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Reinventing Marriage

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

An intimate biography of one of the first American dual-career marriages

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 full generation before most educated women began to dream of combining marriage and professional work, George and Alice were working together to forge a new type of union that would make satisfying careers possible for both partners.

Drawing on more than a thousand letters written before and after their wedding, Lori Kenschaft traces the changing relationship between Alice and George, offering a multifaceted study of their decision to marry, the dynamics of their relationship, and their understanding of marriage. As their relationship matures, their life-shaping decisions reflect and reveal their thoughts and feelings about work, love, sex, equality, and the purposes of education.

Lori Kenschaft's beautifully written Reinventing Marriage illuminates not only the personal experiences of two remarkable individuals, but also the complexities and contradictions that lie at the roots of modern ideals of 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 holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from Boston University and was a lecturer at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. She is the author of Lydia Maria Child: The Quest for Racial Justice.

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