[Photograph] The Ladies of Llangollen Card
Very Good. Item #018236
[Sarah Ponsonby; Lady Eleanor Charlotte Butler]. The card issued ca. 1930 measures 2 !/2" x 4" and shows them at table with their books, china and cat on a chair. The original painting by Richard James Lane in 1887 now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. There is another more common card showing them in black dresses and top cats which is also available. The controversial Ladies of Llangollen are often viewed as committed lesbians. Anne Lister (1791-1940) who wrote diaries of her own same-sex romantic feelings and relationships wrote about them in1822 "I cannot help thinking that surely it is not platonic." appeared to have understood their relationship as a marriage, referring to each other as husband and wife and using phrases such as ‘my better half’, ‘my sweet love’ and ‘my beloved’. Their friends often referred to the more outspoken Butler as ‘my old man’ and ‘him’, while both women were known for wearing masculine clothing- such as riding habits- and dressing alike. They were also part of a culture of ‘romantic friendship’ where other cohabiting women behaved in similar ways and, it could be argued, created a distinct ‘lesbian culture’. Virginia Woolfe used the term "Ladies of Llangollen" to refer to women in same-sex romantic relationships. Though this very close intimacy might have involved sex in their earlier years, it was clear that they settled into what might appear to some outsiders as a lesbian lifestyle but certainly would not have been spoken of as such in the period except among the more free-swinging society such as that of Lord Byron and his circle of friends. The issue appears in depth in the study by Martha Vicinus, Intimate Friends: Women who Loved Women, 1778-1928 (Chicago, University of Chicago, 2004).