Advance praise for A History of Marriage"Can we really understand celibacy or mistresseswithout considering marriage, the socio-sexual bondthat convention tells us is the heart of love? ElizabethAbbotts new volume of accessible social historycompletes a sparkling trilogy about human intimacy.Her writing is as witty and informative as ever, hertone as wry and wise, and the value to understandingourselves as profound. No thoughtful personmarried, celibate, unfaithful or otherwise-should bewithout this book. " -Mark Kingwell, author ofConcrete Reveries and Extraordinary Canadians: GlennGould"Whether you consider marriage a prison or aparadise, an outmoded institution or the culminationof all your white lacy dreams, Elizabeth Abbottsprobing history deftly shows how this always fragile,yet always resilient institution has evolved. Its notalways a pretty picture, but its a fascinating one." -Judith Timson, author of Family Matters"I love this book. Elizabeth Abbott is an engagingstory-teller. She wisely recognizes that we can onlyunderstand the changing meanings of marriage if wealso appreciate that what it means to live single haschanged dramatically, too. " -Bella DePaulo, authorof Singled Out"Elizabeth Abbott has penned a masterpiece . . . AHistory of Marriage is a wide-ranging account of howthe social intersects with many forms of the personal.An outstanding work that deserves as many readers
as can be found." -Ahmad Saidullah, author ofHappiness and Other Disorders"With her genius for the apt example and hercharacteristic wit and warmth, Elizabeth Abbottexpertly illuminates the lived experience of marriagepast and present, discovering, in the process, somesurprising parallels between the way we were and theway we are today, and offering suggestions to helpbolster tomorrows unions. Wide-ranging yetcohesive, sharply observed yet hopeful, A History ofMarriage, like the institution it animates, rewardscommitment. " -Susan Olding, author of Pathologies:A Life in Essays"Fascinating and utterly engrossing, ElizabethAbbotts book is crammed full of delicious morsels ofinformation about nuptials past and present. What wetake for granted as the immutable, eternal rituals ofromance and marriage arent that at all. You shouldsee how they did it in the past. Romance? Forget it. "-Maureen Jennings, author of the DetectiveMurdoch series"Like any marriage, this book is full of surprises.Elizabeth Abbotts take on the ties that bind so manyof us is lively and intelligent. A must-read." -Catherine Dunphy, author of Morgentaler: A DifficultHero
Praise for Elizabeth Abbotts other books"Ambitious . . . Her research is detailed and thorough.She is gifted at relating not just the triumphs andtragedies of those who lived centuries ago but also ingiving a sense of their daily lives. She makesus . . . hungry to know more about them." -TheColumbus Dispatch"Elizabeth Abbott mixes anthropology with history inher confection of insights . . . The pages of Abbottslucid, exciting book throb with both life and itsdenial . . . It is a strength of her moving and dazzlingachievement that Abbott is never conventional,preachy or platitudinous. Like all good history, herbook is a signpost to the strangeness of a world thathas such deviance in it. " -The Guardian"Entertaining, fascinating, and frequently disturbing. "-The Gazette (Montreal)"Ambitious and wide-ranging." -The New Yorker"A rich, dramatic, fascinating history." -The Globeand Mail"Here is history with a human face, effective,moving, written with surprising and admirablerestraint. " -Kirkus Reviews (starred)"This book is powerfully composed with a dense rushof events and documentation, the passion of personalfeeling, an outrage expressed in bitter irony." -LosAngeles Times
"Splendid, passionate . . . Elizabeth Abbott portrays adepth of misery and exploitation which, it might besaid without disrespect to Graham Greene, he wasonly able to hint at." -Newsday"Manag [es] to be both academic and entertaining."-Evening Standard"Abbott presents a fascinating panoply ofcharacters . . . [her] extensive research is impressive. "-Edmonton Journal"A juicy, brilliantly insightful survey-as readable asit is intellectually sophisticated, alternately witty andmoving." -Village Voice Literary Supplement"Once you begin this astonishing book, you are notlikely to put it down . . . She is an extraordinarilybrave woman with the talent to match her bravery. "-Eugene D. Genovese, author of Rol� Jordan, Roll:The World the Slaves Made
a history ofMARRIAGE COMMON lAW, TtlE SU�PlnTNG DTVEIUilTY OF A TR;A.D1TIONEL1ZABETH ABBOTT
To the memory of my father, Bill Abbott, who never doubted that he had hit the jackpot when he married Mamie Griggs, my mother.And to my beloved son and daughter-in-law, Ivan and Dina, for the joy of sharing your lives and for making me a grandmother.
