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LGBTQ Studies

Guide to primary and secondary resources relating to Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender issues.

Definitions of terms

The terms "smashing" and "crushes," in the context of women's behavior from the late 19th century to the early 20th, refers to a practice of same-sex courting of classmates. The terms were also used to describe particularly intimate or romantic relationships between two women. Smashing has been an especially elusive and cryptic topic for researchers.Below is a selection of secondary and primary sources that are helpful starting points.

The phrase "college girl fiction" generally refers to novels and short stories written about the personal lives of students attending women's colleges. Friendships between women at college were a central theme, and although fictional offer insight into what was considered appropriate and what was not. Related terms include "schoolgirl stories" and "girls' school stories". The height of popularity of college girl fiction dates to approximately 1880-1930

Smashing - Primary Sources


"My Friendships: What They Have Taught and Brought Me," Harper's Bazaar, 46:11 (Nov 1912): 548.

Full text: Proquest

"Your Daughter: What Are Her Friendships?", Harper's Bazaar, Oct 1913

Full text Hathi Trust

Print: Special Collections TT500 .H3

[A Graduate], "College Girls Laughs and Pranks", The Ladies Home Journal, 17:4 (March 1900): 7

Full text: Proquest

[A Vassar Girl]. "'Smashing' at Vassar", Chicago Daily Tribune, 13 September 1875

Full text: Proquest 

Full text of Atlanta Constitution reprint: Proquest 

[M. A. S.], [Open letter by a student about crushes], Wellesley Magazine, 1:5 (1893-02-18): 250

Full Text: Wellesley College Digital Repository

Ashmore, Ruth. "Your Own Familiar Friend," The Ladies Home Journal, 11:4 (March 1894): 16

Full text: Proquest

Full text of reprint in the book, Side Talks with Girls (1896): Hathi Trust

Ashmore, Ruth. "The Intense Friendships of Girls," The Ladies Home Journal, 15:8 (July 1898): 20.

Full text: Proquest

Ellis, Havelock. Sexual Inversion. Philadelphia : F. A. Davis, 1931 (originally published in German in 1896). 

Full text: Hathi Trust

Print: Main HQ21 .E56 v.2

Ewing, Clara. "The Girl with a 'Crush" in Leaders of Girls. New York: Abingdon Press, 1915.

Full text: Hathi Trust

Print: Annex HQ798 .E7

Jones, Grace Latimer. "The Evils of Girls' Secret Societies", Ladies Home Journal, 24: 11 (October 1907): 26

Full text: Proquest

Ryder, Annie H. Hold Up Your Heads, Girls!: Helps for Girls, In School and Out. Boston : D. Lothrop, 1886.

Full text: Hathi Trust

Print: Special Collections HQ1229 .R97 1886

Schwartz, Julia A, "Heroic Treatment," in Vassar Studies, 1899.  

Full text: Hathi Trust

Print: Main LD7183 .S3x

Smith, L.R.  "Social Life at Vassar," Lippincott's Magazine, 39 (1889): 841-851

Print copy: PDF

Print: Main AP2 .L55

Thwing, Charles F. "Advice of a Father to a Daughter Entering College," The Independent (1911-08-31): 473. 

Full text: Proquest

Walker, Emma E. "Crushes Among Girls, Ladies Home Journal, 21:2 (Jan 1904): 21  

Full text: Proquest


Smashing - Secondary Sources

Gadd, Christianne A.  Eclectic Affinities: Intimate Friendships in Women's Colleges, 1880-1930. Lehigh University theses, 2005

Full text: Lehigh Preserve Institutional Repository

Gordon, Lynn D. "The Gibson Girl Goes to College: Popular Culture and Women's Higher Education in the Progressive Era, 1890-1920." American Quarterly 39:2 (summer 1987), 211-230.

Full text: JSTOR

Print: Annex AP2 .A3985

Inness, Sherrie A. “Mashes, Smashes, Crushes, and Raves: Woman-to-Woman Relationships in Popular Women’s College Fiction, 1895–1915.” NWSA Journal, 6:1 (1994), 48–68. 

Full text: JSTOR

Print: Annex HQ1101 .N23

Newman, Sally. "'The Freshman Malady': Rethinking the Ontology of the 'Crush'." Rethinking History: The Journal of Theory and Practice, 16:2 (June 2012), 279-301.

Full text: Ebsco

Rouse, Wendy L. " 'A Very Crushable, Kissable Girl': Queer Love and the Invention of the Abnormal Girl Among College Women in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era," The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, published online by Cambridge University Press, May 16, 2022.

