Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Misfortune's Friend by Sarah Aldridge

Book:  Misfortune’s Friend
Author:  Sarah Aldridge
Publisher:  A&M Books


Many contemporary lesbian fiction authors and readers will likely read the announcement above, and ask “who is she and why is this important to me?” 

The answer is simple and complicated all at once – Sarah Aldridge was a pioneer, a visionary, and an icon.  She was strong, principled, and passionate.  And, perhaps most importantly of all, she gave each and every one of us the birthright of Happily Ever After.

For those not familiar with Ms. Aldridge, I want to provide some background on this fierce and amazing woman, and why the availability of Misfortune’s Friend in e-book format is so significant.

Sarah Aldridge was the pen name of Anyda Marchant, attorney, publisher and novelist.
Sarah Aldridge
Photo courtesy of A&M Books
Born in Rio de Janeiro, she moved with her family to Washington, D.C. as a child. In 1933 she earned a law degree from the National University of Washington (now George Washington University), she was admitted to practice in Virginia and DC, and before the U.S. Court of Claims and the U. S. Supreme Court.
While a law student, Ms. Marchant worked as an assistant to American suffragist and women’s rights pioneer Alice Paul, who was performing early research for an Equal Rights Amendment.   During World War II, she was appointed Assistant in the Law Library of Congress, she became one of the first women attorneys at the law firm now known as Covington & Burling, and eventually she moved to the World Bank where she spent 18 years. Later in life, she organized the very first National Organization of Women (NOW) presence in Delaware.
In 1972 Anyda Marchant was forced to retire from practicing law due to health concerns. It was then that the 61-year-old and her life partner, Muriel Crawford, undertook an artistic journey that forever changed how and what lesbians read.  The two women founded the Naiad Press and published Sarah Aldridge’s first novel, The Latecomer.

Many of us over the age of thirty-five recognize Naiad Press as the Gold Standard for the feminist and lesbian literature of our early lives.  Ms. Marchant served as President of Naiad from its inception until the mid-1990’s, when she and Ms. Crawford withdrew from the company, and began their own publishing entity, A&M Books. Naiad published the first eleven Sarah Aldridge novels and A&M Books published the last three.  Her final novel, Oh Mistress Mine was released when the author was 92. 

An Epic Love Story
Photo courtesy of A&M Books
In January 2006, Anyda Marchant passed away, two weeks shy of her 95th birthday. Her life partner of 57 years, Muriel Crawford, followed her in death only four months later.

A&M Books continues under the capable leadership of Managing Editor Fay Jacobs, who proudly continues to publish and carry on the Naiad/A&M Books legacy started by Mses. Marchant and Crawford.  Earlier this year she released All True Lovers, the first Sarah Aldridge novel to be converted into e-book format.

Misfortune's Friend is the 7th Sarah Aldridge novel, and the one the author considered her very personal favorite - this is why it is not just an honor but a special privilege for me to share in its e-book release.

The beautiful and somewhat edgy story of Misfortune's Friend is set in Baltimore, Washington, and London just before World War II.  14-year old Althea is born into wealth, but disabled by childhood polio and emotionally abandoned by an extended family.   Arriving on the doorstep of her Aunt Marjorie, her life begins to change in ways she never imagined.  Going abroad for college, Althea meets Fern, a strong, restless woman who is aimlessly navigating the political and racial turmoil of pre-World War II Europe.   The two young women find a deep and lasting intimacy that propels Althea to finally understand that Aunt Marjorie is a lesbian with an unrequited love for the compassionate do-gooder, Mrs. Henshaw. It is through the love of Althea and Fern that Mrs. Henshaw realizes her oversights with the affections of Aunt Marjorie, and seeks to reconcile the decades-long mistakes and pain.

Misfortune’s Friend is a classic Sarah Aldridge historical romance, written in her beautiful and proper lyrical style.  Her characters are often flawed but indispensible, drawing the reader into a world that celebrates the love of women for each other.  They live and breathe, they are intelligent and opinionated, and they don’t apologize to the world around them for owning their love. 

Ms. Aldridge influenced many of today's most esteemed lesbian authors, not only with her stories, but with her words, her actions, and her indelible strength.  Every time we pick up a piece of contemporary lesbian fiction, the DNA of Sarah Aldridge can be found deep within its pages.  Her writing style is not typical of many books published today, but this only adds to her legacy. 

As a lasting tribute to her vast and varied contributions to lesbian literature and publishing, Sarah Aldridge was awarded the Golden Crown Literary Society Trailblazer Award posthumously in June 2007.

There is no way I can place a Rainbow Scale rating on Misfortune’s Friend.  Some authors transcend any type of rating or rank order - this author is one of those very special few. 

Anyda Marchant never conceived that her Sarah Aldridge novels would one day, so soon after her passing, be made available to a new generation of lesfic authors and fans in electronic format.  As a self-professed connoisseur of the very best of lesbian literature, I encourage readers to open their minds and their libraries to the books of this beautiful and immortal author, and embrace and explore an important piece of our collective lesbian literature history.

A&M Book provided a courtesy copy of Misfortune's Friend for my review -  e-book versions of Sarah Aldridge novels are currently available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


  1. I can hardly wait to read her books. I admit I am woefully behind on my reading (and my own writing) but I think I'll move this one to the top of my list. Thanks again, Salem.

  2. This was such a moving and beautiful tribute to these wonderful women pioneers. We don't often hear the the stories behind the courageous woman who have made it possible for us to not only read Our stories, but to write them. This tugged at my heartstrings.
    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story and the good news that it's available as an ebook.

  3. Most Excellent Dudess on High - excellent article. I have totally overlooked Ms. Aldridge in my pantheon of influential lesbian writers (my VERY bad) and am so glad you provided the necessary slap upside the head. Huge THANKS to Ms. Jacobs for making Ms. Aldridge available to a whole new breed of readers. Well done, both of you!

  4. Alison, Barret & Baxter - You are three women and authors who inspire me today with your individual words, wisdoms, and indelible strengths. My heartfelt thanks to each of you for stopping by TRR, and for opening a space on your personal bookshelves for Sarah Aldridge.