Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Connecticut farmhouses

Connecticut farmhouses. Differences between the farmhouses in which Patience and Sarah grow up reveal the differences between the two women. Patience owns half of the family home and has her own kitchen, parlor, and bedroom, willed to her by her father. With her own fireplace and high feather bed, she can entertain Sarah cozily. She also owns two cows, and she and her brother jointly possess a fine barn. In contrast to Patience’s affluent surroundings, Sarah’s home is small and unpainted, dark inside, without such luxuries as a mirror. She must climb a ladder to sleep in the loft on a corn husk pallet with her sisters. The land which she helps her father farm is rocky and hilly—as Patience describes the state of Connecticut—“stingy country.” These farmhouses, though different, are both dominated by men, and they symbolize the restrictive life which the two young women dream of escaping.

Patience and Sarah’s home

Patience and Sarah’s home. House in New York’s Greene County, near the Hudson River, that Patience and Sarah buy for $640. The house fulfills their dreams, although it is merely an old and small log cabin with sagging roof and collapsing chimney. After taking ownership, the women begin work immediately to make it liveable. On her way there, Patience notices mountains “like lady giants lying together, vast hips and breasts,” as well as flowering fruit trees. Patience and Sarah are such fertile giants. The fact that they sleep and make love outside while they are rebuilding their cabin shows that they have escaped their restricted life in Connecticut....

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Patience and Sarah Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Juhasz, Suzanne. Reading from the Heart: Women, Literature, and the Search for True Love. New York: Viking, 1994. After examining twentieth century women authors’ writings and the theme of the search for love, Juhasz examines works by Isabel Miller and Louisa May Alcott in case studies.

“Routsong, Alma.” In Contemporary Authors: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide to Current Authors and Their Works, edited by Clare D. Kinsman. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research, 1975. The article contains an introduction to the author and a list of her early works.

“Routsong, Alma.” In Gay and Lesbian Literature, edited by Sharon Malinowski. Detroit: St. James Press, 1994. The article provides a biography of Routsong and a list of critical sources and reviews of works, exploring ways particular works such as Patience and Sarah reflect Routsong’s personal growth and change.

Wavle, Elizabeth M. “Isabel Miller, pseud. (1924-).” In Contemporary Lesbian Writers of the U.S.: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, edited by Sandra Pollack and Denise D. Knight. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993. In addition to a biography, major works, including Patience and Sarah, and their themes are discussed. Most helpful is the section on the critical reception of Miller’s works.

Zimmerman, Bonnie. The Safe Sea of Women: Lesbian Fiction 1969-1989. Boston: Beacon Press, 1990. While Zimmerman does not provide in-depth analysis of Patience and Sarah, she uses the novel to illustrate general trends in lesbian fiction: pastoralism, the longing for home, and the lack of religious definitions of homosexuality as sin in lesbian fiction.