ContentsCoverTitle PageCopyrightDedicationAcknowledgmentsPart 1 Marriage in History Introduction: The Way We (Really) Were 1 . Husbands and Wives-Who Were They? 2. Learning Marriage, Rites of Passage 3. Weddings and the Married State 4. Love and Sex in Marriage 5. Marriage from within Four Walls 6. Go Forth and Multiply: Children at the Heart of Marriage 7. When Things Went WrongPart 2 Marriage in the Present and Future Introduction: The Way We Think We Were and the Way We Think We Are 8. Unmarried and Often Single 9. A Gay Focus on the Nature of Marriage 10. Children and Parenting in Modern Marriages
1 1 . For Richer or Poorer: Marriage and Money 12. Marriage and Race 13. Marriage Policies 14. Issues at the Heart of the Marriage DebateEpilogue: Stop SignNotesSelect BibliographyCreditsAbout the AuthorAbout the Publisher
AcknowledgmentsDuring my thirteen years as Dean of Women at theUniversity of Torontos Trinity College, I wrote AHistory of Celibacy and A History of Mistresses. In2004, I left my deanship to become a full-time writer.I detoured in subject matter, and Sugar: A BittersweetHistory appeared in 2008. I resumed my narrativetrajectory and, with A History of Marriage, havecompleted my historical relationship trilogy. Dreamscan come true, and I am most grateful to everyonewho helped me realize them. Andrea Magyar, editorial director of PenguinCanada, reined me in and gave Marriage its NorthAmerican orientation, for which I thank her. I thankher as well for putting me into the editorial hands ofHelen Smith, whose energy and enthusiasm arecontagious. And the droll animal images she implantsin emails always make me laugh, assuaging the stressof editorial demands and deadlines. For twenty-three years my agent, Heide Lange, hassupported my writing goals and sold my booksworldwide. I treasure our collaboration and am proudto be one of her authors. I loved the rigour and excellence of copy editorShaun Oakeys work on Sugar and am delighted thathe agreed to take on A History of Marriage as well.The "track changes" dialogue between us addedanother dimension to the revision process. Production editor David Ross has been wonderfullypatient and understanding of my vision of a narrativeenhanced by images.
Dr. David Reed, Professor Emeritus of PastoralTheology at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto,gave generously of his time and expertise to critiqueseveral chapters. Tim Cook, a historian at the Canadian WarMuseum in Ottawa and winner of the 2009 CharlesTaylor Prize, did a critical reading of chapter 8 andprovided supplementary sources; thank you so much,Tim. Rev. William Craig, what would I do without youto tum to for that emergency Latin translation or thattheological nicety? Thank you, Bill! Listening to and questioning the manuscripts focusgroup was endlessly interesting, revelatory, and oftencathartic. Carol, Carolyn, Catharine, Elaine, Emily,Heather, Laura, LaTanya, Vivian, and everyone elsewho joined us: you are great readers and talkers, andI learned so much from each of you ! Viv, yourlawyerly perspective was invaluable. Karl J affary was a solo reader and gave valuablefeedback. Yves Pierre-Louis, my brother of the heart, read,critiqued, and directed me to new sources. LouiseAbbott, my flesh-and-blood sister, provided theimages of our parents wedding and of Mom as a tot. My son, Ivan, and my daughter-in-law, Dina,walked hand-in-hand with me throughout theresearch and writing, even as they became engaged,planned their Big Fat Greek Wedding, married,honeymooned, and settled into newlywed domesticlife. We will celebrate their third weddinganniversary cradling their newborn, due to be bornjust after this book is. Heather Conway never wilted under the onslaughtof TIFF and JPG files (and terrible deadlines); onceagain she worked her technological magic and
transformed them into the wonderful images I knewthey could become. Pegi Dover and Philip Jessup enriched this bookwith their family photograph. Carol McPhee and JonBankson helped me illustrate the intricacies ofmodern marriage with their joyous wedding portrait. LaTanya, Ashiyah, and Tyanna Abbott pitched inand made a scrap-book of the images I wasconsidering; thank you! Emily Griggs made time to help me with thebibliography; many thanks. Thanks to Elaine Wong, Mehran Ataee, MeraNirmalan-Nathan, Puj a Karmaker Mullins, RehaanaManek, Sophie Chung, Stephanie Creighton, andVizarath Ali for helping with research. Lastly, l owe a huge debt of gratitude to thepatrons of the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary NonFiction (2009). Through their graciousness andgenerosity in publicizing the short-listed books, theymade good on their promise that all three of us werewinners.
