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LGBTQ Studies

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


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.  

Secondary Sources

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. [via JSTOR]

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

For more on women's college fiction, see Inness's book, Intimate Communities: Representation and Social Transformation in Women's College Fiction, 1895-1910. (Bowling Green State University Press, 1995) [print copy]

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

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. [via CUP]

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

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

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

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

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



Primary Sources/Contemporary Articles and Books

A Vassar Girl. "'Smashing' at Vassar", Chicago Daily Tribune, 13 September 1875 [via Proquest] ⇒ also reprinted in the Atlanta Constitution

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

Ellis, Havelock. Sexual Inversion (originally published in German in 1896). See in particular chapter 4, Sexual Inversion in Women and the appendix on "The School Friendships of Girls" [print copy]

Ashmore, Ruth. "The Intense Friendships of Girls," The Ladies Home Journal, Vol. 15, No. 8 (Jul 1898): 20. [via American Periodical Series]

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

Walker, Emma E. "Crushes Among Girls, Ladies Home Journal, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Jan 1904): 21  [via American Periodical Series]

Thwing, Charles F. "Advice of a Father to a Daughter Entering College," The Independent (Aug 31, 1911): 473. [via American Periodical Series]

"My Friendships: What They Have Taught and Brought Me," Harper's Bazaar, Vol. 46, No. 11 (Nov 1912): 548. [via American Periodical Series]

"Your Daughter: What Are Her Friendships?", Harper's Bazaar, Oct 1913 [via Hathi Trust]

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


College Girl Fiction

Available in Special Collections Alumnae/i Authors Book Collection and/or the Hathi Trust

Mary Lapsley Caughey Guest (VC 1921)

The Parable of the Virgins (New York: Richard R. Smith, 1931) print: 1921 Guest

Kathleen Millay (VC ex1921, sister of Edna St. Vincent Millay, VC 1917) 

Against the Wall (New York : Macaulay, 1929) print: 1921 Millay

Julia Schwartz (VC 1896)

Elinor's College Career (Boston : Little, Brown, 1906) print: PS3537.C797 E4

Jean Webster (VC 1901)

When Patty Went to College (New York : Grosset & Dunlap, c1903) print: PS3545.E365 W53

See also: a list of college girl fiction available via the Hathi Trust:

See also: the Smith College Archive's  "Selected College Fiction" 


Secondary Sources on College Girl Fiction

Higher Education for Girls in North American College Fiction, 1886-1912 by Gunilla Lindgren (PS374.W6 L562 2005)

College Girls: A Century in Fiction by Shirley Marchalonis (PS374.U52 M37 1995)

Intimate Communities: Representation and Social Transformation in Women's College Fiction, 1895-1910 by Sherrie Inness (PS374.U52 I56 1995)

Archival Material

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