is thus attuned to a gender role reversal in marriage that starkly contrasts the idealized heterogendered symmetry of the von Trapps’ companionate marriage. The potential power of Elsa’s autonomy is undercut by the po­liti­c al


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message of the film. Elsa—­like her and the Captain’s queer friend Max—­stands in for a kind of materialistic and vulgar opportunism that makes Austria so vulnerable to the Nazis. Nationalist sentiment is bolstered by the symbolic ­music and nature that rejuvenate a new ideal nuclear ­family—­t he von Trapp ­family, which only slightly modifies the traditional marriage schema by romanticizing co-­ parental exuberance. The civic allegory of Mary Poppins is similar to The Sound of M ­ usic in that it provides a rather depoliticized critique of a White, elite ­house­hold before World War I—­t he Bankses. The film represents the British patriarchy as foppish through the character of banker George Banks, whose fixation on time and order makes him rigid and misguided. His preoccupation with business and his suffragette wife’s focus on politics are presented as selfish and the cause for parental neglect. Mary Poppins makes some references to the masses through the servants, chimney sweepers, and other workers who creep into the margins of the screen and possess comparative wisdom and self-­awareness. Nonetheless, it is undeniably ­limited in its focus on repairing the domestic mindset of bourgeois bankers whose affects and sensibilities are stunted by routinization, in an era marked by routinized industrial l­ abor exploitation.24 Despite ­these ideological limitations, Mary Poppins depicts single womanhood in a manner that at least provides an alternative to domesticated femininity. Like Fraulein Maria, Mary Poppins is a single w ­ oman who cannot be contained by traditional institutional culture. While Maria’s outlandish spirit is romanticized and likened to the natu­ral ele­ments (such as clouds and moonbeams), Mary’s bona fide magical nature—­her status as a figment of ­children’s imaginations—­makes her entirely immune to social regulation. Floating above the city holding an opened umbrella, Mary comes and goes as needed, but, importantly, on terms she sets on her own. Her supplementary role in the context of the elite ­house­hold allows for more gender-­bending than for Maria, who must also undergo a maturation in order for the f­ amily to be saved. In contrast, Mary requires no fixing at all. Mary Poppins thus foregrounds a distressed nuclear f­amily that needs a resolutely single person to guide it to happiness and tranquility. Pridefully, Mr. Banks sings about how “lordly is the life he leads” as an En­glishman in 1910.25 Ironically, he views himself as the “lord of his c­ astle,” even though his c­ hildren are nowhere to be found. It is clear that the c­ hildren are marginalized woefully in the h ­ ouse­hold. Though deflating the patriarchy in its portrait of Mr.  Banks, the film also prompts the viewer to ridicule Mrs.  Banks’s suffragette politics that have distracted her from even the most basic tasks of ­house­w ifery. The film parodies her self-­avowed ­woman power and then undercuts it further as she becomes quiet and fearful in the presence of her husband. Her persona is exactly the opposite of Poppins, who is confident, strong, and assertive even in the face of patriarchal authority. The problematic subtext is that reforming an enervated domesticity—­i nstead of striving ­toward the suffragette movement’s po­liti­cal goals—is the emancipatory agent for modern w ­ omen, even working w ­ omen like Mary Poppins, in this era of progressive mass po­liti­cal

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upheaval. This negative portrait of first-­wave feminism extends to the second-­wave ­women’s movement, the era in which the film was released. Both of the Bankses are vain, ineffectual, and oblivious to their c­ hildren’s whereabouts, and cannot even efficiently hire a nanny who w ­ ill remain with them for more than a short time. The patriarch insists that they need a “firm, respectable and no nonsense” governess who enforces “tradition, discipline, and rules,” b ­ ecause “the f­ uture empire rests in her hands.” Meanwhile, the ­children write their own advertisement, emphasizing a “cheery disposition,” kindness, and lively caregiving. Though the ­father tears up their ad, Mary Poppins appears and references the ­children’s desired qualities. Mary is a composite of the c­ hildren’s imagination, but she also comes across as an assertive and confident adult ­woman who specifies her wages and schedule. She values and embodies the ­children’s qualities for a loving and imaginative caregiver while resignifying the authority that Mr. Banks requests and foisting it back onto him, the patriarch, which ironically makes him believe that she is appropriate for the role. During her stay, Mary obeys none of Mr. Banks’s rules and refuses to exist in the quotidian temporality of the rigid patriarchal ­house­hold. She knows that her work is premised on ephemerality as opposed to dependability and longevity, which are the conventional markers of “good” help. Thus, while Mary Poppins may only make slight adjustments to patriarchal domesticity in the world of the Banks f­ amily, she asserts her own autonomy—­not just from the institutions of marriage and motherhood but from the societal conventions of time and space. B ­ ecause she is a composite of the ­children’s imagination, she exists outside of conventional, heterotemporal space in the adult world—­t he conventions that constrain and ail the Bankses’ f­amily dynamic.26 Mary exists instead in the space of fantasy; being around Mary is like being “on holiday,” as Bert sings. Mary responds to Bert’s praise by mirroring and reciprocating it: “It is a jolly holiday with you, Bert.” However, she expands on her praise of him by referencing his restraint and forbearance: “You’d never think of pressing your advantage,” and “A lady ­needn’t fear when you are near.” She praises him for being a gentleman, which she defines as not imposing his desire on her. In this scene, it becomes clear that Mary is not merely a muse or subordinate to other ­people’s fantasies. She also exists in a fantasy space that is ungoverned by male-­centered desire, where she can enjoy romance on her own whimsical terms and without being forced into marriage. Cristina Valverde argues that Mary Poppins embodies the “empowered spinster” archetype. She interprets her nurturing as subversive in that it appropriates a maternal role and offers an alternative to the pragmatic law of patriarchal society.27 I believe that the film allows Poppins access to categories such as that of the spinster. ­Because of the inclusion of this scene, which is charged with magical courtship, Mary exceeds the classic archetype of the dour spinster that she embodies in P. L. Travers’s original 1934 novel. Furthermore, Mary Poppins is distinct from the infantilized Fraulein Maria in the way she evades conventions of adult femininity and poaches tropes of childhood—­imagination, fun, absurdity, and whimsy—in a manner that suits her.


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She herself is not childlike; she merely embodies a version of single womanhood that is premised on the repudiation of mature adulthood as it is defined by the dominant social order. Though Poppins engages in gender disruption, she does not disrupt other forms of social order in the film. As McLeer argues, Poppins has threshold status in the way she moves between the working class and the bourgeoisie, but this oscillation merely indicates harmony between the classes.28 The final image of Mrs. Banks’s suffragette banner floating up in the sky signals to feminists that they need to refocus their attention back on the home. Both governesses institute expansive attitude adjustments that are contagious—­music to every­one’s ears—as opposed to expansive structural adjustments.29 The domestic interventions in both films provides the gateway to a more beneficent and lax form of capitalism (in the case of Mary Poppins) or the ­f uture promise of a demo­cratic culture (in the case of Sound of ­Music) in a po­liti­cal context boiling with fascistic rule—­a conflict angled so that we only see how it is detrimental to a passionately nationalistic gentry that owns mansions and lakes and dances in ballrooms. While they are endowed with a superior imaginative and emotive capacity, nannies only c­ ounter the male-­centered rigidity and traditionalism of domestic culture insofar as they allow for feeling and play to lubricate its social relations. Offsetting, mediating, and diluting the nasty feelings cultivated by disparities of wealth and po­liti­cal power, nannies dispense “spoonfuls of sugar” and “raindrops on roses” that stave off the more revolutionary hungers for deep structural changes to the po­liti­cal economy. Fun and imagination are thus meant to have demo­cratizing effects: rich, uptight bankers could learn something from chimney sweepers who intuitively know to whistle, dance, and sing to break up their weary workday.30 In The Sound of M ­ usic, the proletariat is quite invisible, but the film suggests that all Austrians are bound together spiritually, by virtue of their sublime jaunts in the mountains and primal love for edelweiss flowers. Mary Poppins and Fraulein Maria are ordinary w ­ omen who infiltrate elite ­house­holds, but they only teach them how to generate pleasant diversions for the sake of their ­family’s ­mental health. Nonetheless, Poppins’s magical alterity allows her to remain significantly detached from the domestic institutions that she repairs; this is unlike Fraulein Maria, whose problematic status at the convent is resolved through her becoming Mistress von Trapp.31 The pivotal transformation she undergoes as governess to the von Trapp c­ hildren abides by the conventions of a classic female bildungsroman. Her childish, well-­meaning deviances are subdued as she matures into a stately wife and m ­ other, integrating herself into what Berlant calls a “maturational life narrative” through the canonized scripts of intimacies that assert the ontological imperatives of “domestic privacy.”32 But Mary Poppins’s quirks are never presented as prob­lems, and she, unlike Fraulein Maria, does not feel sad or aimless. She is neither mad nor fallen—­ the two categories that w ­ ere used to pathologize governesses in the past; rather, she hovers (literally) heroically above the fray. The uncoupling of feminine nurturance and child-­rearing from marriage and motherhood professionalizes Mary’s knowledge, but the narrative also carves out a space for a wage-­earning, female

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singlehood that is not just a means to an end. Although Poppins proves to be a valuable supplement to normative domesticity, her lifestyle is construed as enigmatic and whimsical in its own right.

Twenty-­First-­Century Nannies: The Rise of the Neoliberal Nanny Early twenty-­first-­century neoliberal incarnations of gentrified nannies reflect how reproductive l­abor—­a nd care work especially—­continues to be a major vehicle through which capital gets confronted, refracted, and (often) reaffirmed through domestic ideologies. Certain narrative trends of the nanny remain consistent with the sixties nannies discussed in the previous section, including a ­whole slew of real­ ity shows that have aired in the past de­cade or so, including Supernanny (Channel 4, 2004–2011), Nanny 911 (Fox, 2004–2009), Jo Frost: Nanny on Tour (UPtv, 2016), Supernanny US (ABC, 2005–2011), Take Home Nanny (TLC, 2008), and Amer­i­ca’s Supernanny (Lifetime, 2011–2013), all of which depict nannies who provide expert childcare advice to families in need. Marketing for t­ hese real­ity shows overtly associates t­ hese nannies with a nanny archetype, especially Mary Poppins. In popu­lar fiction and film, such as The Nanny Diaries (2007) and the Au Pair trilogy (1999, 2001, 2009), plotlines involving nannies are formulaic and draw heavi­ly from their popu­lar pre­de­ces­sors. The more hegemonic repre­sen­ta­tions of White, gentrified, twenty-­first-­century nannies are neoliberal versions of Mary and Maria, insofar as they observe the evils of class disparity but ultimately reframe it as a prob­lem of the ruling class’ emotional shortcomings. The ABC ­family TV miniseries trilogy entitled Au Pair reflects the way in which recycled tropes of the nanny intersect with neoliberal ideologies of l­abor and agency. In the first film of the trilogy, a young, White American ­woman, Jenny, goes to Austria to work as an au pair for Oliver Caldwell, a wealthy White American widower—­the CEO of a multinational corporation. In this Sound of M ­ usic–­like tale, the au pair Jenny becomes a m ­ other figure to the ­children and falls in love with their wealthy f­ ather, but it has a few modern twists. Jenny has recently earned her MBA in finance, and she impresses Oliver with her astute interpretations of a deal he is making with clients. More than merely endorsing a companionate, egalitarian partnership between men and ­women, the film suggests that ­women can be nurturers and engage in high-­powered ­careers outside of the home. Jenny’s ambition distinguishes her from Oliver’s evil betrothed, a social climber who, like Elsa in The Sound of ­Music, is motivated by wealth and plots to send his ­children off to boarding school once she and Oliver are married. Jenny has an impeccable ability with ­children, and she is able to “lean in” confidently in the sphere of global capitalism. Jenny thus does more than catalyze paternal warmth in Oliver; she inspires him to view a female subordinate as an equal. Though the trilogy affirms the ­career path and upward mobility of the au pair, it reinforces a neoliberal fantasy of agency, suggesting that the market is accessible to anyone—­even a lowly au pair—so long as that person exhibits exceptional ability, knowledge, and grit. By


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the end of the trilogy, the au pair ascends not just as the CEO’s wife, but as a co-­ executive. The film has updated the gender ideologies and marital ideals that we see in The Sound of M ­ usic by promoting a neoliberal marriage that is premised on enterprise, innovation, and entrepreneurialism. This is underscored in the final film of the trilogy, The Au Pair: Adventures in Paradise, which features Jenny and Oliver as a married ­couple with a child of their own. B ­ ecause they both work full-­ time, their baby is cared for most of the time by an overworked nanny, who is exploited, unwittingly, by Jenny and Oliver. At the last minute, the nanny refuses to go to Puerto Rico with them on a ­family vacation. This puts the f­ amily in crisis, needing to find a caregiver on vacation. Jenny’s quest to find a nanny in Puerto Rico forces her to venture beyond the resort, and she commiserates with the impoverished Puerto Rican ser­v ice workers, who are depicted as exceedingly grateful for the wages proffered by the tourist industry. Witnessing the Puerto Ricans’ resourcefulness and commitment to their communities, Jenny is reminded of the meaning of life: motherhood and communal ser­vice. She provides aid to a mother-­ run business. Through this purportedly egalitarian and transnational contact zone, the exploitative ser­vice industry is naturalized ­under the guise of elite American philanthropy and goodwill. The former au pair, who had devolved partially into an elite wife and oblivious employer, gets a refresher course in domestic and civic virtue, which allows her to appreciate and support the fresh, entrepreneurial spirit of the global South, but always u ­ nder the benevolent umbrella of global neoliberal capitalism. Like Au Pair, the two versions of The Nanny Diaries, a best-­selling novel by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus that was turned into a 2007 blockbuster film, are popu­lar texts that deploy palimpsestic tropes of the nanny in order to update discourses of affect and agency as they pertain to single White womanhood in an era of global capitalism. In the film version, Annie, the nanny protagonist, admits that “every­t hing she knows about nannying came from the movies” and dreams of herself floating above Manhattan with a magical umbrella.33 In the novel, the authors of the New York Times best seller make many intertextual references to Jane Eyre. The well-­worn trope of the confessional nanny, like her pre­de­ces­sors, is configured as White, educated, and upwardly mobile and becomes a vehicle for updating domestic virtues in a wealthy subculture: the Upper East Side of New York. In the film version, Annie Schuester (called “Nanny” by her employer) embraces the mythical template of the nanny in order to manage her own quarter-­ life crisis, which involves mustering up the courage to choose a c­ areer path that she authentically desires (becoming an anthropologist) instead of becoming a ­career ­woman in finance, which is what she has been encouraged to do by her ­mother. Annie is the con­temporary equivalent of a governess, whose gentrified care work reworks domestic norms that are distinctly tailored to White, middle-­class womanhood. Her background and qualifications distinguish her from the other mi­grant nannies of color who populate the Upper East Side. Though still anonymous in the eyes of her employer, Nanny has a degree in early childhood education, and she is aware of her coveted status within the pool of nannies in the

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neighborhood. Her expert interest in c­ hildren’s welfare and development puts into stark relief the neglect and absurdity of Upper East Side parenting culture. Though a satirical work of fiction, the confessional mode of The Nanny Diaries surrounds the marketing of the piece, as it was written by McLaughlin and Kraus, two New York University students who had worked as caregivers for several families, and who claim that the characters are composites of the dif­fer­ent families who employed them. The novel titillates readers b ­ ecause it was marketed, in part, as a leakage of ­actual families’ domestic quirks. Readers are drawn to the insider understanding of elite domesticity but also to the romantic narrative that allows the nanny to achieve well-­earned upward mobility by dating (and eventually marrying, in the sequel) a wealthy Harvard law student who lives in the same Park Ave­nue building. The narrative focus on the identity crisis of the relatively privileged nanny protagonist limits the class consciousness of the novel. The reader and viewer are positioned to identify with the nanny who uses her sojourn into domestic ser­v ice as a laboratory for finding and asserting her individual voice, agency, and personhood. Though the film version of The Nanny Diaries is also presented as a liberal exposé of wealthy families, it does so through the narrative apparatus of fieldwork. Through voice-­over, the nanny articulates authoritatively the ways in which Upper East Side parenting culture is premised on self-­interest, narcissism, and exploitation. By juxtaposing Upper East Side parents with tribal cultures depicted in exhibits at the Museum of Natu­ral History, the film defamiliarizes and undercuts the ideals of the American leisure class. This ironic deflation of wealthy h ­ ouse­holds overtly pre­ sents the outsourcing of parenting as a racialized phenomenon. In the exhibits at the outset of the film, the nannies are all non-­White and are pushing strollers with White c­ hildren. The eponymous nanny stumbles upon the position by bumping into Mrs. X at a park. As numerous other employers seek her out, Nanny remarks on her lack of experience, claiming: “All they needed to know was that I was White, a college grad, and terminally single.” In addition to highlighting the privileged whiteness and educational background of the nanny protagonist, the film provides glimpses of an exploitative domestic-­service industry through Annie’s anthropological investigation. But, like the Au Pair series, it pre­sents the inequalities of global capitalism through the perspective of a White college student who works as a nanny temporarily in order to soul search before beginning her “real” profession. Anthropology is Annie’s true passion, much to the disappointment of her m ­ other, who is invested in her becoming a high-­powered ­career w ­ oman in finance. This anthropological background sets up the context for Annie to narrate (through voice-­over) the exorbitant lifestyles of elite families on New York’s Upper East Side. In this re­spect, the film productively reveals how many students with bachelor’s degrees right out of college find themselves, increasingly, working in the ever-­expansive ser­vice industries. In her account, the nanny exposes as grotesque leisure-­class h ­ ouse­holds run by stay-­ at-­home trophy wives and CEO husbands, with child-­rearing corroded by conspicuous materialism, status hunger, selfishness, and greed. The down-­to-­earth


