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Marchant, Anyda [Sarah Aldridge] (1911-2006) and Muriel Inez Crawford (1914-2006)  
 
page: 1  2  

Thanks to the large network of independently owned lesbian-feminist bookstores cropping up throughout the 1970s, and the burgeoning of glbtq newspapers and journals, Naiad Press soon made a name for itself.

In addition to the early Sarah Aldridge novels, Naiad Press began to publish romances, mysteries, and novels by other women writers--authors such as Katharine V. Forrest, Renée Vivien, Valerie Taylor, and many more.

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Marchant was most proud of the business for its role as an incubator for lesbian writers who otherwise might never have been published. She and Crawford never expected great financial success. They used the money made from the sale of The Latecomer to pay for publication of the next book, which in turn financed another. And another.

In 1995, Grier and McBride bought full control of Naiad from Marchant and Crawford, who then launched A&M Books. As part of the financial settlement with Naiad, A&M Books retained both the existing stock and the rights to all of the Sarah Aldridge titles.

Between the ages of 83 and 92, Marchant wrote three more Aldridge novels, which were published by A&M Books, along with books by authors Ann Allen Shockley and Fay Jacobs.

The Sarah Aldridge Novels

Naiad Press was founded in part to provide a venue for the novel Marchant wrote under the pen name Sarah Aldridge, The Latecomer, which she believed would not be published by a mainstream press at the time. The novel, however, was such a success that it not only spawned many more Sarah Aldridge titles, but also helped support Naiad Press's other titles and helped further the popularity of lesbian romance novels in general.

At a time when lesbian pulp fiction required that the protagonist had to be punished in some way--either killed or commit suicide or suffer some other terrible fate--the Sarah Aldridge books were refreshingly different. As Lillian Faderman remarks, early lesbian books were "generally cautionary tales: 'moral' literature that warned females that lesbianism was sick or evil and that if a woman dared to love another woman she would end up lonely and suicidal."

In contrast, the Sarah Aldridge novels had happy endings, strong feminist characters, and a world where long-term lesbian relationships were possible.

Beginning with The Latecomer in 1974 and ending 14 books later with O, Mistress Mine in 2003, these romance novels are rich in historical detail. They celebrate American and European locales and make a case for lesbian equality, subtly in the early titles and more fervently toward the end of the series. They feature lesbian doctors, attorneys, professors, and other independent women. The books, which have never gone out of print, are all still available.

The Salons

Marchant and Crawford began coming to the gay-friendly ocean resort of Rehoboth Beach on weekends in the early 1960s. They first owned a weekend home, and then upon retirement, moved to a beach home in downtown Rehoboth Beach.

The Marchant-Crawford home became the site of legendary Saturday evening salons, where an amazingly diverse crowd--neighbors, clergy, writers, musicians, young and old, gay and straight--would gather for cocktails and conversation. In the winter, the cocktails and conversation would relocate to the couple's home in south Florida.

Both Marchant and Crawford had a special appreciation of Dewar's Scotch and it became a tradition to toast with Dewar's at sunset each evening on the large porch of their home.

The Ladies of Rehoboth Beach

In their later years at least, Marchant and Crawford were deeply complementary in temperament and style. Marchant, tall and imposing, could be rather curt and imperious at times, while Crawford was shorter, outgoing, and had a devilish twinkle in her eye. While both were required to dress in appropriate ladies' attire throughout their careers, after retirement they retreated to comfortable flannel shirts and corduroy pants except on special occasions.

Crawford drove her big Lincoln Continental, swiftly, until she was 92, and flirted with all of the young women who came to visit their porch. Marchant read The Washington Post daily and railed against right-wing Republicans.

Indeed, both continued reading until the end of their lives. Marchant favored Virginia Woolf, Henry James, and The New Yorker, while Crawford buried her nose in romance novels, both gay and straight.

The women were fiercely devoted to each other, but both developed deep friendships with others as well. They loved international travel, and adored spending the summers in Rehoboth Beach and winters in Lighthouse Point, Florida. Their generosity to young writers and friends in need was legendary.

Anyda Marchant died two weeks shy of her ninety-fifth birthday, at home in Rehoboth Beach on January 11, 2006. Muriel Crawford followed five months later on June 7, 2006.

Fay Jacobs

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    Bibliography
   

Faderman, Lillian. Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.

Jacobs, Fay. Fried & True--Tales from Rehoboth Beach. Rehoboth Beach, Del.: A&M Books, 2007.

Lamb, Yvonne Shinhoster. "Anyda Marchant, author, publisher." Washington Post (February 7, 2006): www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/06/AR2006020601658.htm

Marcus, Erik. Together Forever--Gay and Lesbian Marriage. New York: Doubleday-Anchor, 1998.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Jacobs, Fay  
    Entry Title: Marchant, Anyda [Sarah Aldridge] and Muriel Inez Crawford  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2008  
    Date Last Updated September 9, 2008  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/marchant_a_crawford_m.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2008 glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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