Showing posts from May, 2012

Hilda and Martha

This is an excerpt from my essay “Twenty-Two Thousand Days” (Sonora Review Winter 1999), about my great-aunt’s line-a-day diaries, which my sister inherited and shared with me after our great-aunt’s death. My great-aunt died at the age of 99 in 1991, and was survived for a few years by her partner Martha. The two women had been together for fifty years.
 In the third volume of my great-aunt’s line-a-day diaries, covering the years 1940-1944, I discovered several small scraps of paper on which my great-aunt copied out excerpts from her diaries. One scrap of paper reads:
Jan. 19             M + I up late—Breakfast and quiet interlude—lunch to Gallery to see Van Gogh pictures. Hat—Emily—MJC + I to smorgasbord at Hotel Rochester.
On the back of the paper, in Martha’s handwriting, comes the reply:
If I recall we saw Frances Baker there, too, and I didn’t have money to put in the Dutch collection vase—or whatever it was. Also my new hat blew off on Univ. Ave. Right?
For these two women, w…

Rose and Evangeline

In 2007, I published an essay in the New England Reviewabout Rose Elizabeth Cleveland, the sister of President Grover Cleveland, who served as her bachelor brother’s First Lady until his White House marriage. I’ve been thinking about Rose Cleveland again recently as Minnesota prepares to vote on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. Rose Cleveland, who was a scholar, essayist, poet, and novelist, never married, but she ended her life in a committed relationship with another woman: the widow of Bishop Henry Whipple of Faribault.
Rose Cleveland and Evangeline Simpson seem to have met in Florida in thewinter of 1889-1890, and later exchanged a series of passionate love letters, which are preserved in the Minnesota Historical Society.
“My Eve looks into my eyes with brief bright glances,” Rose wrote to Evangeline, “with long rapturous embraces,—when her sweet life beneath and her warm enfolding arms appease my hunger, and quiet my soul and carry my body to the summit o…