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middle-­class college student infiltrates this 1 ­percent niche in the care-­work industry, revealing primarily how the wealthy parents’ distorted worldview impacts their privileged c­ hildren. The Nanny Diaries also depicts somewhat productively how nannies are oppressed by grueling hours and the overall carelessness and self-­absorption of their employers. Ca­rib­bean nannies make an appearance in The Nanny Diaries film, even as their material real­ity merely serves to corroborate the White nanny’s exploitation. The reader or viewer is positioned to be invested in the upward mobility and romantic trajectory of the White nanny, not the mi­grant domestic workers of New York who, at the time this novel and film came out, ­were gaining serious po­liti­cal visibility, especially through the ­union efforts of groups such as Domestic Workers United. This ­union, composed mostly of Ca­rib­bean, Latina, and Africana w ­ omen, bravely marched the streets of Manhattan and eventually succeeded in getting a bill of rights passed in New York, a bill that sought to secure better ­labor standards and provisions for domestic workers.34 In both versions of The Nanny Diaries, materialist critiques fall to the wayside ­because they are offset by the romantic subplot that puts Nanny on the path to marriage. Nanny con­ve­niently falls in love with a handsome, wealthy Ivy League law student who lives in her employers’ building. The heterosexual romance plot derails any materialist analy­sis of the industry and refocuses the narrative around affective fulfillment as opposed to a critique of leisure-­class excess. The promise of marriage puts Nanny on the path ­toward upward mobility and reinforces dominant racial trends in postfeminist masquerade, which, as McRobbie argues, works to “re-­secure the terms of submission of white femininity to white masculine domination, while si­mul­ta­neously resurrecting racial divisions by undoing any promise of multi-­culturalism through the exclusion of non-­white femininities from this rigid repertoire of self-­styling.”35 Nursing wounds from the emotional neglect he experienced as a wealthy child raised by nannies, her boyfriend embodies the sentimental solution to the care-­work crisis: wealthy parents just need to pay more attention to their c­ hildren and love them in more au­t hen­tic ways. The Nanny Diaries thus reinforces commonplace tropes of the nanny, in that the protagonist becomes a pedagogical character who facilitates the affective and moral renewal of a depraved elite domesticity. Along with the Au Pair trilogy, The Nanny Diaries ultimately reifies the global exploitation of a domestic mi­grant workforce ­because it suggests that the U.S. childcare crisis and the excesses of capital can be solved by merely bracketing off and reaffirming core domestic values and virtues from the beastly materialism of the neoliberal marketplace. Even though most narratives about nannies integrate recycled conventions about domestic ser­v ice, they also respond inevitably to their historically specific crisis of reproductive ­labor. At the time of this writing, it seems unfathomable that feminists had almost managed to pass the Child Development Act of 1971, which would have made childcare accessible to all American families regardless of their income. Replacing the collectivist freedoms envisioned by activists who put reproductive ­labor exploitation at the forefront of their po­liti­cal mission, neoliberalism’s purported freedoms are individuated ones. B ­ ecause ­these individuated

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freedoms are relentlessly fetishized, we do not have a clear impression of the material real­ity that t­hose freedoms are entirely incumbent upon individuals’ very relative access to capital. With the rise of a neoliberal economy or ethic that crystallized in the Reagan/Thatcher era, individual prosperity is purported to stem from a deregulated ­labor market that would ostensibly facilitate unbridled innovation and transnational agency. In short, neoliberal capitalism naturalizes the notion that a ­free market generates imaginative possibilities of ­grand and global proportions. As the cultural geographer Linda McDowell aptly puts it, “The new neoliberal corporate capitalism has transformed citizens into consumers. It has challenged and restructured the old institutions of production, reproduction and the state in ways that have radically transformed relations of dependence and care between ­people and social groups and the assumptions about gendered responsibilities that held ­t hese spheres together.”36 B ­ ecause mi­grants constitute the majority of low-­wage domestic workers in the global economy, they reflect neoliberalism par excellence, in that they suggest how all social relations—­even the most intimate ones—­can and should be governed by market values, the mobility of capital and l­ abor across national bound­a ries. But the domestic mi­g rant workforce also belies the egalitarian assumptions of neoliberalism ­because it lays bare in intimate ways the vast contradictions of transnational capitalism, as well as its unconditional aim to dispossess and extract surplus value from workers. While the con­temporary novel and films explored in this chapter nudge us ­toward reflecting on the structural exploitation of the care-­work industry, the narratives focus on the character development of single, White, educated narrators, whose maturation pro­cesses are premised on making brave “choices” about their c­ areers and love life. Th ­ ese neoliberal formulations of feminism contain and defuse po­liti­cal messages by making the texts grounded in what McRobbie terms “female individualization,” as opposed to a narrative that promotes a collective agenda for social change. This hegemonic discourse becomes naturalized through the updated trope of the nanny who, in straddling the private and public spheres, remakes domesticity so that it accommodates the neoliberal ideals of single White ­women’s agency that occlude systemic forms of oppressions ­u nder global capitalism. Domestic reforms are thereby l­imited to a purported egalitarianism in White bourgeois (neoliberal) marriages that still requires aspirant wives—­single nannies—to be saddled with affective ­labor that directs their husbands ­toward sentimental bliss and civic virtue. Single nannies who, in the style of Mary Poppins, reject marriage themselves are less burdened by their pedagogical function in the cultural imagination, which is so pervasive that it transcends the artifice and is mapped onto real p ­ eople. For instance, the recently discovered street photographer Vivian Maier is often likened to Mary Poppins for her eccentric lifestyle. In the 1950s and 1960s, Maier worked for and lived with her employers’ families all her adult life and took reams of brilliant photo­graphs of Chicago street scenes. Maier’s childcare style was like that of Mary Poppins—­idiosyncratic, playful, and imaginative. Like Poppins, Maier chose to remain single, living almost reclusively in the attics of her employers’ homes.


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Though she never shared her work during her life, Maier’s negatives w ­ ere discovered in a storage locker in 2005 and subsequently bought by a stranger d ­ oing research on Chicago neighborhoods. Enthusiasts ­were fascinated by the biographical context of ­these photos taken by a ­woman who was intensely private and guarded, and did not even go so far as to develop her photo­graphs—­let alone exhibit them. In 2010, I went to an exhibition of her photos at the Chicago Cultural Center. I noticed how visitors ­were prompted to indulge in the voy­eur­is­tic act of penetrating her sealed-­off interiority, as if they themselves had discovered the trea­sure trove that is Maier’s photographic imagination. The photo­graphs reveal an inquisitive, if melancholic, perspective of the Chicago streets. Despite Maier being a reclusive, live-in nanny, her photo­graphs evince a flaneuse perspective; she seems to revel in the diversity of the urban streets, evincing their quotidian grittiness and pageantry. Though admittedly intrigued myself by the story and images (exquisite in their own right), ­t here was a part of me that wished the negatives had never been found, the photos never developed. Given the pedagogical burden that nannies have borne in the cultural imaginary, the decidedly antipedagogical nature of the undeveloped photo­graph goes willfully against the archetypal grain; like a diary kept u ­ nder lock and key, it refuses to be read or reproduced, its introspective promises remain unlearned.

notes 1. ​I am applying Homi Bhaba’s notion of liminality from The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994), which they link to postcolonial disruption. In reflecting on the servant as a contentious and problematic literary subject, I am also indebted to Mary Wilson’s book The ­Labors of Modernism: Domesticity, Servants, and Authorship in Modernist Fiction (London: Routledge, 2013), in which they reflect on the servant as a disruptive figure who exists on the threshold of modern domesticity in modernist texts. 2. ​Some celebrities who have been rumored by tabloids as having affairs with nannies include Mick Jagger, Jude Law, Hugh Grant, Ben Affleck, Ethan Hawk, Jon Gosselin, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Robin Williams. 3. ​Kathryn Stockett, The Help (New York: Amy Einhorn Books, 2009), 92. 4. ​June Howard, Publishing the F ­ amily (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001), 224. 5. ​Lauren Berlant, “Intimacy: A Special Issue,” Critical Inquiry 24, no. 2 (1998): 281. 6. ​Rosemary Hennessy, Profit and Plea­sure: Sexual Identities in Late Capitalism (New York: Routledge, 2000), 72–73. 7. ​Nancy Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Po­liti­cal History of the Novel (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 5. 8. ​Though I do not have the space to discuss Jane Eyre (1847) in this essay, I believe it to be an impor­tant precursor to the l­ ater texts considered ­here. In fact, the authors of Nanny Diaries directly reference Jane Eyre. Th ­ ese intertextual references signal the layered nature of the governess trope but also how unmarried ­children’s caregivers have played the literary role of defining and shaping new ideals of middle-­class womanhood. For an informative reading on that topic, see Mary Poovey’s brilliant interpretation of Jane Eyre in her book Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-­Victorian ­England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988). 9. ​Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction, 252. 10. ​Like critics such as Armstrong and Berlant, whom I cite ­here, I tend to interpret sentimental conventions as reinforcing a hegemonic cultural logic. Other critics, following in the line of Jane Tompkins’s impor­tant argument in her book Sensational Designs: The Cultural

All the Single Nannies


Work of American Fiction, 1790–1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), see more disruptive power in the way feminine discourses (such as love and intimacy) pose challenges to patriarchal law in w ­ omen’s domestic fiction. 11. ​Anthea Taylor, Single W ­ omen in Popu­lar Culture: The Limits of Postfeminism (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 3. 12. ​Taylor, 1–3. 13. ​Angela McRobbie, The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Change (Los Angeles: Sage, 2012), 18, 26. 14. ​Alison Winch, Girlfriends and Postfeminist Sisterhood (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 64–66. 15. ​Taylor, Single W ­ omen in Popu­lar Culture, 14–15. 16. ​Lauren Berlant, The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), 172. 17. ​ A nne McLeer, “Practical Perfection? The Nanny Negotiates Gender, Class, and ­Family Contradictions in 1960s Popu­lar Culture,” NWSA Journal 14, no. 2 (2002): 81. 18. ​Raymond Knapp, The American Musical and the Formation of National Identity (Prince­ton, NJ: Prince­ton University Press, 2009), 233–239. 19. ​McLeer, “Practical Perfection?,” 82. 20. ​ The Sound of M ­ usic, directed by Robert Wise (1965; Beverly Hills, CA: Twentieth Century-­ Fox Home Entertainment). 21. ​McLeer, “Practical Perfection?,” 92. 22. ​Knapp, American Musical and the Formation of National Identity, 233. 23. ​Eric Brownell, “Exorcising the Gothic House, Redeeming the Gothic Tyrant in Robert Wise’s The Sound of M ­ usic,” Gender and History 30, no. 3 (October 2018): 638–639. In his reading of the film, Brownell argues that the Gothic imagery in the scene between Liesl and Rolfe—­t he darkness, rain, and, tyrannical tone affected by Rolfe—­stands in stark contrast to the imagery associated with Maria. He argues that the “gothic seduction” is a covert po­liti­c al critique of Nazi tyrannical rule. Maria—­who stands in for Amer­i­c a—­intercepts this potentially fatal flirtation with Rolfe, who stands in for fascism. 24. ​See Jon Simmons’s “Spectre over London: Spectre over London: Mary Poppins, Privatism, and Finance Capital and Chris Cuomo’s “Spinsters in Sensible Shoes: Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks” for discussions of the ­limited po­liti­cal scope of Mary Poppins. 25. ​ Mary Poppins, directed by Robert Stevenson (1964; Burbank, CA: Walt Disney Home Entertainment/Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2004). 26. ​My reading of Mary Poppins as challenging heterotemporality is informed by the theoretical under­pinnings of Jack Halberstam’s book In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (New York: New York University Press, 2005), in which he describes how queer bodies subvert the heteronormative logic of time in the context of narratives. In another work, The Queer Art of Failure (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011), Halberstam also discusses the queer, rebellious nature of childhood. Both concepts undergird my interpretation of the subversive aspects of Mary Poppins. 27. ​Cristina Pérez Valverde, “Magic ­Women on the Margins: Ec-­centric Models in Mary Poppins and Ms Wiz,” ­Children’s Lit­er­a­ture in Education 40, no. 4 (2009), 263–265. 28. ​McLeer, “Practical Perfection?,” 92. 29. ​Chris Cuomo, “Spinsters in Sensible Shoes: Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” in From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture, ed. Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 213. In his reading, Cuomo also argues that Poppins is a figure who challenges patriarchal authority while keeping the larger societal order intact. 30. ​Jon Simmons, “Spectre over London: Mary Poppins, Privatism, and Finance Capital,” Scope, July  2000, https://­w ww​.­nottingham​.­ac​.­u k ​/­scope​/­documents​/­2000​/­july​-­2000​ /­simons​.­pdf. In his reading, Simmons agrees that a critique of the private sphere makes the film version of Mary Poppins have a limiting discourse, even if it sheds light on the fundamental inequalities of capitalism.


A n n M at t i s

31. ​Valverde (“Magic ­Women on the Margins,” 266) discusses how the magical or “occult” dimensions of Mary Poppins are much more subtle in the Disney film version. Her essay outlines how Poppins is a rather sour spinster in the Travers’s story, with fewer of the magical properties in the film version. 32. ​Berlant, “Intimacy,” 282. 33. ​ The Nanny Diaries, directed by Richard  N. Gladstein (New York: The Weinstein Company/Alliance Atlantis, 2007). 34. ​Similar bills ­were passed in Illinois, Oregon, California, Nevada, Connecticut, Mas­sa­ chu­setts, Hawaii, and New Mexico and the city of Seattle. In July 2019, Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Pramila Jayapal introduced a bill, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act, which would grant all U.S. domestic workers protection at the federal level, including access to overtime, retirement benefits, and protection from sexual harassment. 35. ​McRobbie, Aftermath of Feminism, 70. 36. ​Linda McDowell, Gender, Identity, and Place: Understanding Feminist Geographies (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), 146.

