Boston marriage was a term used in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries for households where two women lived together, independent of any male support. These relationships were not necessarily sexual; the existence of platonic Boston marriages was used to quell fears of lesbianism following the loss of men in World War I. Today, the term is sometimes used when referring to two women living together who are not in a sexual relationship. Such a relationship may have intimacy and commitment, without sexuality.
Origins of the term
The term "Boston marriage" came to be used, apparently, after Henry James' book The Bostonians detailed a marriage-like relationship between two women—"New Women" in the language of the time, women who were independent, not married, self-supporting (which sometimes meant living off inherited wealth or making a living as writers or other professional, educated careers). Less common but nonetheless used was the term "Wellesley marriage."
The 1999 play Boston Marriage by David Mamet depicts such a marriage as having an explicitly sexual component. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to allow legal same-sex marriages.
- McLaren, Angus (1999), Twentieth-Century Sexuality: A History, Oxford, United Kingdom: Blackwell Publishers Ltd, pp. 16, ISBN 0-631-20812-7