Mother of Presidents Marries Lesbians!

Approaching the winter solstice this month, pagan rites and marriage rites are both on my mind, heeding Scott Fitzgerald who advised creative people to be passionate about reconciling opposites.


Cosmology has bled cinematically into these musings, in the form of INTERSTELLAR by Christopher Nolan (the love child of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and CONTACT) and THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (with that remarkable performance by Eddie Redmayne). I’ll leave the pagans for another post. That leaves marriage for now.


Bluebells in Winchester, VA does such a lovely job of cheering you up on a cold, damp midwinter’s “walk down the aisle.”

Whenever marriage is on my mind in December, so are hairdressers and florists, handmade notecards and satin ribbons, lovely papers and poetry and ink pens, good friends, good wine, firelight, decorating with teenagers, winter gardens and quotable wisdom by Kahlil Gibran and Vita Sackville-West.

I can recommend all of those things (plus Love, Death and the Changing of the Seasons, Marilyn Hacker’s novel in sonnets, which I just reread with such pleasure over Thanksgiving) as seasonal antidotes to the commercial “holiday” horrors that are falling fast upon us, darker than the long nights. They’ve seemed longer and colder so far this winter, don’t you think?

As to marriage…as the translator of Elisabeth de Gramont, who was first a chattel bride, then a battered wife, then a bigamist with an Eternal Mate, then a divorcee, and in the end, the happy head of three female households at once and for life, I have been mulling over what marriage is, civilly and spiritually; what it can be; and what it so often is not.

imagesThere is nothing more lovely in life than the union of two people whose love for one another has grown through the years from the small acorn of passion, into a great rooted tree.

–Vita Sackville-West



Unknown-1I will learn even more from Charity and Sylvia, the new history of an early American lesbian marriage by an entertaining food blogger and history professor, Rachel Hope Cleves (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014, 296 pp., also available on Kindle).

Charity and Sylvia is the tale of two ordinary women who lived in an extraordinary same-sex marriage in early nineteenth-century Vermont.

What more needs be said about a book that got rave reviews from the author of Sex and the Founding Fathers?



Rachel will join me here in 2015 for virtual cooking and conversation about this book and upcoming projects, so why not read the book with along with me this holiday season?

My own marriage of 17 years got a do-over on December 8th, when Fair Spouse and I got (re)married at Belmont in the studio of my uncle Gari Melchers, the American Impressionist and portrait painter, and finally recorded our legal marriage in Stafford County, Virginia.

Got married again here, this time in the church of art.

Got married again here, this time in the church of art.

The “Mother of Presidents” is finally free to marry whom she chooses! Imagine that. Never thought we’d see the day. It was a proud and happy day for my little family as Virginians and Americans.

Back in 1997, the three Episcopal priests who married us at All Saints, Pasadena—Ed Bacon, Margaret Cunningham and Bill Doulos—risked their jobs (along with their careers and their pensions) to seal our covenant and pronounce us married in the eyes of God using the Rite I service our families had grown up with. It is hard for our teenage daughter to imagine how radical it was, “back then in the 1990s,” to merely repeat the comforting words her beloved grandmothers had memorized from attending so many weddings during their lifetimes.

Love the Unitarian seal, the winter solstice under the full moon....

Love the Unitarian seal, the winter solstice under the full moon….

This time, we developed a liturgy jointly with the local Unitarian minister, Reverend Walter Braman, sporting a really interesting Romanian stole. This time around, getting married was shorter and, yes, sweeter. It had a lot more humanism, Epicureanism, science and poetry. The offspring was present at the nuptials of the parents, proof that time flows in all directions. Sorrow was served up in roughly equal measure to joy. Reference was also made to back seat driving and lingering too long in coffees shops chatting to total strangers. That’s 17 years of marriage for you.

People often ask me how to keep happy marriages going. Oh yes, I have ideas. Happy to share them privately. Which is one way of putting it. (Hint: the way to keep marriage going is to keep it as private as possible!)

Before I sign off for 2014, I’d like to thank some of the people who made it all possible. When I call your name, would you please stand for applause. Drumroll, please, for the good company I keep here at S. Stroh & Co:

Nikki Grigsby, star assistant, somebody should play you in a movie about the world’s greatest Girl Friday. You handle my perplexity and complexity with just the right blend of blasé and aplomb. Plus your sartorial gifts make you a moving work of art. Thank you, Nikki, for all you do every day to keep me on track and (somewhat) organized.

