"A Golden Mean": Friendships between men and women in the early American republic, 1780--1830

Cassandra Good, University of Pennsylvania


Elite men and women in the early American republic formed affectionate, egalitarian friendships. These friendships flourished outside of prescribed gender roles and relationships, with men and women improvising to create fulfilling friendships within the bounds of propriety. Using letters, diaries, literature, and material objects, this dissertation reconstructs heterosocial friendships and how men and women made them work in a society that provided no clear cultural framework for such relationships. Creating relationships outside of traditional norms gave men and women a flexible and egalitarian space that came closer to the republican ideal of free and equal social relations than any other relationship between a man and a woman. The ability to form such relationships suggests that the sexual and gender systems in this era were not as constraining as historians have imagined. Nor, in fact, were systems of power and politics. In a republican polity that relied on the virtuous bonds of its citizenry, heterosocial friendships gave women an entry point into the civic body and tied together political, social, and religious circles. Thus, friendships between men and women helped create the social and political fabric of the new nation. ^

Subject Area

American Studies|History, United States|Gender Studies

Recommended Citation

Good, Cassandra, ""A Golden Mean": Friendships between men and women in the early American republic, 1780--1830" (2012). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3509065.