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Isabel Miller & Julie Weber

Alma Routsong (November 26, 1924 – October 4, 1996) was an American novelist best known for her lesbian fiction, published under the pen name Isabel Miller. (P: photo © Julie Weber)

Alma Routsong was born in Traverse City, Michigan on November 26, 1924, the daughter of Carl and Esther Miller Routsong. During World War II she served in the WAVES, training at the Farragut, Idaho Naval Training Center and then working as a hospital apprentice. She graduated from Michigan State University in 1949 with a degree in art.

Routsong's first two novels were published under her own name, with the later works under the pen name, a combination of an anagram of "Lesbia" and her mother's maiden name. Between 1968 and 1971 she worked as an editor at Columbia University. From the mid-1970s until 1986 she was a proofreader for Time Magazine.

Routsong was an officer in the New York chapter of Daughters of Bilitis and was arrested during a DOB police raid.

The bottom line for Alma Routsong was home, sharing a home with another woman where life is peaceful, ordinary and full of creative work, good food, conversation and friends. Her books reflected her life. For the last 18 and a half years, Routsong had made a home with Julie Weber, multimedia artist, musician and teacher, in a big old house in Poughkeepsie, New York. Their house was a work in progress. When Routsong was not writing, she refinished furniture laboriously and beautifully. She was a prolific carpenter; her last major job was reworking the front porch. She fixed windows and sashes, stripped frames and doors. In the evenings she would read Julie to sleep. Together they read biographies of women, the Bible, May Swenson, Edward Field, Robert Frost and The Illustrated Science and Invention Encyclopedia.

Isabel Miller with Julie Weber, 1992, by Robert Giard
Alma Routsong was an American novelist best known for her lesbian fiction, published under the pen name Isabel Miller. The bottom line for Alma Routsong was home, sharing a home with another woman where life is peaceful, ordinary and full of creative work, good food, conversation and friends. Her books reflected her life. For the last 18 and half years, Routsong had made a home with Julie Weber, multimedia artist, musician and teacher, in a big old house in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Alma Routsong died in Poughkeepsie, New York on October 4, 1996.

[Barbara Gittings and Isabel Miller kissing at the "Hug a Homosexual" booth, ALA] / Kay Tobin Lahusen (1971)

Nancy Garden's contribution for this journal on Isabel Miller's Patience and Sarah: Isabelle Miller, originally named Alma Routsong, was born in 1924 and died in 1996. In an afterword to the McGraw Hill edition of Patience and Sarah, Miller explains that she based her novel on the relationship of a painter, Mary Ann Willson, and a woman known as Miss Brundiand. The two lived together, like the fictional Patience and Sarah, on a farm in New York State in the early 19th century.

The McGraw-Hill jacket flap says Miller first published Patience and Sarah herself "in a limited edition" under the title A Place for Us. According to an article by Margaret Soenser Breen and Elsa A. Bruguier in the online encyclopedia at and in The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage, (Claude J. Summrs, ed.; Henry Holt, 1995), she finished the book in 1967 and had it printed by 1969 when, again according to Breen and Brugier, it was "sold on Village street corners and at meetings of the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis" (an early lesbian organization). Since the later McGraw-Hill edition bears a 1969 copyright date, Miller must have had it copyrighted herself as well. And according to Breen and Bruguier, Patience and Sarah won the American Library Association's Gay Book Award in 1971; McGraw-Hill finally published it in 1972.

Publishing lore has long said that Miller intended the novel for young adults--i.e., teens--but nevertheless,

McGraw-Hill published it for adults. It's easy to see why, for in the late 60s-early 70s, any book--especially any book for kids--that treated homosexual characters positively, let alone made it clear that they could actually fall in love and lead happy, healthy, productive lives, would almost automatically have been a potential target of would-be censors and worse. But it's ironic that back in 1969, the year in which Patience and Sarah was sold on the street--and three years before Mc-Graw Hill published it for adults--Harper & Row courageously brought out the late John Donovan's I'll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip, for kids.

Patience and Sarah is a lovely, romantic novel and one that was eagerly welcomed by many lesbians in the barren 1970s. The fact that someone had written and published a book whose main characters, young farm women in their 20s, fall in love both physically and emotionally and surmount numerous obstacles in order to leave their homes and form a life together gave tremendous encouragement both to would-be authors of lesbian fiction like me and to young lesbian readers who were struggling more than a century later against obstacles similar to those facing Patience and Sarah.

Sarah, at twenty-one the younger of the two and the "biggest" in a family of daughters, has been brought up to dress and work like a man on her family's farm. Though she does this well and takes pride in it, she still considers herself a woman. Patience, older by six years, leads a more conventional life in her half of the house she shares with her brother and her brother's wife and children. When she can take time away from helping her sister-in-law, who is often ill or pregnant, she paints.

Patience is strong-willed woman, a staunch feminist at heart (although she probably would not have known the term), but she doesn't hesitate to use feminine wiles with Sarah or with anyone who stands in her and Sarah's way when it suits her needs. The relationship between the two mirrors the cliché butch-femme model of lesbian couples, which was much more common--much more expected, too--in the 1970s than it is today.

Patience and Sarah have many moments of doubt and disagreement as they struggle first to understand and accept their love for each other and then to leave the security of their lives under the protection of Sarah's father and Patience's brother. But in the end, their love prevails, and they journey successfully alone and unchaperoned from their homes in Connecticut all the way to New York--and the novel that could have been the first published YA with young lesbian lovers has a clearly happy ending.


Isabel Miller, 1992, by Robert Giard (

American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (

Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1500563323
ISBN-13: 978-1500563325
CreateSpace Store:
Amazon (Paperback):
Amazon (Kindle):

Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher

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