Afterword Benjamin Kahan

What does it mean to opt out of, refuse, or be denied entry into the most culturally valorized and sanctioned institution of modern life? What does it mean to renounce or be flung out of marriage? Th ­ ese questions are at the heart of singleness studies and the proj­ect of this volume, registering the range of social and cultural positions covered by the category of singleness: celibates, marriage seekers, marriage resisters, in­de­pen­dent ­women, ­women adrift, bachelor girls, flappers, spinsters, old maids, ugly ­women, divorcées, ­w idows, and a host of other singletons. When I wrote Celibacies: American Modernism and Sexual Life (2013), I sought to turn away from the category of singleness, which I understood to conflate the categories of what Amy Froide calls “never-­married” and “ever-­married” in a way that I wanted to avoid, since it muddled the question of genital chastity.1 Moreover, I understood the word singleness as overly heterosexualizing in its thinking about sexuality, fearing that it would prevent me from thinking about celibacy, asexuality, same-­sex intimacies, and a range of other nongenital practices. But this volume has persuaded me of what Martina Mastandrea’s chapter, wittily referring to Joan Scott’s famous essay, calls “the usefulness of singleness as a category of analy­sis.” More than that, it has helped me to see how singleness as a category does crucial, necessary work for the history of gender and the history of sexuality. Many of the book’s chapters have helped me to understand the affordances of training our attention on marital status; as Andreá N. Williams’s chapter puts it, “Rather than reading marriage and singleness in opposition, understanding the two as mutually constitutive proves more generative.” This is evident in Kristin Celello’s delightful chapter that sees the divorced ­mother as a rising “sexual threat” to “unsuspecting suburban husbands (or being propositioned by them).” Likewise, Williams’s insight helps us to see the role of marriage and compulsory hetero­ sexuality in the transformation of Gidget from “just a girl” to “a single girl” that Pamela Robertson Wojcik’s chapter traces. One is not born, but rather becomes, single. Katherine Fama’s articulation of an emerging “single female counterpublic” 193


Ben ja min K aha n

seems a profoundly promising way of conceptualizing the turn-­of-­the-­twentieth-­ century suffrage movement and the rise of the New W ­ oman. If Fama offers new ways to conceptualize single ­women’s inhabitation of public space, Emma Liggins’s piece provides us with a rich account of their inhabitation of putatively private space. With t­ hese essays, I am inspired to think across the “never-­married” and the “ever-­married” divide that I only understood as an obstacle when I was writing Celibacies in order to see the richness of singleness—­how the very exclusion from the institution of marriage paradoxically makes pos­si­ble alternative forms of intimacy. For this reason, I want to briefly turn to Michael Field, the preferred pen name of the lesbian aunt-­niece ­couple of Katharine Bradley (1846–1914) and Edith Cooper (1862–1913). Michael Field asserted that they w ­ ere “closer married” than Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, one of Victorian E ­ ngland’s model ­couples.2 On the one hand, such a claim is audacious, as Bradley and Cooper could not legally marry.3 On the other hand, the name Michael Field fuses them into a singularity, a monad, not just writing u ­ nder one name but of one blood as an “intergenerational and intrafamilal” ­couple.4 Bradley writes in their joint diary: “Spinoza with his fine grasp of unity says: ‘If two individuals of exactly the same nature are joined together, they make up a single individual, doubly stronger than each alone,’ i.e., Edith and I make a veritable Michael.”5 Given Michael Field’s fascination with early modern vocabularies and the advent of modernity, I read Bradley as si­mul­ta­neously invoking the archaic denotation of the word individual, which, as Peter Stallybrass and Jeffrey Masten have demonstrated, meant indivisible, or necessarily connected, as well as calling forth the distinction of modern individuality in this passage.6 Their identical nature makes them indivisible and one of a kind.7 Moreover, such singularity, particularly given the ensuing transformation of gender, might suggest lesbianism, since, as Susan Lanser argues, the word singular has been “used frequently [since the late eigh­teenth ­century] . . . ​to describe ­women suspected of homoerotic desires.”8 Michael Field’s singularity then marks their marriage, their lesbianism, their intrafamilal bond, their indivisibility, and their uniqueness at the same time that it also registers the ­legal fact of their not being married, of being single. This reading of all the ways that singleness ramifies and ricochets in relation to Michael Field can only come into view with singleness studies and with the volume that Katherine Fama and Jorie Lagerwey have put together ­here. Its insights have clarified the affordances of thinking the “never-­married” and the “ever-­ married” together, how Michael Field might signify si­mul­ta­neously as single and married, helping me to understand how reading marital status might provide a rich set of questions for gender and sexuality studies.

notes 1. ​Benjamin Kahan, Celibacies: American Modernism and Sexual Life (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013). 2. ​T. Sturge Moore and D. C. Moore, eds., Works and Days (London: John Murray, 1933), 16.

A fterwor d


3. ​Complex relations between marriage and singleness ran in their ­family as Katherine Bradley’s parents ­were Dissenters who “married themselves.” Emma Donoghue, We Are Michael Field (1998; repr., London: Bello, 2014), 6. 4. ​Kate Thomas, “ ‘What Time We Kiss’: Michael Field’s Queer Temporalities,” GLQ 13, nos. 2–3 (2007): 329. 5. ​Moore and Moore, Works and Days, 16. 6. ​Peter Stallybrass, “Shakespeare, the Individual, and the Text,” in Cultural Studies, ed. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, and Paula A. Treichler (New York: Routledge, 1992), 593–610; Jeffrey Masten, Textual Intercourse: Collaboration, Authorship, and Sexualities in Re­nais­sance Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 28–30. 7. ​For a reading that presses against Michael Field’s singularity, see ­Virginia Blain, “ ‘Michael Field, the Two-­Headed Nightingale’: Lesbian Text as Palimpsest,” ­Women’s History Review 5, no. 2 (1996): 239–257. 8. ​Susan S. Lanser, “ ‘Queer to Queer’: The Sapphic Body as Transgressive Text,” in Lewd and Notorious: Female Transgression in the Eigh­teenth C ­ entury, ed. Katharine Kittredge (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003), 36.


We began the work for Single Lives in 2016 by sending out a call for conference proposals, hoping to find other humanities scholars working on single ­women. We ­were overwhelmed by the response, the breadth and range of topics, geographies, and fields. We held a conference in Dublin, Ireland, late in the year with a capacity crowd at the National Library of Ireland to see Rebecca Traister deliver a rousing public talk about single w ­ omen and social and po­liti­cal alliances and agency. ­Little did we know what a privilege it would be to gather together, to sit elbow to elbow in conference and seminar rooms, to crowd into a hallway for a shared lunch, to pack into a lecture together. The book’s essays, so unlike that first meeting, came together over the following years online, with contributors sending off materials and editorial meetings moving from nearby offices onto Zoom. The writing and editing pro­cess has been dotted with cautious, hopeful plans for more time together as thinkers, writers, and p ­ eople. We so look forward to welcoming singleness studies colleagues to Dublin again soon. The book took form in the collegial atmosphere of University College Dublin, cheered on by our heads of school, Danielle Clarke and John Brannigan, and by our colleagues, especially Fionnuala Dillane, Anne Fogarty, Jane Grogan, Paul Halferty, and Emma Radley. In a longer sense, it originated in the research of ­earlier years; thanks are owed to our colleagues and mentors who helped shape our interest in the field, especially Anca Parvulescu. We would like to thank Kimberly Guinta and the entire team at Rutgers for believing in this collection and ushering us through publishing during a pandemic. Many thanks as well to the thoughtful and thorough anonymous reviewers who strengthened the work along the way. We are indebted to the generous support of UCD’s Humanities Institute; the School of En­glish, Drama and Film; and the UCD College of Arts and Humanities for funding and hosting the original “Single Lives” conference in 2017 as well as the production and completion of this book. Enormous thanks to Dara Downey for her incredible work as a copy editor and editorial assistant as we prepared the manuscript for publication. Thank you to the 197


A c k n o w l ­e d g m e n t s

contributors for their insightful examinations of single w ­ omen in lit­er­a­ture, popu­ lar culture, and film. To the families and friends who sustain us, thank you. Fi­nally, to the single individuals and generations that have informed our lives and work through their writing, activism, generosity, and friendship, you set the standard with lives well lived. You have inspired the excitement, anger, and confidence that characterize our own understandings of single experience.


Addie, Elizabeth, and Charlotte Brownlow. “Deficit and Asset Identity Constructions of Single ­Women without ­Children Living in Australia: An Analy­sis of Discourse.” Feminism and Psy­chol­ogy 24, no. 4 (November 2014): 423–439. doi:10.1177/0959353514539463. The Agreement Made on May 27, 1920, by and between Metro Pictures Corporation and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of South Carolina Libraries, Columbia, SC. Ahmed, Sara. The Cultural Politics of Emotion. 2004. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014. —­—­—. Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, ­Others. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006. Allen, Frederick Lewis. Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the Nineteen-­Twenties. New York: Harper and ­Brothers, 1931. Altman, Rick. The American Film Musical. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. —­—­—. “From Homosocial to Heterosexual: The Musical’s Two Proj­ects.” In The Sound of Musicals, edited by Steven Cohan, 19–29. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. Amador, María Luisa, and Jorge Ayala Blanco, eds. Cartelera Cinematográfica, 1920–1929. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, 1999. Andrews, Travis M. “ ‘Feminism Is Not a Stick with Which to Beat Other W ­ omen’: Emma Watson Tells Off Critics of Revealing Photo.” Washington Post, March 6, 2017. https://­ www​.­washingtonpost​.­com​/­news​/­morning​-­mix​/­w p​/­2017​/­03​/­06​/­feminism​-­is​-­not​-­a​-­stick​ -­w ith​-­which​-­to​-­beat​-­other​-­women​-­emma​-­watson​-­tells​-o ­ ff​-­critics​-­of​-­revealing​-­photo​/­. “And So My Wife Divorced Me.” Harper’s Monthly Magazine, March 1931. Ansley, Jennifer. “Geographies of Intimacy in Mary Wilkins Freeman’s Short Fiction.” New E ­ ngland Quarterly 87, no. 3 (September 2014): 434–463. Anthony, Susan B. “Homes of Single ­Women.” In The Elizabeth Cady Stanton—­Susan B. Anthony Reader: Correspondence, Writings, Speeches, edited by Ellen Carol DuBois, 139–145. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1992. Armstrong, Erica R. “A M ­ ental and Moral Feast: Reading, Writing, and Sentimentality in Black Philadelphia.” Journal of ­Women’s History 16, no. 1 (Spring 2004): 78–102. Armstrong, Nancy. Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Po­liti­cal History of the Novel. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.


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Notes on Contributors

Kristin Celello is an associate professor in the Department of History at Queens College, City University of New York. She is the author of Making Marriage Work: A History of Marriage and Divorce in the United States and coeditor, with Hanan Kholoussy, of Domestic Tensions, National Anx­i­eties: Global Perspectives on Marriage, Crisis, and Nation. Her current research proj­ect is a history of the post­ divorce f­ amily in the twentieth-­century United States. Jennifer S. Clark is an assistant professor at Fordham University’s Department of Communication and Media Studies and is affiliated faculty for ­Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and the American Studies Program. Her current research focuses on the w ­ omen’s movement and tele­vi­sion production cultures in the United States during the 1970s. Her previous work on tele­vi­sion l­ abor and gender includes an exploration of Gypsy Rose Lee’s tele­vi­sion ­career and the logistics of Queen Elizabeth II’s televised coronation. Her work has been published in Feminist Media Histories, E Media Studies, New Review of Film and Tele­vi­sion Studies, Tele­vi­sion and New Media, and Screen. Elizabeth DeWolfe is a professor of history at the University of New E ­ ngland (Biddeford, Maine). DeWolfe is the author of the award-­winning books Shaking the Faith: Mary Marshall Dyer’s Anti-­Shaker Campaign (Outstanding Book Award, Communal Studies Association) and The Murder of Mary Bean and Other Stories, which received awards from the New ­England Historical Association, the Popu­lar Culture Association, and the In­de­pen­dent Publishers Association. She has edited an essay collection on ­women nature writers and a volume on the writing of the anti-­Shaker activist Mary M. Dyer and has published articles in several scholarly journals and anthologies. Her current proj­ects feature single ­women who make their livings as a detective, a mistress, and a hair worker. Katherine Fama is an assistant professor of American lit­er­a­ture in the School of En­glish, Drama, Film and Creative Writing at University College Dublin, where 219


Notes on Contr ibutors

she teaches and researches architecture and lit­er­a­ture, sexuality studies, and the modern American novel. Dr. Fama’s current book proj­ect uncovers the reciprocal relationship between the early twentieth-­century novel, domestic architecture, and the single w ­ oman in Amer­i­ca. Her previous work in narrative theory, modernism, and single ­women can be found in the Journal of Modern Lit­er­a­ture, MELUS, and Studies in American Naturalism. Benjamin Kahan is an associate professor of En­glish and w ­ omen’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Louisiana State University. He is the author of Celibacies: American Modernism and Sexual Life and The Book of Minor Perverts: Sexology, Etiology, and the Emergences of Sexuality. He is also the editor of Heinrich Kaan’s “Psychopathia Sexualis” (1844): A Classic Text in the History of Sexuality and The Cambridge History of Queer American Lit­er­a­ture (­under contract), and a coeditor of Theory Q, a book series from Duke University Press. Ursula Kania is a lecturer in En­glish language at the University of Liverpool. She is a corpus/queer/culinary linguist with a par­tic­u­lar interest in first language acquisition as well as language, gender and sexuality. Her publications include a monograph on the L1-­acquisition of yes/no-­questions in En­glish, a book chapter on the discursive construction of lesbian and gay identities in queer German cookbooks, and a journal article (published in Critical Discourse Studies) on the repre­sen­ta­ tion of the same-­sex marriage debate in the German press. Jorie Lagerwey is an associate professor in tele­v i­sion studies at University College Dublin. She is the author, with Taylor Nygaard, of Horrible White ­People: Gender, Genre, and Tele­vi­sion’s Precarious Whiteness and Postfeminist Celebrity and Motherhood: Brand Mom. Dr. Lagerwey’s primary research interests are in the repre­sen­ta­tions of gender and race on tele­v i­sion; TV genre; discourses of quality on TV and online; and celebrity culture. Her work has appeared in Cinema Journal, Tele­vi­sion and New Media, Genders, and elsewhere. Emma Liggins is a se­nior lecturer in En­g lish lit­er­a­ture in the Department of En­glish at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her publications include George Gissing, the Working ­Woman and Urban Culture, The British Short Story (with Andrew Maunder and Ruth Robbins), Odd ­Women? Spinsters, Lesbians and ­Widows in British W ­ omen’s Fiction, 1850–1939, and The Haunted House in ­Women’s Ghost Stories, 1850–1945: Gender, Space and Modernity. Martina Mastandrea earned her PhD in American studies from the School of Advanced Study (University of London) in 2018. In 2021 she received the biennial Eu­ro­pean Association of American Studies Rob Kroes Award for her study titled “F. Scott Fitzgerald on S­ ilent Film,” soon to be published by Brill in the book series Eu­ro­pean Perspectives on the United States. Her research interests include twentieth-­century American lit­er­a­ture and popu­lar culture, s­ ilent film history, film ­music, reception studies, and celebrity studies. Her articles have appeared in the F. Scott Fitzgerald Review, the Hemingway Review, and Italian Americana.

