Cover for KENSCHAFT: Reinventing Marriage: The Love and Work of Alice Freeman Palmer and George Herbert Palmer. Click for larger image

Reinventing Marriage

The Love and Work of Alice Freeman Palmer and George Herbert Palmer

An intimate biography of one of a dual-career marriage

At age twenty-six Alice Freeman became the world's first female college president (at Wellesley College). Before going on to become the first Dean of Women at the University of Chicago, she married Harvard professor of philosophy George Herbert Palmer in 1887. A generation before most educated women dreamt of combining marriage and professional work, the couple forged a new type of union that encouraged satisfying careers for both partners.

Drawing on more than a thousand letters, Lori Kenschaft traces the couple’s long and ever-changing relationship. Her multifaceted study examines their decision to marry, the dynamics of their relationship, and their understanding of marriage. As their relationship matured, their life-shaping decisions reflected and revealed their feelings about work, love, sex, equality, and the purposes of education.

A beautifully written portrait of an extraordinary marriage, Reinventing Marriage uses the personal experiences of two remarkable individuals to illuminate the complexities and contradictions at the roots of modern ideals about marriage.


"An intriguing analysis of gender, intimacy, higher education, and social roles within the confines of one late nineteenth-century marriage."--American Historical Review


Lori Kenschaft has taught at Boston University and the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. She is the author of Lydia Maria Child: The Quest for Racial Justice and coauthor of Gender Inequality in Our Changing World: A Comparative Approach.

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