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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.
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]