Year of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of History

Committee Chair

Anya Jabour

Commitee Members

Jeff Wiltse, Jill Bergman


Courtship, Gender Relations, Marriage, Mount Holyoke, Progressive-Era, Women's Higher Education


University of Montana


This project investigates the almost decade long correspondence between Robert Line and Louise Chapman between 1914 and 1922. Their letters chart the development of their relationship from their friendship into their first years of marriage. Conducting their relationship at a time of changing social values, Robert and Louise created their own understanding of proper gender relations, drawing their influences from friends, family, and the cultural institutions of their time. Using their relationship as a case study, this thesis investigates the way changing cultural standards shaped their understanding of proper courtship practices and respectability. Gender relations in the early twentieth century were in a state of transition. As the strict gender divisions categorized by Victorian courtship began to decline in the late nineteenth century, a new, more permissive form of courtship emerged. By the 1920s, American courtship practices had changed to the modern dating system that we know today. This shift is well documented, but the process of this transition is less clear. Robert and Louise’s correspondence provides one vision of the way young adults experienced this transitional period and sought to shape their views of acceptable gender relations and reveals what the uncertainty of this transitional period felt like. This project follows their relationship through three distinct stages of their life, all of which took place in distinct social settings. The first part looks at how the social environment of Mount Holyoke College, a prominent women’s college, allowed them to form their initial friendship and influenced their beliefs about acceptable gender relations. The second part follows their seven-month engagement, and looks at how this shift in courtship practices and the poorly defined standard of gender relations shaped their expectations engagement and marriage. The third and final part looks at how Robert and Louise adapted to marriage and sought to conduct their relationship based on the new companionate ideal. By investigating these three stages of their relationship this project suggests this shift from Victorian notions of romantic love to a more modern form of courtship was more stressful and required more negotiation than broader accounts of the process can show.

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© Copyright 2012 Heather Ashely Mulliner