Outlaw Marriages: The Hidden Histories of Fifteen Extraordinary Same-Sex Couples
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For more than a century before gay marriage became a hot-button political issue, same-sex unions flourished in America. Pairs of men and pairs of women joined together in committed unions, standing by each other “for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health” for periods of thirty or forty—sometimes as many as fifty—years. In short, they loved and supported each other every bit as much as any husband and wife.
In Outlaw Marriages, cultural historian Rodger Streitmatter reveals how some of these unions didn’t merely improve the quality of life for the two people involved but also enriched the American culture.
Among the high-profile couples whose lives and loves are illuminated in the following pages are Nobel Peace Prize winner Jane Addams and Mary Rozet Smith, literary icon Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, author James Baldwin and Lucien Happersberger, and artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.
the Washington and Georgetown Railroad line, which traveled along Pennsylvania Avenue.11 CREATING AN OUTLAW MARRIAGE Walt Whitman and Peter Doyle met in early 1865 when the older man was a passenger on the streetcar where the younger man sold tickets. “Walt had his blanket—it was thrown round his shoulders—he seemed like an old sea-captain,” Doyle later recalled of their first encounter. “He was the only passenger, it was a lonely night, so I thought I would go in and talk with him.
men vacationed in 1936.31 Kraft made a dramatic change in his professional life during this period by giving up the violin and pursuing work as a news photographer. His decision wasn’t driven by a lack of talent but by a lack of confidence in himself. Copland supported the career change by buying Kraft a high-quality camera and putting him in touch with several friends who were photographers. These men served as guides for Kraft as he entered his new vocation, helping him master the techniques
wrote letters for Copland, kept his car in working order, and took photos at public events where the now famous composer made appearances. When Copland decided he wanted to move out of Manhattan permanently, Kraft found him a large and airy clapboard house near Peekskill, New York, an hour from the city.47 Copland agreed to be interviewed by numerous journalists who wrote profiles and feature stories about him, but he opted not to speak publicly about his homosexuality. When questioned about his
practical use when he served in the U.S. Navy, sketching portraits of his fellow sailors that the young men then sent home to their families.2 Rauschenberg used GI Bill benefits to pay his tuition to the Académie Julian in Paris and then Black Mountain College in North Carolina. By this point he’d become Robert, changing his name to mark his rebirth as an artist. He’d also married fellow art student Susan Weil.3 The first exhibition of Rauschenberg’s art came in 1951 after he and his wife had
doing one for him, too. In dramatic contrast to the success of Johns’s show, Rauschenberg’s event was a complete failure. Critics opted not to review the show, and only a single painting was sold. One visitor commented on Rauschenberg’s work through an act of vandalism. That is, when no one was looking, he scrawled two words across one of the combines: “Fuck You.”29 AN OUTLAW MARRIAGE SURVIVING A MAJOR CHALLENGE By the summer of 1958, the Rauschenberg/Johns outlaw marriage was in a very