Full text: Cambridge University Press

Rupp, Leila J., A Desired Past: A Short History of Same-Sex Love in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999

Full text: Internet Archive 

Print: Main HQ76.3.U5 R86 1999

Sahli, Nancy. "Smashing: Women's Relationships Before the Fall." Chrysalis, 8 (Summer 1979): 17-27.

Full text: JSTOR

Print copy: PDF

Smith-Rosenberg, Carroll. “The Female World of Love and Ritual: Relationships Between Women in Nineteenth-Century America.” Signs, 1:1 (1975), 1–29. 

Full text: JSTOR

Vicinus, Martha. “Distance and Desire: English Boarding-School Friendships.” Signs, 9:4 (1982), 43–65. 

Full text: JSTOR

Vicinus, Martha. "The History of Lesbian History." Feminist Studies, 38:3 (Fall 2012), 566-596.

Full text: Proquest

Wilk, Rona M. "What's a Crush? A Study of Crushes and Romantic Friendships at Barnard College, 1900-1920." OAH Magazine of History, 18: 4 (Jul 2004), 20-22. 

Full text: JSTOR

Print: Main E175.8 .M34

College Girl Fiction - Primary Sources

A curated collection of college girl fiction is available on Hathi Trust. See also the Smith College Archive's Selected College FictionThe list below includes work by Vassar faculty and alumnae as well as books not available via the Hathi Trust.

Blanchard, Amy Ella. Janet's College Career. Philadelphia: G. W. Jacobs, 1904

Print: available via Worldcat and Interlibrary Loan

Blank, Clair. Beverly Gray, Junior. NY: Grosset and Dunlap, 1934

Full text: borrow from Internet Archive

Ellis, Katharine Ruth (VC 1901). The Wide Awake Girls at College. Little, Brown and Co, 1910

Print: Special Collections 1901 Barrett

Guest, Mary Lapsley Caughey (VC 1921). The Parable of the Virgins. New York: Richard R. Smith, 1931 

Print: Special Collections 1921 Guest

Millay, Kathleen (VC ex1921). Against the Wall. New York: Macaulay, 1929

Full text: Hathi Trust

Print: Special Collections 1921 Millay

Neff, Wanda Fraiken. We Sing Diana. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1928

Print: Special Collections PS3527.E286 W4 1928

Ray, Anna Chapin. Sidney at College. Little, Brown and Co., 1908

Full text: Internet Archive

Ray, Anna Chapin. Sidney, Her Senior Year. Little, Brown and Co., 1910

Full text: Internet Archive

Schwartz, Julia (VC 1896). Elinor's College Career. Boston : Little, Brown, 1906

Full text: Hathi Trust

Print: Main PS3537.C797 E4

Speed, Nell. Molly Brown's College Friends. Hurst & Company, 1921 

Full text: Project Gutenberg

Webster, Jean (VC 1901). When Patty Went to College. New York : Grosset & Dunlap, 1903

Full text: Hathi Trust

Print: Special Collections PS3545.E365 W53

College Girl Fiction - Secondary Sources

Foster, Jeannette Howard. Sex Variant Women in Literature. New York: Vantage Press, 1956

Full text: Hathi Trust

Print: PN56.S53 F6

Inness, Sherrie A. Intimate Communities: Representation and Social Transformation in Women's College Fiction, 1895-1910. Bowling Green State University Press, 1995

Print: Main PS374.U52 I56 1995

Lindgren, Gunilla. Higher Education for Girls in North American College Fiction, 1886-1912. Stockholm : Dept. of English, Lund University, 2005

Full Text: Lund University Research Portal

Print PS374.W6 L562 2005

Marchalonis, Shirley. College Girls: A Century in Fiction. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1995 

Print: PS374.U52 M37 1995

Reese, Ashley N. The Rise of American Girls' Literature. Cambridge University Press: 2021

Full text: Cambridge University Press

Rosoff, Nancy G. and Stephanie Spencer. British and American School Stories, 1910-1960: Fiction, Femininity, and Friendship. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2019

Full text: Unavailable. Table of contents and sources available via Springer PDF

Primary sources from the Vassar College Archives

Available in Archives & Special Collections :

Copeland, May VC 1891. Letters Home. (378.7V EC79 ) - Letters to her mother about life at Vassar. Beau named Genie? Included are transcripts of valentines she sent.

See also the material in our Digital Library:

Student Diaries

Student Letters

Newspaper Archives