photo via The Washington Bladestory via WaPo
The story goes like this …
Charity Bryant was just passing through Weybridge, Vermont; she was traveling alone to escape the gossip that followed her since she was nearing thirty, had never married, and had had relationships with women while living in Massachusetts.
She thought it best to keep moving, and never planned on settling down in that rural town, but whatever gossip may have been heard, she was welcomed by the people of the town, who flocked to her tiny house where she designed and sold clothes.
And then she met Sylvia Drake; they were like-minded women, literary and talented, and they instantly fell in love. Charity asked Sylvia to be her assistant, and the younger girl moved into Bryant’s home; then Charity Bryant asked Sylvia Drake to be her wife, and so they were married, though not legally, and lived together some forty-four years.
Now, Weybridge was one of those small, conservative towns, as most rural towns are, but the people there seemed not to be bothered at all by the relationship between the two women; in fact, most folks had no problem referring to Charity and Sylvia close to or nearly “married.”
Charity and Sylvia also considered themselves married. They celebrated the day they moved in together as their anniversary, and Bryant often called Drake her spouse, while Sylvia, still quite young, spent her time writing their names over and over again on scraps of paper, as a young girl often did when she met the person she wanted to marry.
It reads: “Bryant, Bryant Charity, Bryant Sylvia, Bryant Sylvia, Bryant Charity, Bryant Sylvia.”
Their relationship was like that of most other couples; Bryant was the “husband,” who ran the business, and Drake the “wife.” And even at the end, even in that small town in Vermont, after forty-four years together, Charity Bryant and Sylvia Drake were buried together, as spouses often are, in the Weybridge cemetery. Charity went first, and Sylvia followed a couple of years later, but they are buried beneath a single granite tombstone that bears both their names.
Charity Bryant and Sylvia Drake might be Vermont’s first same-sex couple, same-sex married couple; but they might also be known as Americas’ first married same-sex couple, because Charity Bryant and Sylvia Drake met one another in 1807, and lived as spouses until the 1850s.
Nearly two hundred years before marriage equality became legal anywhere in this country, Sylvia and Charity lived as a married couple, and were respected as a married couple, in life, and in death.