Notes on Contr ibutors


Ann Mattis is an associate professor of En­glish at the University of Wisconsin–­ Green Bay and the author of Dirty Work: Domestic Ser­vice in Progressive-­Era ­Women’s Fiction, a book on early twentieth-­century servants. Her research and teaching interests revolve around modern and con­temporary ­women’s complex relationship to l­ abor, domesticity, affect, and politics. Andreá N. Williams is an associate professor of En­glish at The Ohio State University, where she specializes in African American and nineteenth-­century American lit­er­a­ture. Her research focuses on autobiographical writing, African American newspapers, magazines and print culture, and Black feminist lit­er­a­ture and theory. She is the author of Dividing Lines: Class Anxiety and Postbellum Black Fiction. She is now at work on an interdisciplinary cultural study of unmarried African American w ­ omen tracing how singleness evolved from an intermediary life stage to a prolonged lifestyle across the twentieth c­ entury. Her work has appeared in American Literary History, Meridians, African American Review, Legacy, American Periodicals, and numerous edited collections. Pamela Robertson Wojcik is a professor in the Department of Film, Tele­v i­sion, and Theatre at the University of Notre Dame. She is the author of Gidget: Origins of a Teen Girl Transmedia Franchise; Fantasies of Neglect: Imagining the Urban Child, The Apartment Plot: Urban Living in American Film and Popu­lar Culture, 1945 to 1975, and Guilty Pleasures: Feminist Camp from Mae West to Madonna and the editor of numerous collections.


abolitionism, 18, 22 adolescents. See teen­agers African Americans: New Negro movement, 101n95; newspapers, social columns of, 23; Off-­Shore Pirate, The, perception of, 96, 101n94; Regent Theater, Baltimore and, 96, 101n94; single African American ­women, 15, 16, 19, 21, 22, 23; urban migration, 19; YWCA boarding­houses for, 26n16. See also Hunter, Jane Edna; single Black w ­ omen age studies, 7, 136–137; el­derly figured as weak or powerless, 136; medicalization of old age, 136; midlife and later-­life experiences, 137; older Americans, perception of, 136; ste­reo­t ypes of older w ­ omen, 136; waning “reverence” for the el­derly, 136 aging singly. See later-­life single w ­ omen Ahmed, Sara, 146, 151 Alcott, Louisa May, ­Little ­Women, 52 Allen, Frederick Lewis, Only Yesterday, 82 Ally McBeal (1997–2002), 2 Altman, Rick, 72–73, 77 Amer­i­ca’s Supernanny (2011–2013), 185 Anthony, Susan B., 139; “Homes of Single ­Women,” 141; idealized single cottage, 142 appellations: identification through, 18, 19; “Miss,” single ­women and, 18; “Mrs.,” reasons for using, 18; “Mrs.,” w ­ idows, divorcées, o ­ thers obscured, 18; “Ms.,” 19; single w ­ omen, misrepre­sen­ta­tion as “Mrs.” or “Mr.,” 18 architecture of singleness, 135, 150, 151, 152n4, 156n129, 157, 162–163, 172 archival collections: identification of married ­women, 18; identification of single w ­ omen, 18

archival research methods, 7, 8, 10, 13, 15–25; adaptive archival strategies, 25; f­ uture archival work, 23; locating single w ­ omen in, 13–14; material artifacts, 23; nonliterary print items, 23, 24; professional networks, tracking, 22; range of repre­sen­ ta­tions of singleness, 24–25; recounting and analyzing, role in, 16; redacted information, 24; single Black ­women and, 21; single Black ­women, contextualizing, 16; single w ­ omen, practices entailed, 15–16; single ­women’s networks of affiliation, 23; singleness and, 16, 17; social networks, tracking, 22; ­women’s self-­ identification in archival rec­ords, 18 Armstrong, Nancy, 177, 178 asexual figures, 21, 136, 140, 193 Atlantic, 2 Au Pair, The: Adventures in Paradise (2009), 186; exploitative ser­v ice industry, 186 Au Pair trilogy (1999, 2001, 2009), 185, 188; ­career path and upward mobility of the au pair, 185; gender ideologies, 186; marital ideals, 186; neoliberal fantasy of agency, 185–186 bachelor culture, 27n27, 27n29 bachelor pad, gendered fantasies linked to, 42 Bachelor, The (2002–­pre­sent), 2 bachelor-­girls, 18, 150, 193 bachelors, social opportunities available to, 149bachelor ­women, social construction of, 83 Bailey, Beth L., 87, 91, 92 Bailey, Brigitte, 6 Ball, Lucille: I Love Lucy, 113; Lucy Show, The, 113


224 I n d e x Barnett, James Harwood, 105–106; Divorce and the American Divorce Novel 1858–1937, 105–106, 115n8, 115n15 Barnett, James Harwood, and Gruen, Rhoda, 115n8 Barrett Browning, Robert and Elizabeth, 194 Barry, Iris (film critic), 97 beatnik masculinity, 36 Beats, the, 71 Beavers, Louise, 177 becoming single, pro­cess of, 70, 74 Beecher, Catharine E., 129n1, 149, 155n120 Beecher Stowe, Harriet, 11n19, 129n1 Bell, Rudolph M., and Yans, ­Virginia, 4; civil status 26n9; “Gendered Passages in Historical Perspective: Single W ­ omen” (2003–2005), 3; l­egal understandings of marital status, 17; singleness, meanings of, 84; ­Women on Their Own: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Being Single, 3, 17 Bellour, Raymond, 72 Belton, John, Widescreen Cinema 45n22 Bennet College, North Carolina: all-­ women’s college, 17; annual Homemaking Institute (1949), 17; “­Today’s ­Woman–­Homemaker or Careerist,” rec­ords from event, 17 Bennett, Judith M., 4 Berlant, Lauren, 177, 178, 184; Female Complaint, The, 178 Bern­stein, Robin, 76 Best of Every­thing, The (film), 28–29; alternative ending proposed for, 40; beatnik masculinity, Jaffe’s concerns about, 35–36; camera ­a ngles, prioritization of, 33; casting choices, Jaffe’s views on, 38, 40; characters, treatment of, 39–40; CinemaScope, use of, 32, 33; city background, Jaffe’s views on shooting, 35; Greenwich Village, repre­sen­ta­tion of, 35, 36; interior settings, Jaffe’s views on, 35–36, 37; Jaffe hired as con­sul­tant for, 36–37; Jaffe’s promotion of, 41–42; Kitty Foyle (film) referenced as template for, 31; marketing campaign, Jaffe and, 43; New York City, Jaffe’s figuration of, 34; New York City location, appeal of, 33; opening credits, Jaffe’s name in, 44; opening scenes, 33–34; production, w ­ omen’s involvement in, 29; publicity for, 31; realism, Jaffe’s concerns about, 35; review of, 28; screenwriter, Mann Rubin and, 33; single girl melodrama, 29–32; single ­women, repre­sen­ta­tion of, 28–29; single ­women, significant depiction of, 43; space, conceptualization of, 34; test audience’s reaction to, 40, 41; w ­ omen’s bodies,

volume of, 34; ­women’s influence on production of, 29, 33, 38–40, 44 Best of Every­thing, The (novel): adaptation of novel, Jaffe and, 13, 28–29, 34–35; class differentiation, 34; comparison with the film version, 28; flaws in, 44; homophobic ele­ments, 44; New York City, figuration of, 34; Orientalist characterizations, 44; realism, 32; single girl melodrama, 29–32; white-­collar girls, 30–31; ­women, economic strug­gles of, 34; ­women in, 30–31, 32; ­women interviewed for, 28 Beyoncé, 2 Bhaba, Homi, 190n1 birth rate, decline in the 1920s, 163 Bismarck Tribune, 88 Black feminism, 3, 7; studies, 16, 17, 21 Black marriage: academic interest in, 17; contemporaneous attitudes ­towards singles, 17; Hunter’s focus on, 26n5; marriage workshops hosted by HBCUs, 17; public interest in, 17 Black newspaper, designation for single ­women, 19 Black urban life, 26n5 Black w ­ omen: boarding­houses and, 26n16,, 148; caregivers to White p ­ eople, 176–177; fin de siècle era, 148; friendship a­ lbums, 27n30; letters, archival research on 27n31; portrayal in fiction and film, 176–177; unmarried in fin de siècle era, 148; work, ­ omen; 44. See also single Black w unmarried Black w ­ omen boarding­houses, 160, 164; for Black students and ­women, 26n16; Black w ­ idows ­running, 148; in Lolly Willowes, 165–166; in “Mrs. Manstey’s View,” 135, 140, 143–144, 145, 146; in novels 156n129; in “Pin-­Prick, The,” 166–167; rent charged in, 164; rooms, perception of, 53, 170; single ­women and, 53, 55, 135, 140, 158, 159, 160 Bolick, Kate, Spinster, 2 Bow, Clara, 93, 106 Bowen, Elizabeth, 170; homeliness, transient nature of, 168–169; “Inherited Clock, The,” 159, 168–170 BoxOffice, 32 Bradley, Katharine (1846–1914), 194, 195n3 Brand, Harry, 31, 41 Breckinridge, William C.P., 58, 60–61, 64n73 Bridget Jones films (2001, 2004, 2016), 2 Brilmyer, S. Pearl, et al., 25 Britain: demographic peak in single ­women, 6; housing for single ­women, 134, 157; surplus ­women, post-­First World

Index War, 6, 157, 158, 160. See also United Kingdom (UK) British lit­er­at­ ure, 6–7 British Vogue, 1 Broad Ax, 19 broadcasting, British and American, 6 Brontë, Charlotte, Jane Eyre, 175, 176, 186, 190n8 Brown, Alice, 150; depiction of time outside the ­family, 142; domestic ­labors, enjoyment of, 142, 145; emotions constrained in presence of o ­ thers, 141, 143, 145; familial misreadings of late-­life capacity, 141–142, 145; “Heartsease,” 135–136, 140, 141–142, 143, 145, 146, 149; infantilization of Mrs. Lamson, 141–142, 145, 146; older ­woman’s emotional power, 146; older ­woman’s in­de­pen­dent spaces, 136, 140, 141, 149 Brown, Lois, 20 Brownell, Eric, 191n23 Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2001), 2 Byrne, Anne, 3 Byrne, Anne, and Carr, Deborah, 3 Cain, James M., Mildred Pierce, 109 Campbell, Helen Stuart, 149 Carby, Hazel, 16, 26n5 CDA. See critical discourse analy­sis celebrity feminism, 1 celibacy, 4, 21, 138, 140, 193 census rec­ords, surnames, single w ­ omen and, 18 Chambers-­Schiller, Lee V ­ irginia, 4; the ante-­bellum maiden aunt 152n27; found­ers of utopian communities, 149; spinsterhood, perception of, 138 charitable organ­izations: aid from, 111; housing provided by, 135; training provided by, 135 Chicago Cultural Center, 190 Chicago Review, The, 36 Chicago World’s Fair, 55 child custody: divorced ­mothers and, 103, 104; “Who Gets the ­Children?,” 108 Child Development Act (1971), 188 childcare, 5, 188; single ­women working in, 133–134. See also nannies childcare crisis, in Amer­i­ca, 188 childlessness, 159, 163, 165 ­children: absentee f­ athers and, 111; Aid to Dependent C ­ hildren 117n56; born out of wedlock, 110; “Divorce and the Child,” 108; divorced ­mothers and, 112; effects of divorce on 104, 105, 108, 116n33; “latchkey ­children,” concerns about, 109; parental friction and, 109; sexual history, reminder

225 of, 112; in single-­parent ­house­holds (1950s), 110 ­Children of Divorce (film), 106, 107, 116n21 ­Children of Divorce (novel), 106–107 Chopin, Kate, Awakening, The, 115n15, 151 Chowkhani, Ketaki, 9 cinema, 7. See also film; Hollywood film industry; musicals; teen films cinema tickets, payment by barter, 94, 100n77 CinemaScope, 32, 33, 34, 35, 45n22 cinematic history, 13 cisgender heterosexuality, 9 Citrin, Jodi, et al.: connection between food and sex, 125; cooking as a form of seduction, 125; domestic prowess, overcoming lack of, 123; ­Little Black Apron, 121, 122, 123; singleness portrayed as temporary state, 123–124 city directories, surnames, single ­women and, 18 City of Paris, SS, 55 civil rights movement, single Black ­women and, 22 civil status, w ­ omen and, 18, 26n9 class, 3, 10, 13; archives and, 17; employment, divorced w ­ omen and, 111; illness/ invalidism and, 50, 54; leisured-­class ­women, 49; middle-­class ­women, 9, 14, 30, 44, 48, 50, 51; singleness and, 25; working-­ class w ­ omen, 9, 34, 48, 50, 54 Cloutier, Jean-­Christophe, 16 Cobb, Michael, 3, 17; “S” for single proposed by, 17 Cobb, Shelley, 28 Cody, Buffalo Bill, 52 coeducation of the sexes, 88 cohabitation, 18, 23, 26n9, 162 Colbert, Claudette, 177 collaborative organ­izations, research into, 22 Conor, Liz, 89, 90, 94 Contraception, 97n13 cookbooks, 7, 8, 120–129; as barometers of cultural change, 118, 119, 120; celebrity cookbooks, 123; domestic ideology in, 130n12; evolving messages of singleness, 68; female celebrity cookbooks, 123; gendered-­coded form of lit­er­a­ture, 119, 124; growth in sales of, 120; language and gender in, 121; perceived as self-­help and self-­development lit­er­a­ture, 120; proliferation of 129n1; sexual tropes in, 124. See ­ oman’s also cookbooks for one; single w cookbooks; “swinging singles” cookbooks cookbooks for one, 120, 121–122, 121; Cooking for One (2015); cooking as s­ imple and impor­tant skill, 127; demographic

226 I n d e x cookbooks for one (cont.) trends, reflection of, 120; entertaining friends, 125; inclusivity in, 128; language used in, 122; modern genre of, 68, 129n1; self-­care, cooking as an act of, 125, 128; single men and, 120; small number on the market, 121; solo state, advantages of, 126–127, 128, 129; “swinging singles” cookbooks, 120, 123, 127; UK publications, ­ oman’s cookbooks 122. See also single w cooking: association with w ­ omen, 119, 123, 127; competence as a wife and, 119; crucial skill for the modern ­woman, 123–124; as a form of seduction, 120, 124, 125; as a gendered issue, 68, 119–120; as other-­ oriented activity, 124–126; as self-­care, 125–126; as a self-­oriented activity, 124–126; ­women’s lack of engagement with, 124 Cooper, Brittney, 22 Cooper, Edith (1862–1913), 194 Cooper, Gary, 106 correspondence, identification of single ­women, 18 ­couples: formation of the ­couple in films, 72–73, 78; heterosexual ­couples, 2, 7, 8, 73, 78. See also wrong coupling courtship: postwar system of dating, 91; traditional, 83; youth, ‘petting’ and ‘necking’, 87 Cowie, Elizabeth, 89 Crawford, Joan, 38, 110 criminal justice system, rec­ords in, 16 critical discourse analy­sis (CDA), cookbooks and, 120–129 culinary skills: single men and, 120, 123; single w ­ omen and, 120, 124, 128, 129; young ­women lacking in, 123, 127 cultural revolution, flappers’ contribution to, 82 Cuming, Emily, 167, 170 Cuomo, Chris, 191n24, 191n29 Curnutt, Kirk, 92 Dabel, Jane E., 4, 155n113 Dane, Clemence: dreams of lost maternity, 164; fantastic narratives, 164–165, 166, 172; “Spinsters’ Rest,” 159, 164–165, 166; ­Women’s Side, The, 157 Darling, Elizabeth, and Whitworth, Lesley, 163 Darren, James: in Gidget, 69, 70, 71, 72, 74, 75, 77; in Gidget Goes Hawaiian, 78, 79; in Gidget Goes to Rome, 78, 79 de Beauvoir, Simone, 127 de Certeau, Michel, 33 De Lippman, Max, 60

Dean, James, 70 Dee, Sandra, 69, 76; casting as Gidget, 75, 76, 78; film characterizations, 76; film roles, 76 delinquency, in Rebel without a Cause, 70 Denver Republican, 52 Denver Rocky Mountain News, 52 Denver Tribune, 52 DePaulo, Bella, 4, 16, 18, 83; Singled Out: How Singles are Ste­reo­typed, Stigmatized, and Ignored and Still Live Happily Ever ­After 3, 26n10 Deutsch, Sarah, 4, 48, 54 Didion, Joan, “The ­Great Reprieve,” 74 digital humanities proj­ects, 25n4 divorce: advice books for ­women, 110–111; childless c­ ouples and, 104, 107; c­ hildren, effects on, 104, 105, 108; “cooperative divorce,” 108; c­ ouples with c­ hildren and, 107; financial aspects of, 108; legalized, United States and 115n7; no-­fault divorce, effects of, 103; psychological aspects of, 108 divorce advice books, 110–111; ABC of Divorce (Bacal and Sloane), 111; ­Mothers on Their Own (Rochford), 111; One-­Parent ­Family, The (Wolf and Stein), 111–112; Raising Your Child in a Fatherless Home (Jones), 111; You Can Start All Over (Roulston), 117n54 divorce confessionals, 108–109, 110–111; anonymous publication of, 108; ­children, effects of divorce on, 116n33; “Divorce and the Child,” 108; “­Mother of Two,” 109; regrets expressed in, 108–109; as a venue for divorced ­mothers, 109; “Who Gets the ­Children?,” 108 divorced families, 103; debates about, 104; increase in (1945–1965), 110; parenting and, 103; perception of in the United States, 103; portrayal in film, 106; portrayal in novels, 104–105, 106, 107; postwar increase in, 110 divorced m ­ others: advice books for (1940s), 110–111; attitude t­ oward, 102; autobiographical narratives, 108, 116n33; awareness of position in American society, 108; bound to the home and ­family, 134; child custody and, 103, 104; class differences, 111; in Custom of the Country, The (Wharton), 105; dilemmas faced by, 113, 114; in divorce novels, 105; economic vulnerability of, 103, 109, 110, 111; gender roles and, 103, 113; images, attempted rehabilitation of, 104; in Lucy Show, The, 113; Mad Men (2007–2015) and, 102–103; middle-­class lifestyles, maintenance of, 112; motherhood, exclusion