Introduction The Way We (Really) WereIt is August 2009, and sunshine warms NathanPhillips Square, the concrete piazza in front ofTorontos City Hall that, on this autumnal Augustafternoon, is also a bridal path. The wedding party issmall: bride Heather and Greg her groom, theirparents, one aunt, two uncles, a cousin with hisfiancee, and a single friend. To the brisk beat of aduo of rappers entrancing their audience of clappingchildren, the celebrants stroll in pairs and trios pastThe Archer, Henry Moores masterful sculpture, up tothe solid block of doors that usher them into thesubdued stillness of weekend City Hall. The party squeezes into one elevator and exits onthe third floor, into the milling throng of anotherwedding party anxiously awaiting latecomers whoare delaying their ceremony. That bride is young andin full white regalia, her deep blue and blood-redshoulder tattoos a startling contrast to her floorlength strapless satin gown and pale floral bouquet.After the elevator disgorges two high-heeled,miniskirted women pushing babies in strollers, thegroup races into the wedding chamber, and Heatherand Gregs party sink into the vacated chairs. Heather glows in a shimmering grey sleevelesssummer dress accessorized with a shawl, severalpinkish necklaces and a silver bag (all borrowed),and new Payless slippers. Greg, florid with emotionand heat, wears a darker grey suit with a pink-striped
tie. They chat with their guests, and Greg remarks,sotto voce, that this is the first time in over a decadethat he has seen his mother and father in the sameroom. Everyone is relaxed and happy as they waitnot for long-until the previous wedding ends andone more new husband-and-wife file past to theelevator.After fourteen years of a marriage of true minds, Heather and Gregformalize their union with a city hall wedding. (photo credit co13.1)
Inside the chamber, to the strains of recordedclassical music, Heathers father and mother walk herup the narrow passageway that doubles as an aisle.The justice of the peace, imposing and priest-like inacademic gown, begins the brief but touching servicethat includes inquiring of the assembly whether theywill help Heather and Greg fulfill their marriagevows. Everyone nods and sits up straighter. They areno longer just witnesses. They have just beeninducted into the ceremony as participants. Greg faces Heather and, with a catch in his voice,recites his vows. "When I was a kid, my little sisterhad a T-shirt of a brontosaurus with a little girl ridingon his neck and a caption that read: He followed mehome, can I keep him? Im like that brontosaurusand I followed you home. And, my love, Im glad youkept me." Heather responds, her words thick with held-backtears: "Youre good with words. Im good withpictures. So I wont say anything, and Ill paint you apicture instead." The picture she describes is apanorama of their fourteen years together, andincludes two brown boxes filled with months of backand-forth letters; a huge Thunder Bay sky filled withbubbles and lollipops; a skinny Victorian house full ofnail holes and groceries; two hound dogs at a beachwith shared ice cream; Las Vegas flamingos andenormous Chicago meals; duelling laptops playingfavourite songs in a city backyard; a newspaper witha hidden love note; an early bird and a night owl;hand-holding, quick smooches, and spooning. And then, her voice stronger, Heather completesher vows: "Ill paint a plane flying to an unknowncountry to find an unknown child. Ill paint a happypast, a wonderful present, and an exciting future. Illpaint fourteen years of loving a man who is my
