From Sex Work To Women’s Rights: A History Of Term ‘Brotherly Love And Sisterly Affection’ In Philadelphia

By Cassie Owens

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Philadelphia-“The City of Brotherly Love” and “Sisterly Affection.” Yes or No? Columnist Cassie Owens shares the history of the name you may not have known existed.

The City of Brotherly Love, as Philadelphia is often called, is a name embraced by many. But there are Philadelphians championing an extension to the slogan: “and Sisterly Affection.”

“Put some respect on women,” said Dyana Williams, a longtime radio broadcaster and talent coach extraordinaire.

Williams had a lot to do with the term’s recent growth in popularity. When Michael Nutter was mayor, she lobbied him hard to make “and Sisterly Affection” official. In November 2014, he issued a proclamation honoring her campaign.

“We need to consistently use it and not just ‘Brotherly Love,'” Williams said.

The phrase “brotherly love and sisterly affection” is a time-honored one that’s taken a winding path through history and accumulated niche connotations over time.

Based on archival references that stretch back to the 1700s, “sisterly affection” has been used to signal kindness and inclusion, but it’s also been used sarcastically to discuss women in the city.

The term has used in newspapers since at least the late 18th century. In 1813, Jane Austen used the term in “Pride and Prejudice” after Lady Catherine de Bourgh found it unusual that Elizabeth Bennett’s younger sisters were out in society, while Bennett herself had yet to marry. Bennett disagreed: “I think it would not be very likely to promote sisterly affection or delicacy of mind.”

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