Index from discussions, 107; motherhood, status of, 113–114; mothering, exclusion from discussions, 103; in novels and films, 102–103, 105–107, 108, 109–110, 113; nuclear ­family mold, exclusion from, 112; in the postwar years, 109–110; regrets expressed by, 108–109; remarriage and, 112; sexual availability, perception of, 110; sexual intercourse, advised to abstain from, 111, 112; sexual threat of, 104, 112; sexuality, 103, 110, 112; single status of, 103, 109–110; social exclusion, 112; social prob­lem of, 104; social vulnerability of, 103, 109–110; ste­reo­t ypes, 104, 113; in the United States (1920–1965), 102–114; white-­collar work and, 111. See also divorce confessionals divorce novels, 104–105, 110–111; ­Children of Divorce (Johnson), 106; ­Children, The (Wharton), 115n18; Custody ­Children (Young), 107; Custom of the Country, The (Wharton), 105; Divorce and the American Divorce Novel 1858–1937 (Barnett), 115n8, 115n15; “Recent American Divorce Novels, 1938–1945,” 115n8; What Maisie Knew (James), 105 divorced parents: remarriage and, 112; self-­help organ­izations, 112–113 divorcées, 9, 18, 158; appellation “Mrs.” and, 18; childless divorcées, portrayal of, 104, 167; financial advice, 111; mid-­century divorcées, 67; perception of, 167; remarriage and, 112; return to singleness, 8; visibility for, 5 divorce rates: decline in the 1950s, 110; in the United States, 103, 104, 110 divorce revolution (1970s), 103 Doan, Laura, 3 Doerfer, Jane: ­Going Solo in the Kitchen, 121, 122; single state, advantage of, 127 Doherty, Thomas, 70, 72 domestic guides, 129n1 domestic ­labors, 8; enjoyment in fin de siècle texts, 142, 143, 145, 147, 150; single ­women and, 68, 134 domestic longings, single ­women and, 138–139 domestic ser­v ice, 187, 188, 189. See also nannies Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act (2019), 192n34 Domestic Workers United, 188 domesticity, 22; alternative, 134; culture of 130n13; elite/bourgeois, 175, 176, 177–178, 187, 188; feminized, 14; ideologies of, 177; marginal figures and, 140; nannies and, 178–179, 180, 182, 183, 185, 189; servants and, 190n1; single w ­ omen and, 146, 149,

227 159, 161, 162, 172; spinsters, assumptions about, 162; traditional notions of, 125, 129n1; in war­time stories, 159, 170; ­women and, 150, 154n100 Doty, Alexander, 72 Dreiser, Theodore, ­Sister Carrie, 135, 150, 151 Drewery, Claire, 159 Driscoll, Catherine, 74, 79 Drowne, Kathleen, 82 Dyer, Peter John, 70 Edelstein, Sari, 136, 139, 141; Adulthood and Other Fictions, 152n6, 152n9, 152n20, 153n40, 154n95; age in singleness studies, 155n111–112 education, ­women and, 5, 20, 51, 88, 135 Ehrenreich, Barbara, and En­glish, Deirdre, 50, 54, 59 Einfeld, Charles, 41 ends-­oriented criticism: Altman’s views on, 72–73; Gidget and, 72; musicals and, 72–73 Ensor, Sarah, 146 Enstad, Nan, 89 Erens, Patricia, 83 ever-­married, 193, 194 ever-­single ­women, 18; misrepre­sen­ta­tion as “Mrs.” or “Mr.,” 18, 19; surnames, identification and, 18 ­family: archives and, 15; dominant constructions of, 5; dominant ideal of, 2; life outside the ­family, 9. See also nuclear ­family ­family home, 160, 161; escape from, 135, 157, 163, 170; nuclear ­family and, 134; single ­women laboring within, 133; stultifying, Holtby’s perception of, 162 Famous Players, 90 Fass, Paula S.: 1920s, portrayal of, 82; Damned and the Beautiful, The, 83, 97n13 fatherhood, lit­er­a­ture on, 116n39 Felando, Cynthia, 86 female masquerade, in Gidget, 75 femininity: commodified forms of, 178; definition of, 92; discarding, 167; in flapper films, 94–95; hegemonic, 119, 120, 124, 125, 128, 129; Mary Poppins and, 180, 183, 184–185; translated as “submission,” 92, 188; ‘unnatural’, 138; wayward femininity, rest cure for, 58; of working ­women, 168 feminism: celebrity feminism, 1; first-­wave, 183; “HeForShe,” UN campaign, 1; neoliberal formulations of, 189; nineteenth-­century feminists, 137. See also ­women’s liberation movement

228 I n d e x feminist studies, 4; Black feminist studies, 16, 22; friendship, focus on, 23 fiction, 7; domestic fiction, 175, 176–178; New ­Woman fiction, 158, 159; queer repre­sen­ta­ tion in short fiction, 155n105; queer time in, 140; spinster fiction, 158. See also fin de siècle texts; modernist fiction Field, Corinne T., 149, 155n122 Field, Michael, 194; singularity of, 194, 195n7 figural studies, 68 film: analy­sis of, 7, 8; ends-­oriented criticism of, 72–73; flapper films, 92–93, 94–95; formation of the ­couple, 72, 73; noir film, 35; queer moments/spaces in, 72; single-­women protagonists, 2; tomboy-­transformation, 72, 74–75. See also Hollywood film industry; musicals; teen films film adaptations, 13; Cobb’s feminist model of, 28; of Fitzgerald’s writings, 84, 86–87, 89–90; of Kohner’s novels, 76, 78. See also Best of Every­thing, The (film); ­Children of Divorce (film); Gidget (1959); Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961); Gidget Goes to Rome (1961); Help, The (2009); Husband Hunter, The (1920); Jaffe, Rona; Kitty Foyle (film); Mary Poppins (film); Mildred Pierce (film); Nanny Diaries, The (film); Off-­Shore Pirate (film) fin de siècle era: aging singly in, 135, 136; later-­life single ­women, 135–136; mid-­life single w ­ omen, 135–136; single w ­ omen in, 6, 135–136, 138–139; unmarried Black w ­ omen, 148 fin de siècle texts, 139–151; alternative domesticities in, 150, 151; altruistic older ­women, 149; Awakening, The (Chopin), 115n15,, 151; Black ­w idows in, 148; boarding­house novels 156n129; Contending Forces (Hopkins), 148; domestic in­de­pen­dence in, 136, 139, 140, 141; domestic ­labors, enjoyment of, 142, 143, 145, 147, 150; emotional constraint in, 141, 143, 145; emotional power of older ­women, 143, 146; emotionally fulfilling worlds of single w ­ omen, 149; familial misreadings of late-­life capacity, 141–142, 145, 147; ­family, stepping away from, 142, 143, 146–147, 148–149, 151; forward-­looking perspectives, 150–151; “Heartsease” (1894) (Brown), 135–136, 140, 141–142, 143, 145, 146, 149; in­de­pen­dence of a cottage ­house­hold, 139, 142–143, 147; in­de­pen­dent occupancy, young w ­ omen and, 151; in­de­pen­dent spaces of older ­women, 136, 140, 141, 142, 143–145, 150; infantilization of older ­women, 141–142, 145, 146;

interventionist single aging fictions, 149; later-­life literary figures, 147–151; Lily Bart (House of Mirth) (Wharton), 150–151; literary architecture of singleness 135, 141, 150, 152n4; literary Black w ­ idows, 148; mature, contented single characters in, 149; “Mrs. Manstey’s View” (Wharton), 135, 140, 143–145, 148; “New ­England Nun, A” (Wilkins Freeman), 135, 140, 142, 143, 146, 148–149; New E ­ ngland regionalism, 139; queer possibility in, 140, 143, 146; regional lit­er­a­ture 152n20; “shelter writing,” 140–141, 148; short fictions, 8, 136, 140–141; ­Sister Carrie (Dreiser), 135, 150, 151; spinsters, literary repre­sen­ta­tions of, 138; urban rental view, contingency of, 143–145, 147; White womanhood, respectability of, 141, 147, 148; w ­ omen “crazy about building,” 144–145; young working w ­ omen, novels about, 151 First World War: deaths, 160; postwar Britain, 6; postwar social and cultural turbulence, 82 Fitzgerald, F. Scott, 8; Amory Blaine in This Side of Paradise, 84, 85, 87, 88, 89; Ardita Farnam, character of, 83, 94, 95; Beautiful and Damned, The, 85; biographical echoes in his characters, 85; characters based on Zelda, 85; con­temporary studies on, 85; Curtis Carlyle, character of, 94; Daisy Buchanan in ­Great Gatsby, The, 84, 89; Eleanor Savage, character of, 83, 87, 88, 89, 90, 97; feminist criticism of his female characters, 98n27; film adaptations of his writings, 68, 84, 86–87, 89–90; flapper tales, 81–97; Flappers and Phi­los­o­phers (short stories), 99n55; golden ­couple (F. Scott and Zelda), 84, 98n25; ­Great Gatsby, The, 84, 85, 86; interviews given by, 84, 86; Knowleton Whitney, character of, 91; Marcia Meadow, character of, 87; marriage, flappers’ questioning of, 87, 88; marriage, portrayals in writings, 85; marriage to Zelda, 84; Myra, Fox’s reinterpretation of, 86, 92, 93; Myra Hastings, character of, 83, 91, 92; “Myra Meets His F ­ amily,” 81–82, 84, 86, 91, 92; “Offshore Pirate, The,” 82, 84, 86, 94; reviews of his books, 84, 87, 89; role models, Fitzgerald’s flappers as, 96; Rosalind, character based on Zelda, 84–85, 87–88, 90; self-­promotion, 84; single young ­women, portrayals of, 83–84; singleness as a choice, 83; singleness, depiction of, 83–84, 87–89; Tender Is the Night, 84, 86; This Side of Paradise, 82, 83, 84, 85, 87, 89, 97; This Side of Paradise,

Index synopsis for film adaptation, 90; Toby Moreland, character of, 94; White middle-­class heroines, 96; “Winter Dreams,” 84, 86 Fitzgerald, Zelda (née Sayre), 84–85; the first American flapper, 84; flirting, Jazz Age girl and, 93; golden ­couple (Zelda and F. Scott), 84, 98n25; marriage to F. Scott, 84, 85; Rosalind, self-­identification with, 84–85 Flanders, Judith, 171 flapper films, 92–93, 94–95 flapper (term): definition of, 85; meaning, social construction of, 84; as synonym for pre-­debutante 97n9 Flapper, The: Not for Old Fogies (magazine), 90 flappers, 67, 81–97; advertising, targets for, 97n6; containment by marriage, 95; con­temporary images of, 83, 90; the contradictory flapper in films, 94–95; cultural revolution, contribution to, 82; dress and appearance, 82; female icons of the Jazz Age, 82; in Fitzgerald’s writings, 81–82, 81–97, 85, 90; flapperdom, 87, 93; flirtation and, 93; hedonistic attitude, 82, 90; husband hunters, portrayal as, 68, 82, 83, 91, 92–94; marital re­sis­tance and, 68, 81; media’s biased image of, 90, 91, 93; role models, Fitzgerald’s flappers as, 96; sexualization of, 8, 81, 82; s­ ilent movies about, 86; singleness and, 82, 83–84, 87–88, 92; stereotyping of, 8, 68, 82–83, 84, 88, 90 food: American food culture, 130n10; anthropomorphization of, 128; meta­ phoric mappings, 131n45 Fraiman, Susan, 150; category of “shelter writing,” 140–141 Freeman, Elizabeth, 147 Freeman, Kimberly A.: divorce as a literary device, 105; Love American Style: Divorce and the American Novel, 1881–1976, 115n18 Freeman, Mary Wilkins, 150; domestic ­labors, enjoyment of, 142, 143, 147; emotions constrained in the presence of ­others, 143; fiancé, rejection of, 143; “New ­England Nun, A,” 135, 140, 142, 143, 146, 148–149; older ­woman’s emotional power, 143, 146; older ­woman’s in­de­pen­dent spaces, 136, 140, 142; single womanhood exaggerated and queered, 143 friendship ­a lbums, 27n30 Froide, Amy, 4, 193 Fryer, Sarah Beebe, Fitzgerald’s New ­Women, 85 Gebhard, Caroline, 138 gender, dominant constructions of, 5

229 gender roles: changes in, 5; divorced ­mothers and, 103, 113; dominant narratives of, 14 gender studies, 3 gendered fantasies, 1950s bachelor pad and, 42 gendered singleness, 13 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), 33 George, Sue, role in Gidget, 77–78 George, W.L., 81 Get Your Man (1927), 93 Gidget: The L ­ ittle Girl with Big Ideas (Kohner), 76, 78, 79; female strategy in, 76; Gidget’s sexual feelings in, 76; novels read by Gidget, 76; On the Road (Kerouac), comparison with, 79n44 Gidget (1959), 67, 69–70; alternative paths for Gidget, 77; ambivalences in, 73; becoming single, pro­cess of, 67, 70, 74, 77–78, 193; Betty Louise (B.L.) (Sue George), 77–78, 78; Big Kahuna (Cliff Robertson), 71, 73–74, 77, 80n9; clean teenpic, perceived as, 70, 71; consumerist sex/prostitution, world of, 69–70; counterculture of surfing, 70–71; criticism of, 70, 72; ends-­oriented criticism, 72, 73, 78; female dissatisfaction, feelings of, 76; female masquerade, Gidget’s refusal to participate, 75; female masquerade, mechanisms of, 75; feminine pleasures in, 73; feminism, 72; formation of the ­couple, 70, 72, 73, 78; Gidget (Sandra Dee), 69–70, 71, 72, 73–74, 75–76, 75, 78; Gidget’s ­mother (Mary LaRoche), 69, 70; homosocial relationships in, 67, 77, 78; in-­between status of Gidget, 74; infantilization of Gidget, 72; interpretations of, 72; Lolita, comparison with, 72; manipulative female strategies in, 70, 75; melodrama inside, 70; ­middle, reading of, 74–79; Moondoggie/ Jeff (James Darren), 69, 70, 71, 72, 74, 75, 77, 79; narratives, examination of, 67, 70; patriarchal ideal, 72, 73; queer moments in, 73, 77–78, 78; reading Gidget backward, 70–74; Rebel without a Cause, comparison with, 70; sexual feelings, Gidget and, 77; sexual innocence of Gidget, 76; sexualization of Gidget, 72; surf culture, mainstreaming of, 71; surfing, counterculture of, 70–71; surfing, Gidget’s experience of, 77; taming influence of Gidget, 73–74; as tomboy-­transformation film, 72, 74–75; wrong coupling, 73, 77, 80n38; youth, ­wholesomeness of, 70 Gidget Gets Married (1972), 80n38 Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961), 78, 79 Gidget Goes to Rome (1963), 78, 79