husband and my best friend. And with all thattogether, Ill be painting you and me. " I weep (for I am the friend honoured to share thisritual), and around me so do most of the others. Soonafter, the justice smiles and waves us off. "Thats it, "he declares. "Now youre really married." We leave, and in a convoy of taxis proceed to theVictorian house where Heather and Greg plan to loveand raise the unknown child from an unknowncountry that, their adoption agency has advisedthem, releases its orphans only to formally marriedcouples. There, in their spacious garden lit by candlesin wrought-iron lanterns, they also welcomeneighbours and friends invited to celebrate this mosttraditional of occasions: a marriage rooted in theirmutual longing to raise children together. During the several years I have been working onthis book about marriage, I have attended severalweddings: my sons, my brothers, former students,and most recently Heather and Gregs. Our societysconstant lament that marriage is a doomed institutionis at odds with the reality that, at some point, most ofus marry, and often remarry. As I researched andorganized my material, I was constantly struck byhow much has changed over the years-and evenmore so by how much more remains unchanged. A History of Marriage is the third of the trilogy thatA History of Celibacy introduced and A History ofMistresses continued, the sweeping story of how menand women have related to each other over thecenturies. But unlike A History of Celibacy and AHistory of MistressesJ A History of Marriage is restrictedto the North American historical experience and itsmostly European antecedents. In this book I alsostrive to explain and contextualize the state ofmarriage today, and to identify and discuss the issuesmost important to how it is developing. The sub text
of A History of Marriage, in other words, is theconnection between the past and the present, whereweve been and where that has led us. Heather and Greg epitomize this subtext. At thetime of their marriage, they had lived together forfourteen years, for the last ten of those in a spacious,leaf-shaded Victorian home in a neighbourhood richin dogs, including their two hounds, and children.They see their happy and fulfilling relationship as amarriage of true minds that transcends mere law.They have careers, hobbies, friends, family, and eachother. But, unable to procreate and longing forchildren, they are hoping to adopt and, to improvetheir prospects, they have decided to wed. Today asin the past, children-wanted and unwanted-havealways been at the heart of marriage. People argue about and cry over and celebratemarriage because on a multitude of interlockinglevels, emotionally, logistically, socially, andfinancially, it matters. A History of Marriage traces itsevolution as an institution in terms of law, custom,and religion. It also explores the realities of marriageas individuals lived it in the context of love and duty,sex and loyalty, child-rearing and cohabiting, sharedfinances, and social recognition. These real-life experiences are presented in theirwider historical context: What were a couplesalternatives to staying together? How long was theaverage marriage until death ended it? What werethe realities of daily life for trousered husbands andtheir skirted wives? How pervasive was the doublestandard that empowered men while it deniedwomen the right to vote, to control their own money,to win custody of their children, to commit adulterywith impunity? What were housekeeping standardsand practice? How was food prepared? How werechildren raised? What divorce laws existed when
divorce was rare? Did spouses separate withoutlegally divorcing (in which case they were stillconsidered married)? Crucially, what were thedifferences between the experiences of wealthier andpoorer spouses, between, for example, the marriagesof Martha Coffin Wright and the unnamed immigrantwoman-lets call her Marta-who locked herchildren out of their tenement apartment on a bitterlycold March afternoon in 1 9 1 1 ? Both Martha and Marta had four children andhusbands whose earnings they needed to supplement:Martha wrote articles and Marta did textilepiecework. Martha was a fervent abolitionist andwomens rights advocate who, with her husbandscooperation, hid fugitive slaves in her house and, infull-bellied pregnancy, entertained the historic SenecaFalls Womens Rights Convention of 1 848 with hernewspaper article "Hints for Wives-and Husbands,"about the tedious, interminable "treadmill" ofhousework and caring for "the fallen little sons anddaughters of her Adam." But Marthas droll addressbelied her near despair at the toll exacted by herdaily grind and how, unlike her "liege lord," she rose"weary & unrefreshed, again to go through the sameroutine."