Andrea Kuchinski, designer and lifestyle maven extraordinaire, where would I be without your workaholism? I think we probably need to go to Late Nights Anonymous together, but til then, keep it up, Chief! Your good taste infuses everything we create together, including those fabulous order of service for my wedding yesterday. Thank you.

Jason Wolf of EagerSheep, webmaster deluxe, please do not tell the world about the insanely idiotic directives you routinely have to deal with from me, such as: “What is this thingy beside that button thing on the, you know? That computer thing with the web site. Why can’t I…..?????” This year you have handled everything technical here at SuzanneStroh.com, in addition to powering beautiful ScotchVerdict.com. And you even found time to travel to Mexico and develop our film projects at OaxacaFilmFest. Thank you, Jason.

To the guests who have made things much more interesting around here: astrologists A.T. Mann and Jo Cooke; authors Geraldine Amaral, Chelsea Ray, Cassandra Langer and Artemis Leontis; researcher Giulia Napoleone, who ferreted out the only known film footage of Natalie Barney from a BBC shoot so secret they refuse to share the entire interview with researchers; and filmmaker Ben Levine.

Pippa Gerber-Stroh, budding photographer, furnished the photos for Lily de Gramont’s birthday toast.Thanks, Sprite.

Helen Patton, actress, filmmaker and chairman of The Patton Foundation, your energy is an inspiration. This year I watched you compose a dirge on a flight from Santa Fe to Dallas, setting music to a beautiful WWI poem, and perform it on something like two hours’ sleep. I look forward to working together on our individual film projects, YOUNG PATTON and SCOTCH VERDICT, in 2015 at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Daniel Hasse, you bright young thing, congratulations on the significant accomplishments you continue to rack up as creative director of Shakespeare in the Square. Thank you for your doubling expertise and casting breakdown of SCOTCH VERDICT, and here’s to more projects in store in 2015.

Ditto more to explore in 2015 with Winnaretta Singer specialist Linda Hollander, whose fictional diary of her salacious subject (the 23rd child of Isaac Singer, who invented the sewing machine…but who’s counting?) simply MUST find a publisher–or a TV miniseries, whichever comes first. Never heard of Tante Winnie? She was the first American princess. “Before there was Grace Kelly,” says Hollander, “there was Winnaretta.” And she was a major philanthropist, building Major cultural institutions in Paris and transforming those she hadn’t built. “Before there was Princess Di,” says Hollander, “there was Winnaretta.” Oh, and she built her own dungeon de luxe way before 50 Shades of Gray. Got your attention? Stay tuned for more from Linda Hollander, here, in 2015.

I was incredibly fortunate that Spanish poet and filmmaker Paloma Etienne agreed to translate the synopsis for my Mexican film project in development, “Ella.” It was well received in September at the Oaxaca FilmFest 5th Edition. Thank you, Paloma. If you read Spanish and want to read what Virginia Woolf might write in the 21st century, download Paloma’s book I’ve Loved You for So Long for your Kindle. It’s a novel written in text messages.

Multi-talented Colleen Hahn and her team at Gryphon Media Strategies supported my work this year with excellent literary services. Thanks, Colleen, and I hope we will find more ways to work together in 2015.

Last year I met reader, traveler and tech specialist Steven Schroeder through our shared love of the avant-gardistes of the Belle Epoque. Thanks, Steven, for priming me on Wikipedia and for expanding my horizons. Your interest in my work has sparked new projects of interest to us both.

And last but not least, to my esteemed colleagues, author Cassandra Langer and translator Jean-Loup Combemale, with whom I’ve explored the forgotten world of Romaine Brooks this year, thank you. I love our work together on the avant-gardes of the interwar period, what a team! After a lively presentation at the Archives of American Art in November, our transcription and translation of the only known voice recording of “The Thief of Souls” is now on its way to a permanent home at the University of Tulsa, which will make it available online to researchers all over the world. Here’s to more of same in 2015.

We lost author Diana McLellan in 2014, and the written world will never be the same without her. The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood is still the best romp I ever had between the covers of a book, and Booktrope reissued it this year. Ah, Diana. May she dish forever in the great beyond.