230 I n d e x Gidget Grows Up (1969), 80n38 Gidget texts, multimedia franchise of, 78, 80n38 Gidget (TV series, 1965), 78, 80n38 Gidget’s Summer Reunion (1985), 80n38 Gilded Age, 48, 49, 61, 62 Gillogly, Brian L., 79n4–5 Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, 149 Girlfriends (2000–2006, 2006–2008), 2 girlhood studies, 4, 67 girls: “The G ­ reat Reprieve” enjoyed by, 74; young single girls, in the 1950s and 1960s, 74 Gledhill, Christine, 32, 45n11 Goldstein, Joyce: eve­ning meal, focus on, 122; singleness, state of, 126; singles, lack of cooking experience, 126; Solo Suppers (2003), 121, 123, 130n27 Graham, Johnny, 33 grass ­w idows, 109–110 Grease (1978), 76 Grosz, Elizabeth, 162, 171, 172 Gullette, Margaret Morganroth, 137; Aged by Culture 152n10; anti-­ageist lit­er­a­ture, 145; patriarchy, w ­ omen as caregivers, 146; the postmaternal ­woman 152n12 Gurley Brown, Helen: cooking as self-­care, 131n55; single girl defined by, 42; Single Girl’s Cookbook, The, 120, 129n1 Halberstam, Jack, 140, 147, 191n26 Hamm, Jon, 102 Harper’s Bazaar, 139 Harper’s Monthly Magazine, 60; “And So My Wife Divorced Me” 116n36; “Ten Years ­a fter the Divorce,” 116n39 Harris, Kamala, 192n34 Hartman, Saidiya, 16, 26n5 Hatch, Kristin, 72, 74 HBCUs. See historically Black colleges and universities Hefner, Hugh, 42–43 HeForShe UN campaign, 1 Help, The (film), 176 Help, The (novel), 176 Hennessy, Rosemary, Profit and Plea­sure, 177 heteronuclear ­family, 5, 17 heteronuclear marriage, 17 heterosexuality, 9, 146, 168, 178, 193; coupling, 2, 7, 8, 73, 78; economy, 9, 158; marriage, 3, 4, 10n4, 22; masculinity, 42, 43; models of singleness, 1 Hicks, Cheryl, 16, 26n5 Higgins, John A., 91 Hilmes, Michele, 6 Hine, Darlene Clark, 16, 21, 26n5

historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), 17 Hitchcock, Alfred, 72 Holden, Katherine, 4, 160, 161, 166 Hollywood film industry: CinemaScope, 32–33, 34, 35, 45n22; divorced m ­ others, portrayal of, 110; Fitzgerald’s stories, adaptations of, 84, 86–87, 89, 93–95; flapper films, 92–93, 94–95; genres, gendered bound­aries of, 35; happy endings, 107; Jaffe, Rona, status within filmmaking world, 41; marriage as solution to paired oppositions, 72; masculinist values of, 43; Myra, cinematic repre­sen­ta­tion of, 86, 93, 93–94; “Myra” purchased by, 92; “Offshore Pirate, The” purchased by, 94–95; Paramount Decree (1948) 45n21; reinterpretation of Fitzgerald’s Myra, 86; repre­sen­ta­tion of white-­collar girls, 31, 32; ­silent movies about flappers, 86; single-­woman genres, appeal of, 32; spectacularization of single ­women and their habitats, 32–36; This Side of Paradise, purchase of, 90; undervaluation of Jaffe’s work, 44; youth, appealing to, 86. See also 20th ­Century Fox; film; Metro Pictures Corporation Hollywood Reporter, 28 Holtby, Winifred, 163; Crowded Street, The, 162; “Episode in West Ken­sington,” 162; South Riding, 162; ­Women and a Changing Civilization, 162 homemaking: cele­bration of, 160; single ­women and, 161 homophobia, 8, 44 homosexual friendships, 161 homosocial relationships: in Gidget, 67, 77, 78; in musicals, 73, 77 Hopkins, Pauline, Contending Forces, 148 Hopper, Briallen, Hard to Love, 2 Hopper, Hedda, 106 House of Mercy, Washington, DC, 58, 59, 60, 64n70 housing: bedsits, 159, 160, 170; charitable organ­izations and, 135; early twentieth-­ century single ­women and, 153n35; f­ amily homes, 160–161; fin de siècle single ­women and, 153n35; flats, 150, 157, 159, 160, 161, 162, 170; “homes fit for heroes,” 159–160; “ideal homes,” 158, 159, 160; in­de­pen­dent occupancy, emergence of, 133; in the interwar period, 159–160; lodging ­houses, 135; new forms of, demand for, 151; rental housing, 135; shared space, single w ­ omen and, 161, 162, 166; single w ­ omen and, 54, 55, 135, 138–139, 141, 157, 160; suburban housing, 160, 172n20; unequal access to, 2;

Index urban housing, single ­women and, 166; ­w idows, 135–136. See also boarding­houses How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), 32–33; impact of, 32–33; Manhattan skyline, use of, 33 Howard, June, 177 Hunter, Edward, 20 Hunter, Jane Edna, 19, 23; advocate for Black female advancement, 19; charitable lodging ­house founded by, 16; group residence established by, 19–20; identification card, contact person on, 23–24; institution of marriage, regard for, 20; marriage, parental pressure and, 20; Nickel and a Prayer, A (autobiography), 16, 19, 20, 21, 23; singleness, terms of, 20; unpublished papers, lived experience in, 16; upward mobility, 19, 21 Hunter, Tera, 16 Husband Hunter, The (1920), 93–95, 100n80 Hutton, Laura, “Unmarried, The,” 161, 162, 167 iconic single figures, 3–4 illness: ­causes in ­women, 62; invalidism, cult of, 50, 54; as a marker of affluence, 50; as means of gaining power, 59; middle-­ class w ­ omen and, 50, 56, 57 I Love Lucy (1950–1957), 113 Imitation of Life (1959), 76, 177 income in­equality, 2 Inness, Sherrie A., 118, 125, 128; cooking as a form of seduction, 120, 124, 126; cooking, simplicity of, 124; Kitchen Culture in Amer­i­ca, 130n10; language in cookbooks, 121; marriage and ­family, as ultimate aim, 131n44; single men, cooking and, 120; singles, positive shift t­ owards, 127; “swinging singles” cookbooks (1970s), 120, 123, 127 institutional rec­ords, research and, 16 Israel, Betsy, Bachelor Girl, 2 Jacobs, Harriet: abolitionist writings, 18; appellation “Mrs.,” reasons for, 18; identification as w ­ idow, 18; Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 18 Jaffe, Rona: advisory role, trivilialization of, 36; Best of Every­thing, The (film), 13, 28–29, 34–35; Best of Every­thing, The, (novel), 28, 43, 44; casting choices, views on, 38; character, perspectives on, 39; con­sul­tant for Best of Every­thing, The, 36–37; figuration of New York City, 34; film production, involvement in, 29; friendship with Dusty Negulesco, 38, 39; friendship with Phyllis Levy, 40, 46n64; Hefner/Playboy interview and, 42–43;

231 interior settings for the film, views on, 35–36, 37; interview with Hefner and Spectorsky, 42–43; Kitty Foyle (Morley), criticism of, 31–32; legitimacy as a single working w ­ oman, 41; letters and memos, 14; marketability, 42; melodrama, use of, 29–32, 43; Negulesco, personal relationship with, 38; patriarchal derision of her work, 43–44; professional relationships, emotional appeals in, 37–38; promotional advantage for the film, 41–42; razor-­edge realism captured by, 41; realism, use in deployment of melodrama, 35, 39; self-­promotion, 41–42; single girl celebrity, 41–43; status as celebrity single girl, 41–43; Wald (producer) and, 36, 37, 40, 41; white-­collar girls, repre­sen­ta­tion of, 32; white-­collar-­girl story, conventions, 31; working w ­ omen, economic concerns of, 34 James, Henry, What Maisie Knew, 105 Jameson, Storm, London Calling, 170 Jayapal, Pramila, 192n34 Jazz Age, 81, 82, 84, 97; dilemmas of marriage, 85; flapper as female icon of, 82; flirting and, 93; image of w ­ omen as husband hunters, 83 Jeffreys, Sheila, 4 Jim Crow racism, 23 Jo Frost: Nanny on Tour (2016), 185 Johnson, Julian, 39 Johnson, Owen, ­Children of Divorce, 106 Jones, Eve, Raising Your Child in a Fatherless Home, 111, 117n54 ­ ere to Eternity (1951), 76 Jones, James, From H Jones, January, 102 Jones, Judith, 124, 127; Pleasures of Cooking for One, The, 121 Kampen, Irene, Life without George, 113 Kay-­Smith, Sheila, 90 Kelman, Ann, 112 Kent, Kathryn, 11n19, 137, 138, 148 Kerouac, Jack, 36; On the Road, 79n5 King, Jeanette, 136 Kitty Foyle (film), 31–32 Kitty Foyle (novel), 31 Klinenberg, Eric, 3; ­Going Solo, 53 Knapp, Raymond, 179, 180 Kohner, Frederick: Affairs of Gidget, The, 78; ­ ittle Girl with Cher Papa, 78; Gidget: The L Big Ideas, 76, 78; Gidget Goes New York, 78; Gidget Goes Parisienne, 78; Gidget in Love, 78 Kohner, Kathy, 80n9 Koropeckyj-­Cox, Tanya, 3 Kristeva, Julia, 165

232 I n d e x ­labor, 8; emotional ­labor, 37; exploitation, 188; gendered ­labor, 37; opportunities, changes in, 6 Lagerwey, Jorie, and Nygaard, Taylor, 4 Lahad, Kinneret, 3 Landay, Lori, 95, 100n84 Lanser, Susan, 194 later-­life single w ­ omen, 133; criticism of, 146; domestic aspirations, judgments levied on, 146; domestic flexibility experienced by, 153n43; fin de siècle era, 135–136, 138, 140; in fin de siècle fiction, 139–147; pathologization of, 141, 146; “shelter writing,” 140–141; single occupancy and, 135; ste­reo­t ypes, 140. See also fin de siècle texts Le Riche, Kathleen, Cooking Alone, 122 Leigh, Vivien, 177 lesbians, 72, 158, 194 Levy, Phyllis, 40, 46n64 LGBTQ, 17, 21 Lindsey, Ben B., Revolt of Modern Youth, The, 90 literary nonfiction, 2–3 literary scholarship, 6–7, 13 Lo, Anita: cooking as self-­care, 125–126; Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One, 121 long-­term romantic ­couples, 18 long-­term singles, 18 Love, Heather, queer spinster aesthetic, 8, 137–138 Love Is Blind (2020), 2 Love Island (2015–­pre­sent), 2 Lucy Show, The (1962–1968), 113 Lyons, Siobhan, 85 Macaulay, Rose, “Miss Anstruther’s Letters,” 159, 170, 170–171 McDaniel, Hattie, 177 McDonald, Louise, 165 McDowell, Linda, 189 McLaughlin, Emma, and Kraus, Nicola, Nanny Diaries, The, 175, 186, 187 McLeer, Anne, 179, 184 McRobbie, Angela, 178, 188, 189 Mad Men (2007–2015), 102; deviations from the suburban norm, 103; divorced ­mother, attitude t­ oward, 102–103; historical accuracy in, 102, 103; “Ladies Room” (episode 2), 114n2; “Marriage of Figaro, The” (episode 3) 114n4; portrayal of the divorced m ­ other, 102–103 Maier, Vivian (street photographer), 189–190 Mankiewicz, Joseph (film director), 32–33 Mansfield, Katherine, “Miss Brill,” 159, 163–164

Mantrap (1926), 93 March of Time (newsreel), “White-­Collar Girls,” 30–31 marital status, 193, 194; Black w ­ omen and, 15–16; ­legal understandings of, 17; nomenclatures for, 19; single ­women and, 15, 18; terminology, evolution of, 18; of welfare recipients, 117n56 marriage: archives and, 15; assumptions about single w ­ omen, 22–23, 161; contraception and, 97n13; dominant ideal of, 2; enactment through public vows/ anniversaries, 24; exclusion from, 194; the golden ­couple (the Fitzgeralds), 84, 85; heterosexual marriage, 3, 4, 10n4, 22; historically coercive force of, 25; in Hollywood films, 72; lit­er­a­ture on, 114n4; loneliness within, 162; median age at first marriage, 119; modern marriage, divorce and, 107; neoliberal, 186; nonmarriage, stigma attached to, 81; “ontology of the ­couple,” 25; patterns in rate and age in the 1920s, 83; perception of, 24, 161; portrayals in Fitzgerald’s writings, 84–85; rate in the U.S. (1890–1920), 97n13; rate in the U.S. (1960), 118; rate in the U.S. (2016), 118–119; remarriage, 104, 112; re­sis­tance to, 68, 81, 139–140; terms of slavery and, 18; “war marriages,” 109; ­women’s responses in the Jazz Age, 85–86. See also Black marriage married ­women, identification in archival collections, 18 Mary Poppins (film), 178, 179; American domestic and gender ideologies, 179; Banks f­ amily’s bourgeois h ­ ouse­hold, 182; Bert (chimney sweep), Mary’s praise for, 183; bourgeois domesticity, reform of, 179; British patriarchy, repre­sen­ta­tion of, 182, 183; civic allegory of, 182; distressed nuclear ­family foregrounded in, 182; domestic reform, 182–183, 184; “empowered spinster” archetype, Mary Poppins as the embodiment of, 183; ­family stability, 179; fun and imagination, demo­cratizing effect of, 184; gender disruption, Mary Poppins and, 182, 184, 191n26; George Banks, character of, 182, 183; governess, the ­children’s advertisement for, 183; governess figure in, 175, 178, 182, 183; ideological limitations of, 182; magical nature of Mary Poppins, 182, 183, 184; marginalization of the ­children, 182; Mrs. Banks, character of, 182–183, 184; patriarchal authority, challenges to 179, 182, 183, 191n29; single womanhood, depiction of, 179, 182, 183–185; suffrage movement, Mrs. Banks and, 182, 184

Index Mary Poppins (novel), 183, 192n31 masculinity: beatnik, 36, 71; definition of, 92; heterosexual, 42, 43; surfing as an alternative form of, 71; translated as “dominance,” 92 Masten, Jeffrey, 194 Mathiessen, F.O., 138 Matwick, Kelsi, 123, 131n61 May, Kirse Granat, 70 media studies, 4, 7 Medovoi, Leroom, 73, 74, 76 Mellor, Leo, 171 melodrama: Best of Every­thing, The (film), 29–32; director Douglas Sirk and, 45n11; film melodrama, par­a meters of, 32; Gidget (1959), 70; Jaffe’s use of, 29, 43; realism, in Jaffe’s deployment of, 35 Metro Pictures Corporation, 95, 100n83 Meyero­w itz, Joanne, 4, 49, 104 Michie, Helena, and Warhol, Robyn, 22; Love among the Archives: Writing the Lives of George Scharf, Victorian Bachelor, 27n27 mid-­life single w ­ omen: fin de siècle era, 135–136; single occupancy and, 135 middle-­class w ­ omen: downwardly mobile, 9; education, 51; employment, 111, 112; gender roles, 113 mi­grant domestic workers, 188, 189 Mihailoff, Laura, 83 Mildred Pierce (film), 110 Mildred Pierce (novel), 109–110 Miles, Mrs. Eustace (Hallie Killick), Ideal Home and Its Prob­lems, The, 160, 161 Miller, Klancy: cooking as self-­care, 125; Cooking Solo: The Joy of Cooking for Yourself, 121; singletons as a trend, 126 Mitchell, S. Weir, 56, 58, 62 modernist fiction: alternative domesticities, 162; boarding­house narratives, 158, 159, 164–165; cramped lodgings of Miss Brill, 163–164; Crowded Street, The (Holtby), 162; “Episode in West Ken­sington” (Holtby), 162; fantastic narratives in, 164–166, 172; female boredom, narratives of, 169; flats, isolation and lack of privacy in, 159; homeliness, transient nature of, 168–169; homemaking, spinster’s participation in, 171; “Inherited Clock, The” (Bowen), 159, 168–170; isolation and detachment, 171; joyousness, illusory nature of, 167, 168; Lolly Willowes (Warner), 165; loneliness, indictment of, 163; lost maternity, 164, 167; male appropriation of female space, 169; “Miss Anstruther’s Letters” (Macaulay), 159, 170–171; “Miss Brill” (Mansfield), 159, 163; “Miss Mary Pask” (Wharton), 163;

233 obliterated domesticity, 170; “Pin-­Prick, The” (Sinclair), 159, 166, 167–168, 170; possessions, loss of, 171; prototype of the modernist spinster, 164; queerness, spinsters and, 166, 167, 168, 170; rented domestic space, 158; restlessness and inability to s­ ettle, 165; Room of One’s Own, A (Woolf), 161; self-­effacement, spinsters and, 167; single occupancy, portrayal of, 159, 162, 166, 172; singleness, in­de­pen­dence and, 158; South Riding (Holtby), 162; spinster flat, alienating emptiness of, 170; spinsters, dowdiness and, 163; “Spinsters’ Rest” (Dane), 159, 164–165, 166, 172; stories of the 1930s and 1940s, 166–172; suicide of the spinster, 167, 168; vulnerability of single ­women, 166, 167–168, 169; war­time stories, 159, 168–171; working w ­ omen, inadequate pay for, 162 Modleski, Tania, 72 Moffitt, Jack (film reviewer), 28 Monroe, Marilyn, 33 Moran, Rachel F., 3 Morley, Christopher, Kitty Foyle, 31–32 motherhood: costs of, 8; in the interwar years, 107; more modern approach to, 107; refusals of, 139–140; status of, divorced ­mothers and, 113–114; Victorian ideal of, 107 ­mothers: child-­rearing techniques, 107; decision to remain married, 108; libidinal ­mothers, 180; self-­sacrificing, 107, 108; Victorian idealization of, 107, 108. See also divorced m ­ others; working ­mothers Motion Picture Magazine, 86 Mullholland, Terri, 159, 160, 170 Mulvey, Laura, 45n11 musicals: ends-­oriented criticism of, 72–73; formation of the ­couple in, 73; homosocial pairings in, 73, 77; wrong ­couples in, 73, 77 Nabokov, Vladimir, Lolita, 72 nannies: Au Pair, The: Adventures in Paradise (2009), 186; Au Pair trilogy (1999, 2001, 2009), 185–186, 187–188; bourgeois ­house­holds and, 176, 179; celebrities and, 176, 190n2; child-­rearing tactics, postwar, 179; confessional nanny, trope of, 186, 187; con­temporary, 175–176, 177, 178; con­ temporary tropes of single White nannies, 178; domestic and gender ideologies of the 1960s, 179–180; domestic sphere, regeneration of, 178–179, 180–181, 182–183; domestic virtue, embodiment of, 134, 177, 180; elite ­house­holds and, 175, 177–179, 181, 182, 184, 187, 188; exploitation