A seven-year-old girl cares for her siblings in their New York City tenement hallway. Their mother has locked them out of their apartment while she delivers finished piecework to her employer. (photo credit co13.2) Marta left far fewer traces of her existence. Hadsocial justice observer Elizabeth C. Watson nothappened upon her children, crying and huddledtogether for warmth in their tenement hallwaybecause Marta had locked them out of theirapartment on a bitterly cold and snowy winter day,there might be no traces at all. When she returnedhome and Watson demanded to know what hadhappened, Marta silenced her with this unanswerablequery: "What I must do? I maka the coats, my man heno gotta job. He walk this day for work. I lock achildren in, they burn up. I lock a children out, theycry. What I must do?" Like most other pieceworkers in her teemingtenement, Marta was overworked and under
intolerable pressure. Unlike Marthas children,Martas did not enjoy endless supplies of homemadegingerbread and stew; they survived on pushcart fastfood or their own culinary efforts, leaving themmalnourished and often hungry. Their living quarterswere overcrowded, with pieces of the coats Martastitched together from early morning until late atnight stashed in every nook and cranny. Even whenher man found work she had to supplement his wageswith piecework, and her older children had to pitchin as well. That daily struggle in that tenement and thosechildren provided the framework for Marta and herunderemployed husbands marriage, just as the dailygrind, the children, her loving husband, and theirpersonal circumstances provided the framework forMartha and her husbands marriage. Individuals likeMartha and Marta people this book, and their storiesbring to life the realities and particularities ofhistorical marriage. Part 1 of A History of Marriage examines the role ofromantic and erotic love as it developed over thecenturies and how it was affected by marriages otherdimensions, notably how spouses were chosen. Forexample, the hundreds of seventeenth-centurywomen encouraged and dowered by the French state-the fiZZes du roi, or kings daughters-who sailed toNew France to become the wives of bachelors underofficial orders to marry them had quite differentpriorities and prospects than nineteenth-centurydebutantes armed with dowries, social connections,and skills that included competency in music,embroidery, and sketching, and perhapsconversational French or Italian. Part 1 also considers how spouses learned whatmarriage meant and demanded of them, theparameters of its rules and guidelines, its purpose and
its rewards. It traces the evolution of weddings andthe married state (not always synonymous). In thechapter "Marriage from within Four Walls, " it delvesinto realities of daily life that constituted and shapedthe marital experience, for example Martha andDavid Wrights. "Go Forth and Multiply" focuses onevery aspect of child-rearing and discussescontraception, childbirth, nursing, training andteaching, loving and disciplining, putting to work,and mourning. The special and contentious role ofstep-parents is identified as one of the most importantthreads that link the past, when death ended so manyyoung marriages, and today, when divorce plays thesame role. "When Things Went Wrong" surveys thevarious ways spouses have responded to maritaldissension-bigamy, separation, even murder-butconcentrates on the complex institution of divorcewith its concomitants of custody and division ofproperty. By identifying the core values and realities ofhistorical marriage, including the social andindividual contexts in which it operated, Part 1 of AHistory of Marriage provides a lens onto the presentand even the future of marriage, as the experiences ofmillions of historic spouses lend perspective andsometimes lessons to todays North Americans. Onecrucial lesson is to avoid romanticizing historicalmarriage, because, as the great realist writer GustaveFlaubert observed, "Our ignorance of history causesus to slander our own times." Our own times areextraordinarily interesting, and Part 2 will tell theirstory as new chapters in marriages long history.
Chapter 1 Husbands and Wives - Who Were They? MAKING MATCHESOn November 1 0, 1 670, Jean Talon, the Intendant, ordistrict administrator, of Quebec City, wrote toFrances minister of finance: "All the kings daughterssent to New France last year are married, and almostall are pregnant or have had children, a testament tothe fertility of this country. I strongly recommendthat those who are destined for this country [nextyear] be in no way unattractive or have anythingrepugnant in their appearance, that they be healthyand strong, for the work of the country, or at leasthave some skill in household chores. . . . It is good tohave them accompanied by a certificate from theirPastor or a local Judge who can vouch for their beingfree and marriageable. " l The ambitious matchmaking program described inthis letter succeeded in recruiting 737 women, knownas les fiZZes du roi, or the kings daughters, to leaveFrance and set sail for the fledgling fur-tradingcolony of New France, where men heavilyoutnumbered women, and soldiers, settlers, and furtraders were desperate for wives. Most of les fiZZescame from modest backgrounds and more than halfwere orphans. With the kings dowry (except whenthe royal treasury was empty) of at least 50 livres tosupplement their good looks, household talents, and,
often, literacy and accounting skills, they quicklyfound husbands. Typical among les fiZZes were nineteen-year-oldCatherine Paulo, from LaRochelle, who marriedEtienne Campeau, a twenty-six-year-old mason andfarmer, and went on to have fifteen children.Another, Mathurine Thibault, was twenty-nine whenshe arrived and married the recently widowed JeanMilot, a master toolmaker with whom she had sixchildren. A tiny number of women disappointed theirsponsors and misbehaved. One offender wasCatherine Guichelin, who led a scandalous life andwas once charged with prostitution. She gave birth toseveral illegitimate children, and instead of raisingthe son and daughter she had with one husband, sheadopted them out to other families. Despite hernotoriety, though, even Catherine had no troublefinding husbands, annulling two marriage contracts,and marrying a third time. Les fiZZes were as healthy and capable as Talon andFrench officials intended, and so prolific that millionsof todays French Canadians are descended directlyfrom them. Against a checklist of qualities and skills,each of these women established her worth and hereligibility in the marriage market of man-heavyseventeenth-century French-Canadian colonialsociety. In tum, les fiZZes exercised their right toevaluate prospective husbands. Their primaryconcern, according to Marie de lIncarnation, theUrsuline Mother Superior who chaperoned them, waswhether a man had a house. They knew from theexperience of earlier arrivals that, without properlodgings, a new bride would endure great discomfortuntil a proper home was built.
