Addie Brown and Rebecca Primus: "No kisses is like youres," 1859-1868
Two African-American women in the nineteenth century
About a hundred and fifty letters from Addie Brown, a domestic servant, to Rebecca Primus, a teacher, provide extremely rare documentation of a loving, sensual intimacy between two African-American women in the nineteenth century. Brown's letters were written from Hartford, Farmington, and Waterbury, Connecticut, and from New York City.
Almost every one of Brown's letters to Primus provides new evidence about their love for each other, and about their complex intimacy.
On October 20, 1867, Brown, a domestic at Miss Porter's School, in Farmington, wrote Primus about a female coworker,
- "sometime just one of them wants to sleep with me. Perhaps I will give my consent some of these nights. I am not very fond of White I can assure you."
Brown's flirtation with her female coworker evidently caused Primus to express some concern. On November 17, Brown responded,
- "If you think that is my bosom that captivated the girl that made her want to sleep with me she got sorely disappointed enjoying [it] for I had my back towards her all night and my night dress was button up so she could not get to my bosom. I shall try to keep you favorite one always for you. Should in my excitement forget you will pardon me I know."
Numbers of letters from Brown to Primus indicate that when visiting they shared a bed along with hugs and kisses. In one letter, Brown told Primus:
"No kisses is like youres."
In April 1868, in her late twenties, Addie Brown married Joseph Tines, seemingly for economic security; Brown's letters suggest that Rebecca Primus remained the love of her life. Sometime between 1872 and 1874, when she was in her thirties, Rebecca Primus married Charles Thomas.
On the back of an envelope of a letter to Brown, Rebecca Primus wrote, "Addie died at home, January 11, 1870." Brown was twenty-eight.
For a detailed, scholarly study of the letters and relationship of Addie Brown and Rebecca Primis see: Farah Jasmine Griffin, Beloved Sisters and Loving Friends: Letters from Rebecca Primus of Royal Oak, Maryland, and Addie Brown of Hartford, Connecticut, 1854-1868. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999. Index, biblio., photos, 303 pp.
For the first scholarly article on the letters and relationship see: Karen V. Hansen. "'No Kisses Is Like Youres': An Erotic Friendship between Two African-American Women during the Mid-Nineteenth Century" Gender & History. Volume 7, Issue 2, Pages 153-182. Published Online: 2 Apr 2007. 29-pages.
Responses to Hansen's article:
B. Denise Hawkins. "Addie & Rebecca - letters of free-born African-American women during the Civil War." Black Issues in Higher Education, March 7, 1996.
Reviews of Griffin's Beloved Sisters and Loving Friends
Diane Batts Morrow. The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 67, No. 1 (Feb., 2001), pp. 175-176 (review consists of 2 pages). Published by: Southern Historical Association
Additional References (please add additional references)
Laila S. Haidarali. Primus, Rebecca and Addie Brown. Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in American. Dated: Oct 25, 2005.
David White (Museum Director, Connecticut Historical Commission). "Addie Brown's Hartford." "Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin," 1976.