234 I n d e x nannies (cont.) of, 176, 186, 188; in fiction and film, 134, 175–185, 186; film history of, 133–134; gentrified caregivers in fiction and film, 177, 178; gentrified governess figure, emergence from, 176, 177; Gone with the Wind (1939), 177; Help, The (film), 176; Help, The (novel), 176; iconic nannies of the 1960s, 175, 179–185, 189; Jane Eyre (1847) (Brontë), 175, 176, 177, 186, 190n8; Mary Poppins (film), 175, 178, 179, 182–185, 189; mi­grant caregivers, 134, 176, 188; Nanny Diaries, The (film), 185, 186, 187–188; Nanny Diaries, The (novel), 175, 185, 186–187, 188; neoliberal nanny, the rise of, 185–190; Pamela (1748) (Richardson), 177; patriarchal rule, transformation of, 180–181; perception of, 176; real­ity shows, nannies depicted in, 185; “reformed” marriage plot and, 175; sentimental depictions in American fiction, 177; single domestic heroism of, 8, 189–190; single White nanny, cultural fetish of, 134, 176, 186–187, 188, 189; single womanhood and, 179–185; social status of, 175, ­ usic, The (1965), 175, 178, 176; Sound of M 179–182, 184; twenty-­first-­century nannies, 185–190 Nanny 911 (2004–2009), 185 Nanny Diaries, The (film), 186, 187–188; Ca­rib­bean nannies, 188; exposé of wealthy families, 187–188; heterosexual romance plot, 188; middle-­class au pair and, 186, 187–188 Nanny Diaries, The (novel), 175, 185, 186–187; heterosexual romance plot, 188; Jane Eyre referenced in, 186, 190n8; materialist critique, 188 Nash, Ilana, 72 Nathan, George Jean, 98n18 Negulesco, Dusty: Best of Every­thing, The and, 29, 38, 39–40; friendship with Jaffe, 38, 39 Negulesco, Jean (film director), 29, 32–33; Best of Every­thing, The and, 29, 32, 33, 34, 35, 39; casting decisions, Jaffe and, 40; CinemaScope, use of, 32–33, 34, 35; How to Marry a Millionaire and, 32–33; interior settings, Jaffe’s views on, 35–36, 37; Jaffe’s personal relationship with, 38; Three Coins in the Fountain and, 35 neoliberal capitalism, 186, 189 neoliberalism, 178 never-­married ­people, 17–18, 68, 193, 194 never-­married ­women, 4, 5, 9, 158; derogatory labels for, 158; f­ amily and society, ser­v ice to, 138–139; in­de­pen­dent

occupancy, 150; perceived oddity of, 158; rise of, 3; in the U.S. (1860–1880), 5–6 New Gidget, The (1986–1988), 78, 80n38 New Negro movement, 101n95 New W ­ oman fiction, 158, 159 New W ­ oman, the, 5, 8, 61, 67, 194; suffrage and, 159, 194 New York Call, 87 New York Herald, 61 New York Times, 112, 186 New York Times Book Review, 87 New Yorker, 2 Ngai, Sianne, 148 Nicholson, ­Virginia, 160; Singled Out: How Two Million British ­Women Survived without Men ­after the First World War, 2 90 Day Fiancé (2014–­pre­sent), 2 Noggle, Burl, 82 nonmarriage: stigma attached to, 81; stigma, reinforcement in ­silent cinema, 81 Nowlin, Michael, 96, 101n92 nuclear ­family, 5; divorced m ­ others’ exclusion from, 112; as dominant norm, 1, 4; housing in the interwar period, 159–160; remarriage and, 112; threats to, 2 O’Brien, Kevin, 71, 72 “odd” ­women, 157, 158; interrelation of, 8 Off-­Shore Pirate (film), 95–96, 100n69: audience, diversity of, 96; contrast with source story, 95–96; young African American ­women and, 96 “Offshore Pirate, The” (short story), 81, 84, 86, 94 O’Ha­ra, John, 85 old age, cultural definition of, 136–137 older ­women: ste­reo­t ypes of, 136, 138, 140, 148. See also later-­life single w ­ omen old maids, 18, 48, 61, 136; in nineteenth-­ century fictions, 137; perception of, 137 parenting: divorced families and, 103; lit­er­a­ture on, 114n4; single parenting, 110, 112; stepparenting, 112 Parents’ Magazine, 109 Parents without Partners, 112–113 Parsons, Deborah L., 160 patriarchalism, reinvention of, 179, 180 patriarchy: home and security, notions of, 162; ­women and, 146, 158 Patterson, Martha, 3 Pease, Allison, 169 Perfect Flapper, The (1924), 82 Phillis Wheatley Association (PWA) home, 20 Playboy’s Pent­house (1959–1961), 42; fantastical and consumerist space of, 43;

Index Jaffe, Rona, defeat of Hefner, 43; Jaffe, Rona, defence of her novel, 43; Jaffe, Rona, interview and, 42–43; misogyny of the interviewers, 42–43 Poland, Joseph Franklin, 92, 100n71 po­liti­cal power, 2; disparities of, 184; single ­women and, 1, 2 Pollard, Madeleine: alias Miss Dudley, 59, 64n70, 64n73; breach of promise trial, 58, 59, 60–61; Tucker’s surveillance of, 58, 59–60 popu­lar culture: divorced m ­ others and, 107; single w ­ omen and, 1, 4, 6, 7, 68, 72, 198 postfeminism, 4, 178 postfeminist media culture, 178 poverty, single ­women and, 8, 53, 138, 171 power, access to, 13–14 premarital heterosexuality, 5 Prigozy, Ruth, 84, 92 Przybylo, Ela, and Cooper, Danielle, 21–22 public sphere: single ­women’s access to, 157–158; ­women’s occupation of, 158 Publishers Weekly, 86 queer counterpublics, 150 queer desire, 21 queer domesticities, 9, 143, 146 queer possibility, 9, 67, 146, 148 queer spinster aesthetics, 8, 137–138, 153n49 queer theory, 3, 7, 9, 72, 136, 137; studies, 16, 17, 22, 146 queerness, 8; in fin de siècle texts, 143, 146; spinsters and, 166, 167, 168, 170 racism, 8, 15; Jim Crow racism, 23; Saturday Eve­ning Post and 101n95; in the segregated South, 176; single Black ­women and, 23. See also segregation racist theories, 101n95 Ralston, Esther, 106 Rebel without a Cause (1955), 70 Reddy, William, 149 Reluctant Debutante, The (1958), 76 remarriage, 104; report (1963), 112 Restless Years, The (1958), 76 Reynolds, Jill, and Wetherell, Margaret, 19 Rhys, Jean, 158 Richardson, Samuel, Pamela, 177 Roach, Shoniqua, 21 Roaring Twenties, 81, 82. See also flappers Robe, The (1953), 32, 33 Robertson, Cliff, 71 Rochford, Elbrun, ­Mothers on Their Own, 111, 112 Rogers, Ariel, 33 Rogers, Ginger, 31 Rosenthal, Naomi Braun, 3 Rosner, Victoria, 158, 166

235 Ross, Sara, 84, 97n6 Rosser, Fannie, 18–19 Rubin, Mann (screenwriter), 33, 35, 36, 39, 41 Russett, Cynthia Ea­gle, 88 Rutgers Center for Historical Analy­sis Proj­ect, 3 Ryan, Deborah Sugg, 160, 172n20 Sagan, Françoise: Bonjour Tristesse, 76; Certain Smile, A, 76 Sahl, Mort, 36 same-­sex relationships, 21 Saturday Eve­ning Post: Fitzgerald’s flapper stories, 86, 91, 92, 93, 94; New Negro movement, criticism and satirization of, 101n95; racist theories published by, 101n95; readership, 93, 96, 101n95 Sayre, Zelda (­later Fitzgerald), 84–85. See also Fitzgerald, Zelda Scharf, George, 27n27 Scheiner, Georgeanne, 76 school rec­ords, research and, 16, 18 Scott, Joan, 193 Scribner’s, “Ex-­Married Confess, The,” 108, 116n32 Scutts, Joanna, Extra ­Woman, The: How Marjorie Hillis Led a Generation of ­Women to Live Alone and Like It, 2 Second World War, w ­ omen’s l­abor during, 166 Sedgwick, Eve, 146 segregation: Interracial Charter a­ dopted by the YWCA, 26n16; single Black ­women and, 19, 23; transport segregation, 23. See also racism self-­identification: as self-­partnered, 1; as single, 15, 18; terminology for marital status, 18 “self-­partnered,” 1 separated w ­ omen, 4, 5, 15, 20, 111, 137, 148. See also Hunter, Jane Edna serial heroines, 95, 101n87 Sex and the City (1998–2004), 2, 178 sexism, 8, 15 sexual double standard, 42 sexual harassment, single Black ­women and, 23 sexual innocence, 76, 181 sexualities, non-­majority, 17 sexuality: divorced m ­ others and, 103, 110, 112; “S” for single, Cobb’s proposal of, 17; single African American ­women, 21, 22; single w ­ omen, cultural anx­i­eties about, 2; single w ­ omen in the Jazz Age, 87 sexuality studies, 21–22 Sharp, Elizabeth A., and Ganong, Lawrence, 24 Shaw, Stephanie, 16, 26n5

236 I n d e x “shelter writing,” 140–141, 148 Sicherman, Barbara, 52 Simmons, Jon, 191n30 Simon and Schuster, 40 Sinclair, May, “Pin-­Prick, The,” 159, 166, 167–168, 170 single African American ­women, 15, 16, 19, 21, 22, 23 ­ omen single aging. See later-­life single w single Black w ­ omen, 15–16; abolitionism and, 18, 22; archival rec­ords, 16–17, 21; archival research methods, 16–17; contextualizing, 16; culture of dissemblance and silence, 21; friendship a­ lbums, 27n30; friendships, 22; full lives cultivated by, 23; group residence established for, 19–20; housing segregation, 19; literary repre­sen­ta­tions of, 148; national movements and, 22; on-­screen flapper heroines and, 96; perception of, 20; personal identity, ele­ments of, 15–16; personal relationships between, 22; predominance in professional fields 26n5; presence in public and private life, 16; professionalization enabled by singleness, 16; racial respectability, concerns about, 22; racism, 23; segregated transportation, 23; sexual harassment, 23; sexual history, hesitancy about disclosure, 21; sexuality, silence about, 21; singleness and, 16, 25; society’s surveillance and control of, 148; ste­reo­t ypes of sexual wantonness, 21; travelling alone, ­hazards of, 23; writers and reformers, 15. See also Black w ­ omen; unmarried Black ­women single blessedness, 6, 81, 135, 138, 141; fin de siècle, 141; in­de­pen­dent housing and, 135, 141; nineteenth ­century, 6, 81, 135 single domestic bliss: in fin de siècle texts, 139–147; normative discomfort with, 146; pathologization of, 146 single f­ athers, 112–113 single girls: assumptions about, 123; defining qualities, 36; Gurley Brown’s definition of, 42; normatively single girls, 8; requirement to be “sexy,” 123. See also single w ­ omen single identities, 67, 68 Single Lives, 4–5; geographic and temporal bound­aries, 5–7; singleness studies, new directions for, 7–9 single men: “swinging singles” cookbooks, 120, 123; in the United States (1960, 2016), 118–119. See also cookbooks for one; single ­fathers; unmarried men single m ­ other: midcentury, 8; shifting cultural repre­sen­ta­tions of, 68. See also divorced ­mothers

single pleasures, 8–9; domestic ­labors, enjoyment of, 142, 143, 145, 147, 150 single privilege, 8, 9 single queer figures, 155n104 single strategies: community building, 9; eccentricity, 9; privacy, 9; respectability, 9; silence and ambiguity, 9 single temporality, 67; normative, 67, 68; queer, 68 single womanhood: experiences of, 7; iconic nannies of the 1960s, 179–185; transition of girls into, 67 single w ­ oman’s cookbooks, 122; advice given in, 127–128; connection between food and sex, 125; cooking as a form of seduction, 125, 126; cooking as other-­ oriented activity, 124, 126; cooking as self-­care, 125–126; domestic prowess, overcoming lack of, 123–124, 127; “easy” ­recipes, references to, 123; eve­ning meal, focus on, 122; humorous language in, 122; instructive range of, 127–128; ­Little Black Apron, The (Citrin et al.), 121, 122, 123–124, 125; marriage and motherhood, implica­ oman’s tions about, 126; Official Single W Cookbook, The (Soslow), 121, 122, 123, 124, 125; r­ ecipes for one or more in, 123, 128; sexual tropes in, 125; single, equated with “not married yet,” 126, 128; singleness as temporary state for ­women, 119, 120, 123–124, 126, 128, 129; ste­reo­t ypes, perpetuation of, 128 single w ­ omen: alternative domestic spaces, 170, 172; alternative domesticities, 161–162; altruistic, 149; archival research method, 15; assumptions about, 103; attitudes ­towards, change in, 119; autonomous life, intergenerational bond broken by, 49; being single, framing explanations for, 19; challenges for, 1–2; cohabitation and, 162; community, tradition of ser­v ice to, 146; con­temporary interest in, 2; definitions of, 10n4, 158; demographic category, 3; demographic peaks in Britain and Amer­i­ca, 6; domestic l­ abor and, 68, 134; domestic longings, 138–139; domesticity and, 146, 149, 159, 161, 162, 172; eating out alone, 129; economic vulnerability, 2; ­family, tradition of ser­v ice to, 146; fin de siècle era, 6; friendships and, 161; ­future-­oriented ­toward marriage, assumed to be, 22–23; Gilded Age, 48, 49; habitats, Hollywood’s spectacularization of, 32–36; historical anx­i­eties about, 1; historical archives and, 13–14; home life and, 159–163; homeowners, status as, 18–19; hypervisibility of, 6; identification in archival

Index collections, 18; in­de­pen­dence and, 124; infantilization of, 180, 181; living alone in the 1930s, views on, 161; living alone, perceived effects of, 167; luminosity of, 6; marginalization of, 126, 128, 129, 137–138; negative ste­reo­t ypes of, 127, 129; networks of affiliation, 23; past-­oriented ­toward marriage, assumed to be, 23; perception of, 19, 20; physical vulnerability, 2; portrayals in Fitzgerald’s writings, 83–84; post-­First World War era, 6; poverty and, 8, 53, 138, 171; protagonists in TV and movies, 2; public fascination with, 1, 3; public sphere, access to, 157–158; representing and reforming, 67–68; sexuality, 22; shared space and, 161, 162; shortcomings of “lived spatiality” for, 172; society’s surveillance and control of, 148; spatial constraints impacting on, 159; ste­reo­t ypes, 119, 120, 123–124, 127, 128; stigmas about, 119; tradition of ser­v ice, 146; unwed status, triggering events for, 24; urban housing and, 166; urban migration and, 135, 138, 140, 150, 166. See also boarding­houses; flappers; housing; later-­life single ­women; old maids; separated ­women; single Black ­women; single girls; spinsters; surplus ­women; unmarried Black w ­ omen; unmarried w ­ omen; white-­collar girls; ­w idows; w ­ omen adrift single-­parent ­house­holds, 110. See also divorced families; divorced m ­ others; divorced parents singlehood, statements of, 1, 2 singleness, 193; in the 1920s, 83; advantages of, 126–127; architecture of singleness, 135, 150, 151, 157; archival research method, 15, 17; Black feminism and, 17; category of, 4, 5, 96, 193, 194; as choice, 4, 96, 162; con­temporary anxiety about, 2; con­ temporary interest in, 2; diversity of meanings, 84; dominant models of, 1; effects and affects in ­women’s lives, 17; enactment through social relations/ everyday acts, 24; equated with failure, 25; experiences of, 25; Fitzgerald’s depiction of, 83–84, 87–88; flappers and, 82, 83–84, 87–88, 91, 96; flappers, remediated adaptations of, 96; as a flexible and varied state, 5; gendered contours of, 10n5; gendered difference, 27n29; historical figures of, 8; as an identity category, 4, 5; in l­ ater life, 137; LGBTQ and, 21; as a lifestyle, 25n1; loneliness, expression of, 25; the new normal, 119; pathologized as a prob­lem, 24; in popu­lar media culture, 178; premarital version of, 2; queer

