An increasingly important strand in feminist history explores women's friendship circles and relationships (examples include Smith-Rosenberg, 1975; Faderman, 1981, 1983; Vicinus, 1985, 1991; Caine, 1986; Thompson, 1987; Oldfield, 1984; Levine, 1990; Alberti, 1990; Stanley, 1985, 1988). Like other strands in feminist history, it involves partly the recovery of this 'lost' aspect of women's history and partly the reconceptualization of such friendships. Important lines of development are: the recognition of a 'women's world' oflove and ritual existing within, or perhaps beneath, patriarchal relationships; the argument that until comparatively recently women's 'romantic friendships' were a socially sanctioned parallel to heterosexual attachments and not seen as sexual or deviant; and a more recent attention to how feminist friendship patterns constituted an informal feminist organization that could subvert formal separations, disagreements and divisions. The fIrSt two of these developments have been the most influential to date, with particularly the notion of 'romantic friendship' occasioning impassioned responses, both positive and negative.