What Makes a Family?

By
Ethel Shariff in Chicago, 1963, by Gordon Parks. Photo: Gordon Parks/Copyright the Gordon Parks Foundation

Convents, migrant families, and Marine brigades are some of the groups featured in the upcoming Boston photography show “(un)expected families,” which will include work by Carrie Mae Weems, Diane Arbus, and Gordon Parks at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibit explores definitions of the American family and the circumstances under which we stay together, with more than 80 photos spanning 150 years. One interesting family structure that will be on display is the Boston marriage,” in which unmarried women lived together without a man’s presence or financial support. It emerged in England as a socially acceptable living arrangement in the late 1800s and continued throughout the U.S. suffrage movement in the early 1900s. Some women were platonic roommates and others were lesbian couples, who found a safe way to live together under the guise of a female friendship.

The show includes Andy Warhol’s photographs of Caroline Kennedy alongside several images of “Boston marriages” and families from Harlem and the Lower East Side. Click ahead for a preview. The show opens December 9.

What Makes a Family?