Lesbians and queer relationships as we know them are a relatively modern construction, but women have been crushing on other women forever.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, girl-girl relationships took the form of romantic friendships. Women professed their love for each other, travelled together and were affectionate in public and private. Some lived together. Others would visit each other, kicking each other’s husbands out of the bedroom so that they could spend every single moment together. They also wrote each other letters.

Women were socially separate from men, and romantic friendships could co-exist with heterosexual marriage, though some of them took its place. Molly Hallock Foote met her romantic friend Helena in New York in 1868 and they planned to live together, until Helena got married to someone else. Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, now understood as so obviously a couple, were still considered a platonic couple by some scholars until recently.

Whether or not the writers of these letters were queer is not really certain, both because they’re all dead and we can’t ask them and because imposing contemporary ideas of sexuality and relationships on people in the past doesn’t work.

What is clear is that the relationships between women were completely passionate.

[article, words and images via Autostraddle: 15 Ladies Who Were Writing Sexy Lesbian Love Letters Before You Got Born]