237 criticism and, 17; range of repre­sen­ta­tions of, 25; repre­sen­ta­tion in con­temporary culture, 2; return to as w ­ idows, divorcées, separated m ­ others, 8, 68; scholarly approaches to, 8; as temporary state for ­women, 119, 120, 123–124, 126, 128, 129; in the United States, 118–119; validity of, 157; ­v iable option of, 17, 25; youth, conflation with, 19 singleness studies, 3–10, 24–25; archives and methods, 13–14; bachelor culture, 27n27, 27n29; in British fiction, 3–4; con­ temporary studies, goal of, 13; in fiction, 3–4; f­ uture scholarship, 9–10; historical scholarship, 4, 9; new directions for, 7–9; in social psy­chol­ogy, 3; in sociology, 3 Singleness Studies Bibliography, 3 singles studies. See singleness studies singletons, 18; as a trend, 126 singlism, 3, 5; gender-­specific forms of, 10n5 Sirk, Douglas (film director), 45n11, 76 slavery, 18, 135 Smith, Delia, One is Fun!, 122 Smith, Frederick James, 98n19 Snyder, Katherine, 3 social history, 3, 7, 82 social psy­chol­ogy, 3 socially coupled, 18, 26n10 sociology/sociologists, 53; divorce novels, survey of, 104–105; gendered l­ abor, 37; singleness studies in, 3, 4 Sommer, Edith (screenwriter), 35–36, 39 Soslow, Robin: domestic prowess, lack of, ­ oman’s Cookbook, 124; Official Single W The, 121, 122, 125; ­recipes for dishes serving two or more, 123; sexual tropes in the cookbook, 125 Sound of M ­ usic, The (1965), 178, 179; American domestic and gender ideologies, 179; Baroness Elsa, character of, 180–181, 185; bourgeois domesticity, reform of, 179; Captain Trapp, transformation of, 181; domestic reform, 180, 181, 184; domestic virtue, Maria’s embodiment of, 180; gender ideologies, 180, 181, 186; gothic imagery, scene with Liesl and Rolfe, 191n23; governess figure (Maria) in, 175, 178, 180; “How Do You Solve a Prob­lem Like Maria,” 180; infantilization of Maria, 181, 183; libidinal m ­ other, Maria as, 180; Liesl’s transgressions, 181, 191n23; Maria’s innocence, abbey’s preservation of, 181; marital ideals, 181, 182, 186; nationalist strug­gle in, 179, 181, 182; single womanhood in, 179–180, 181 Spectorsky, A.C., 42–43

238 I n d e x spinster fiction: alternative domesticities, 156–157; subgenre of, 158; transient abodes, 159 spinster (term), 19, 158 spinsters, 5, 8, 18, 67, 136–137; domesticity, new forms of, 172; “empowered spinster” archetype, 183; in fin de siècle regional lit­er­a­ture, 138; perception of in the 1930s, 168; queer spinster aesthetics, 8, 137–138; queerness associated with, 166, 167, 168, 170; self-­fashioning of private space, 158; ste­reo­t ypes, 138, 141 Stahl, Jonathan, 177 Stallybrass, Peter, 194 Stamp, Shelley, serial heroines, 95, 101n87 Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, 62 Stapleton, W ­ ill, 52 Stedman, Leanne, 71 ste­reo­t ypes: cookbooks and, 122, 123–124, 127; of divorced m ­ others, 104, 113; of flappers, 68, 82, 83, 84, 90; of older ­women, 136, 138, 140, 148; of single Black ­women and, 21; the single figure and, 8; of single w ­ omen, 119, 120, 123–124, 127, 128; of spinsters, 138, 141 Sterry, Emma, 157–158, 166, 168 Stockett, Kathryn, Help, The, 176 Stoll, Charles, 54–55, 58, 60, 61 Storey, Ethel, 24 Straub, Julia, 6 structuralist criticism, princi­ples of, 72 suffrage: portrayal in fiction, 105; portrayal ­ omen and, 52, in Mary Poppins, 182, 184; w 159, 194 Summer Place, A (1959), 76 Supernanny (2004–2011), 185 Supernanny US (2005–2011), 185 surf culture, 71 surfers, perception of, 71 surfing: as alternative form of masculinity, 71; California Welcomes You (sign), 79; counterculture of, 70–71; female surfing, rarity of, 71, 76; in Gidget (1959), 70–71, 77; State of California sign, 79 surplus w ­ omen: increase in, 158, 160; in post-­First World War Britain, 6, 157, 158, 160 Sweet Smell of Success (1957), 35 “swinging singles” cookbooks, 120, 123, 127 Take Home Nanny (2008), 185 ­ omen in Taylor, Anthea, 1, 4, 178; Single W Popu­lar Culture: The Limits of Postfeminism, 4; Western popu­lar culture, 6 Taylor, Julie, 141 teen­agers, 5; 1950s teenager, 67 teen consumerism, surf culture and, 71

teen films: adolescence as personal and social crisis, 74; clean teenpics, 70, 71–72; male delinquency in Rebel without a Cause, 70. See also Gidget (1959) tele­v i­sion: adaptations for, 7; Ally McBeal (1997–2002), 2; Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2001), 2; Gidget (TV series, 1965) 78, 80n38; Girlfriends (2000–2006, 2006–2008), 2; I Love Lucy (1950–1957), 113; Love Is Blind (2020), 2; Love Island (2015–­pre­sent), 2; Lucy Show, The (1962–1968), 113; nannies, real­ity shows and, 185; New Gidget, The (1986–1988) 78, 80n38; 90 Day Fiancé (2014–­pre­sent), 2; non-­W hite single ­women, 2; real­ity tele­v i­sion, 2, 185; Sex and the City (1998–2004), 2, 178; single-­women protagonists, 2, 113. See also Mad Men (2007–2015) ­Temple, Shirley, 74 Thayer, Charles Paine, 56, 57, 64n50, 64n52 Thomas, Rhondda Robinson, 20 Thompson, Eliza, 24 Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), 34–35 Thurston, Luke, 164 Tracy, Terry (Tubesteak), 71, 80n9 Traister, Rebecca: All the Single Ladies, 2, 119; single ­women, negative ste­reo­t ypes of, 127 transatlantic literary and cultural exchange, 6–7 transatlantic scholarship, 6 Travers, P.L., Mary Poppins, 183, 192n31 True Womanhood, 142, 146; dominant narratives of, 151; Welter’s definition of, 154n100 Tucker Clayton, Mary Mellus Armstrong (Mame) (1858–1899), 48, 49, 53, 58; addictions, 52, 64n56, 64n65; marriage, 52, 53; s­ ister Jane and, 57, 61; stage ­career, 52, 57 Tucker, Elizabeth Mary (Lizzie) (née Worth), 56 Tucker f­ amily home, ­Castle Tucker, 63n15 Tucker, Jane Armstrong (Jennie) (1866–1964), 14, 48–62; alias, Agnes Parker, 59, 60, 61; autonomous life, 49, 50, 57, 62; beauty products business, 62; Boston, employment in, 55–56; ­brother’s surveillance and criticism of, 53–54, 56; Chicago World’s Fair, trip to, 55; Christmas gifts, 55; class and, 49; cookbook compiled by, 62; correspondence, 14; domestic skills, utilization of, 49, 50, 53, 133; domesticity beyond the home, motif of, 49; education, 51; employment as private secretary,

Index 54–55; ­family background, 51; ­family home inherited by, 62; f­ amily home, payment for room and board, 62n7; housing, quest for, 54, 55; illness, 14, 48, 49, 50, 51, 55, 56, 57–58; imported goods sold by, 61–62; in­de­pen­dence, 14, 50, 53, 57; l­egal skills, 55; Maine, return to, 57, 61; marriage eschewed by, 50, 62; ­mother’s concerns about, 54, 56, 57–58, 61; New York City, move to, 54–55; outdoor pursuits, 50–51, 61; reading, favourite novels, 51–52; Real Madeleine Parker, The, 61; siblings 63n16; stenography, employment and, 53, 54, 55; undercover detective, role as, 49, 50, 58–61, 64n73; undercover work, public revelation of, 61 Tucker, Mary Geraldine Armstrong (Mollie) (1841–1922), 48, 49; ­children, 63n16; concerns about Jane, 54, 56; ­daughters, concerns about, 56–57; ­daughters’ departure, reaction to, 49, 50, 52–53; ­daughters, expectations for, 53; ­daughter’s illness, perception of, 50; death of ­daughter Patty, 49, 50, 57; death of husband, 61; McLean Hospital, stay in, 63n23; marriage, unhappy, 49, 50, 51, 52–53; ­mother, role of, 49, 50; ­mother, social definition as, 49 Tucker, Richard Hawley, III (1859–1952), 56, 63n22 Tucker, Captain Richard Holbrook (1816–1895), 51, 52, 61 Tucker Stapleton, Martha Armstrong (Patty) (1861–1893), 48, 52; death, 49, 50, 57; Denver Tribune society column edited by, 52; Kady, A Colorado Story, 52; marriage, 52; pen name, Patience Stapleton, 52; pen name, Patience Thornton, 52; writing c­ areer, 52 Tucker, William Armstrong (­Will) (1864–1926), 53–54, 56, 63n22 Tulipan, Ira (Fox publicity man­ag­er), 36 Tuttle, Jennifer, 58, 64n65 20th Century-­Fox: Best of Every­thing, The, production of, 29, 36; Best of Every­thing, The, secretarial pool’s reaction to, 41; CinemaScope, use of, 32–33, 34, 35, 45n22; economic decline, 33; Fox Corporation, merger with, 44n7; Jaffe, Rona and, 36, 41. See also Best of Every­thing, The (1959); Hollywood film industry United Kingdom (UK): cookbooks published in, 122; divorce laws, 167; United States and, 6; working ­women, perception of, 168. See also Britain United Nations (UN), 1

239 United States of Amer­i­ca (USA); childcare crisis, 188; cultural exchange with the UK, 6, 9; demographic peak in single ­women, 6; divorce laws, 167; divorce rates, 103, 104; divorce revolution (1970s), 103; divorced ­mothers (1920–1965), 102–117; housing for single w ­ omen, 157; legalized divorce, 115n7; marriage rate (1890–1920), 97n13; never-­married ­women (1860–1880), 5–6; special relationship with the UK, 6; unmarried ­people (1960, 2016), 118–119 unmarried Black w ­ omen, 17, 26n5 unmarried historical figures, 22 unmarried men, 118–119; in the United States (1960, 2016), 118–119 unmarried ­women, 3, 4, 19, 137; anx­i­eties about, 137; domesticity, identification with, 162; lifetimes, conception of, 23; stigmatization of, 97; in Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), 34–35; in the United States (1960, 2016), 118–119 unwed individuals: historical presence of, 17; next of kin and, 23, 24 unwed ­women, 19, 24, 26n5, 104 urban migration: African American, 19; single w ­ omen and, 135, 138, 140, 150, 166 Valverde, Cristina Pérez, 183, 192n31 Vance, Vivian, 113 Vicinus, Martha, 4 Vogue, 19 Wald, Jerry (film producer): Best of Every­thing, The and, 31, 33, 34, 39, 40; Jaffe, Rona and, 36, 37–38, 40, 41–42; product placement, 42; razor-­edge realism captured by Jaffe, 41; Rubin, Mann, dissatisfaction with, 41 Wall Street crash (1929), 82 “war marriages,” 109 Warner, Michael, 150 Warner, Sylvia Townsend, Lolly Willowes, 165 Warshaw, Matt, 79n5; surf boom, Gidget as starting point for, 71; surfers, perception of, 70–71 war­time industries: “latchkey ­children,” working m ­ others and, 109; ­women’s ­labor legitimized in, 166 war­time stories, 159, 168–171 Watson, Emma, 1, 2, 10n2 welfare recipients: marital status of, 117n56; single m ­ others and, 103, 111 Welter, Barbara: “Cult of True Womanhood, The: 1820–1860”; “Cult of True Womanhood, The: 1820–1860,” 154n100 Western Reserve Historical Society Research Library, Cleveland, Ohio, 19

240 I n d e x Wharton, Edith, 150; boarding­house, Mrs. Manstey’s choice of, 143–144; ­Children, The, 115n18; Custom of the Country, The, 105; Lily Bart (House of Mirth), 150–151; Mary Pask’s dowdy interior, 163; “Miss Mary Pask” (1926), 163; Mrs. Manstey, perception of, 144, 145; “Mrs. Manstey’s View,” 135, 140, 143–145, 148; observations of Mrs. Manstey, 144; older ­woman’s emotional power, 146; older w ­ oman’s in­de­pen­dent spaces, 136, 140, 143–145; w ­ omen “crazy about building,” 144–145 Wheeler, Lyle, 33 White w ­ omen: adulthood and, 152n9; in fin de siècle texts, 148; friendships with men, access to power via, 14; gender roles, 113; interviews, 2; literary nonfiction, 2; marriage and, 119, 137; memoirs by, 2; middle-­class, in Fitzgerald’s writings, 96; respectability and, 147; single White nanny, cultural fetish of, 134, 176, 186–187, 188, 189; tele­v i­sion series and, 2; wage-­ earning, 30 white-­collar girls: fictional repre­sen­ta­tion of, 31; Hollywood’s repre­sen­ta­tion of, 31, 32; Jaffe’s repre­sen­ta­tion of, 32; Morley’s repre­sen­ta­tion of, 31–32; traditionally-­ gendered repre­sen­ta­tion of, 30–31. See also Best of Every­thing, The (film); Kitty Foyle (film) “White-­Collar Girls” (newsreel, 1948), 30–31 white-­collar work, divorced ­mothers and, 111 Whitney, Allison, 72 widowhood, 9 ­w idows, 5, 8, 18, 68, 158; appellation “Mrs.,” 18; domestic in­de­pen­dence, 150; familial care, expectation of, 8; ­house­hold habits, 135–136; housing, 135–136; in­de­pen­dent occupancy, 150; infantilization in fiction, 136, 141–142, 145; return to singleness, 8 Wilson, Elizabeth, 34 Wilson, Margaret, Kenworthys, The, 105 Wilson, Mary, 190n1 Winch, Alison, 178 Wolf, Anna W.M., and Stein, Lucille, One-­Parent F ­ amily, The, 111–112 ­woman (term), 10n4 ­women: affluent ­women, perception of, 50; age expectancy, 137; as caregivers, 146; changes in concept of in the 1920s, 88; civil status and, 18, 26n9; cooking associated with, 119, 123; emergence in cities in the nineteenth ­century, 34; employment, as threat to male

dominance, 82; feminine instability, images of, 34; Gilded Age and, 48, 49, 61, 62; higher education of, 88; intelligence, perception of, 88; interracial friendships, 27n30; leisured-­class, 49; the New ­woman, 5, 8, 61; old age, cultural definition of, 136–137; patriarchy’s perception of, 146; perceived risks to health of, 56; postwar social and sexual freedom, 82–83; space-­making and, 163; urban masses described in feminine terms, 34. See also Black w ­ omen; femininity; single Black ­women; single w ­ omen; White w ­ omen; working ­women; working-­class ­women ­women adrift, 8, 49, 67, 104; public anxiety about, 156n130 ­women’s aid organ­izations, 135 ­women’s liberation movement, 119, 124, 178. See also feminism ­women’s rights, single Black ­women and, 22 ­women’s studies, 3, 7 Woodward, Kathleen, 136 Woolf, ­Virginia, 158; “Professions for ­Women,” 161; Room of One’s Own, A, 161 working m ­ others: “latchkey ­children,” 109; war­time industries, employment in, 109 working w ­ omen: economic concerns of, 34; housing and, 151; middle-­class ideology and, 50; perception of, 168; urban working girls, 150; in war­time industries, 109, 166. See also boarding­houses; housing; white-­collar girls working-­class ­women, 9, 48; inherent hardiness of, 49, 50, 54; jobs associated with, 111 World War I. See First World War wrong coupling: in Gidget, 73, 77, 80n38; in musicals, 73, 77 Wulf, Karin, 4 Wynne, Craig, 9 Yans, V ­ irginia, 3 Yellin, Jean Fagan, 18 Young, Everett, Custody ­Children, 107 Young, Gwenda, 95, 101n88 Young, Waldemar, 95 young ­women: culinary skills, lacking in, 123, 127; expectations for, 91–92; imposed role as wives-­to-be, dissatisfaction with, 89; in ­Sister Carrie (Dreiser), 135, 150 Young W ­ omen’s Christian Association (YWCA), 19, 26n16 youth culture: in the 1920s, 87; in the 1960s, 181; dating rituals, 87 Youth’s Companion (magazine), 52