The Latecomer by Sarah Aldridge


The Latecomer by Sarah Aldridge was the first book published by the legendary Naiad Press and one of the first known novels to grant a happy ending to its lesbian main characters.


Bywater Books is pleased to offer this 50th Anniversary Edition of The Latecomer by trailblazing author and publishing pioneer, Sarah Aldridge.

Coming home from a summer spent in research in Europe, Philippa unexpectedly shares her stateroom with Kay, a stranger. Philippa, nearing forty, reserved, inexperienced in close human relationships, and Kay, eight years younger, lively, gregarious, agonizing over a frustrated love affair, spend five days during their stormy Atlantic crossing learning the key to each other’s natures.

Philippa and Kay believe their arrival in New York harbor will end their brief friendship, but circumstance intervenes. They meet again in Washington, D.C., where Kay’s lover’s career has led to possible catastrophe for all involved. It is Philippa who must act as a mediator for Kay—hiding her growing feelings to protect Kay’s best interests.

The Latecomer invites you into the world of Philippa and Kay, strangers who meet aboard a cruise ship and, despite very different lives and aspirations, find a surprising bond. Through political and romantic intrigue, they uncover the truth about themselves.

“Sarah Aldridge was an inspiration to me. Her novels were a prototype that showed me a way to make novels of lesbian life myself and gave me permission to tell others what I knew about lesbian life.” —Lee Lynch, trailblazing lesbian author of Toothpick House and The Swashbuckler

“The first book I purchased at Giovanni’s Room was The Latecomer by Sarah Aldridge. It was also the first lesbian book I ever purchased. I still have that book.” —Radclyffe, award-winning author and publisher of Bold Strokes Books

“Anyda died in 2006 at the age of 94, full of honors and with a legion of devoted fans. Her legacy is one of devotion to women and their unique literature. How lucky we are that she passed our way.” —Ann Bannon, author of The Beebo Brinker Chronicles

“You can tell a lesbian story and the result can still be literary. I learned that from Sarah Aldridge, who wrote the first lesbian fiction I checked out from the library. Her writing was like a soft lamp turned on inside her characters, who came to life in rich complexity, and told stories about themselves and their lives in a way that remains uniquely universal.” —Karin Kallmaker, trailblazing author of Touchwood

“To this day, The Latecomer by Sarah Aldridge carries an impact far beyond its initial publication. Not only was it the first lesbian book to break with the depressing heteronormative-dictated endings and deliver a happily ever after to its characters, but it launched the groundbreaking lesbian publishing company, Naiad Press, with the radical mission to only publish books with hopeful, positive, and happy endings. This writer, novel, and publishing pioneer will forever be unequaled.” —Marianne K. Martin, trailblazing author of Love in the Balance

“Through her words, her beautiful, emotionally rich stories, I learned that I didn’t have to be afraid. That was a huge gift, one Sarah Aldridge has given to so many other young—scared, searching—lesbians. Sarah Aldridge, the pen name for writer and publisher Anyda Marchant, was a true pioneer.” —Ellen Hart, Mystery Writers of America Grand Master

“Books have never failed me. The legacy left by writers like Sarah Aldridge, Ann Bannon, Katherine Forrest, and publishers like Naiad Press is nothing less than the air that we breathe.” —Jewelle Gomez, trailblazing author of The Gilda Stories

“I didn’t discover The Latecomer until nearly a decade after its publication when I came to Naiad Press with my first novel, Curious Wine. But I was a part of the 70s readership starved for books, and clearly understood that The Latecomer was a groundbreaking novel of significance.” —Katherine V. Forrest, trailblazing author of Curious Wine

“On a lark, I walked into a now-defunct GLBT shop on South Beach in the early 1990s and found a meager collection of mostly Naiad titles—among them, books by Sarah Aldridge, Katherine V. Forrest, Claire McNab, and Valerie Taylor . . . lo and behold, the lesbians not only found love and success, but they also lived to celebrate it! Fast forward to now—I swell with pride when a reader thanks me for my stories because they have given her hope. That was the gift of Sarah Aldridge and Naiad Press, and I’m honored to pass it on.” —KG MacGregor, trailblazing author of The Shaken Series

Sarah Aldridge, the nom de plume of Anne Nelson Yarborough De Armond (Anyda) Marchant, was born in Rio de Janeiro and moved with her family to Washington, DC at six. She earned an undergraduate degree, followed in 1933 by her law degree from George Washington University, which was known as the National University of Washington, DC. As a law student, she served as assistant to women’s rights pioneer Alice Paul, who was then doing research for what would become the Equal Rights Amendment. She was admitted to the bar in Virginia and Washington, DC, and before the US Court of Claims and the US Supreme Court.

Her first published work was a short story titled “Friends—it was published by The Ladder, the periodical released by the Daughters of Bilitis. She later finished her debut novel and she and her life partner Muriel Crawford founded the Naiad Press as a way to publish The Latecomer.

In 1974 Naiad Press was formally incorporated when Marchant and Crawford were joined by Barbara Grier and Donna McBride and The Latecomer was officially released. Marchant served as Naiad president from its inception until the mid-1990s. In 1995 Marchant and Crawford withdrew from Naiad after a publishing dispute and began their own publishing company, A&M Books in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Writer, comedienne, and LGBT+ rights activist, Fay Jacobs took over A&M Books in 2006. In 2015, A&M Books merged with Bywater Books of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Anyda Marchant died in 2006 at the age of 94. Muriel Crawford, her partner for 57 years, passed away a few months later. She was 92.

In 2007, Sarah Aldridge was posthumously awarded the Golden Crown Literary Society’s Trailblazer Award for her lifetime contribution to the advancement of lesbian literature.

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