Comments on Angelica Schuyler Choate

Arnold J. Glass

February 12, 2010

Dmitri -

Quite true Angelica Schuyler Choate didn't fall in line with de rigueur behavioral prescriptions of her day for upper-upper class women. She abandoned social milieu expectations by going to college! Her dissertation research revealed only 6 of 30 upper-upper women "attended college one or more years". Though all 30 respondents graduated from "private secondary schools" - 24 women went no further. We don't know how many of the 6 college attendees graduated but we do know Angelica did, and more so, she did not settle for the B.A. but went on to pursue the Clearly she wanted more than church, gardening, children, volunteering, and home management. What Goffman's expectations were from a woman as wife, we do not know, but her breakaway from class expectations by pursuing an advanced degree, unusual for a woman with her background, should have been a clue that this young woman was not to be kept on a short leash.

How "blue" was her blood? Pretty deep if she was the daughter of Robert Burnett Choate, editor (some sources say publisher) of the Boston Herald, whose lineage goes back to the founder of Choate School, a Connecticut preppy bastion now called Choate Rosemary Hall. Alumni of Choate include John F. Kennedy and brother Joseph, Paul Mellon, Amanda Hearst, Richard Rockefeller, Adlai Stevenson and others of kindred mold.

Can one say Angelica disavowed her class origins with the bohemian lifestyle (Sherri Cavan commentary October 11)?  Yes, she lived in a tenement (Gerald Handel biographical posting 02-16-09) and married "down" to Goffman. Rebellion? Sure. But this troubled and emotionally conflicted young woman must be viewed with sympathy and given credit for dealing with "the problem that had no name" more than a decade before the second wave of feminism caught fire; that time when the 1963 publication of Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique" impacted on women. Angelica, along with other women (Sherri Cavan, you are among this group) in the late 1940's and into the 1950's were the pace setters of their day.

So a shared academic interest in matters sociological led to friendship, love, and marriage. One can only speculate as to what emotional needs were met for both in a complementary way. But Angelica, as a "tense" person, so characterized by more than a few who knew her, got progressively worse as the years after childbirth ensued until she tragically ended her life.  In terms of need fulfillment, on the surface she married an acknowledged and renowned scholar with whom she shared intellectuality and obtained pleasure from his achievements. Additionally, and more importantly, one can only hope she derived emotional support in what must have been many times of stress.

Goffman married "up" and obtained a "trophy wife" - albeit a bit dusty - but solid sterling silver, nonetheless.


(Dmitri - post at your discretion in the Commentary section of the EGA)


* The Erving Goffman Archives (EGA) is the web-based, open-source project that serves as a clearing house for those interested in the dramaturgical tradition in sociology and biographical methods of research.  The EGA is located in the Intercyberlibrary of the UNLV Center of Democratic Culture,   Postings on the website are divided into four partially overlapping sections: “Documents and Papers,” “Biographical Materials,” “Critical Assessments,” and “Comments and Dialogues.”  For inquiries regarding the EGA projects, please contact Dr. Dmitri Shalin,  When you cite the materials collected for the EGA, please use the following reference:  Bios Sociologicus: The Erving Goffman Archives, ed. by Dmitri N. Shalin (UNLV: CDC Publications, 2009).