A group of kings daughters arrives in Quebec in 1 667. Officials greet the higher-ranked women while hopeful bachelors gaze at the newcomers waiting in line. (photo credit 1 . 1 )As in New France, all societies have criteria forselecting spouses, and any exploration of marriage, inany time or place, should begin by identifying themen and women who married: Who were they? Whatcharacteristics did they share? What was expected ofthem, and why did they choose-or how were theychosen-to marry each other? It might seem frivolous to note that the most basicqualification for both bride and groom was to beliving beings-except when we learn that in rarecases, desperation and grief overcame even thatobstacle. In China, minghun, or afterlife marriage,weds dead sons to dead daughters, sparing them theeternal torment of their unmarried states. In Franceeven today, the presidents approval is enough tolegitimize weddings between the living and the dead.
The "rule" that marriages Jom only spouses ofopposite sex has also been practised in the breach. Inancient Rome, for example, Emperor Elagabalusmarried Zoticus, a male athlete from Smyrna; he alsoreferred to Hierocles, his blond slave, as his husband.The Roman historian and biographer Suetoniusdescribed how Emperor Nero "castrated the boySporus and actually tried to make a woman of him;and he married him with all the usual ceremonies,including a dowry and a bridal veil . . . and treatedhim as his wife." Contemporary Roman literaturespeaks about lesbian relationships but not marriages,likely because women lacked the influence and powerto bring them about. Same-sex unions did not survive antiquity, andearly European visitors were astonished and repelledby North American Native versions of them. TheCrow people, for example, recognized a third gender,or berdache, understood by Natives as "two spirit"people possessed of both maleness and femalenessand, in many tribes, permitted to marry partners ofthe same sex. The polygamous Aleut and Cheyennepermitted male berdaches to be co-wives of a manalongside single-spirit women. Whether they marriedmonogamously or polygamously, berdaches had toobserve traditional kinship rules for marriage."Strange country this," observed fur trader Edwin T.Denig in 1833, "where males assume the dress andperform the duties of females, while women tum menand mate with their own sex!"2 In Europe andcolonial North America, meanwhile, the reality ofsame-gender sexual attraction continued to passunnoticed or to be suppressed and even criminalized,and spouses had to be of opposite sex for a marriageto take place.
The earliest known photograph of a North American berdache is titled"Squaw Jim and his Squaw. " Jim is an enlisted scout honoured for his bravery after he saved the life of a tribesman in the Battle of the Rosebud, June 1 7, 1 876. (photo credit 1 .2) AGE AT FIRST MARRIAGEOne issue that affected all marriages was the age ofthe newlyweds, especially the brides. As historianBrent D. Shaw explains, the age of brides is "one ofthe most important factors in determining the overallrates of fertility in a given population, and hence its
general demographic profile. It also affects a wholerange of social institutions of reproduction, above allthe shape of the family, the relationships betweenthe mother and her children, between husband andwife, and the ways in which property can beredistributed through inheritance."3 The age of bridesreflected as well womens status and the roles theirsociety expected them to play. In much of the world, even babies could bemarried off. In traditional China, the practice of tungyang-hsi-raising a daughter-in-law from childhoodinvolved giving away or selling a baby girl as youngas weeks or months old as the future wife of the sonwhose family would raise her. It was believed thispractice was conducive to raising submissive,obedient, and hardworking brides perfectly familiarwith their in-laws domestic routines and personalneeds and-always a worry-less likely to run awaythan wives married at an older age. Tung yang-hsidated from at least the Sung dynasty (960-1 279) and,as late as the twentieth century, accounted for about20 percent of marriages in China. In India, where Hinduism revered marriage as "asacrament of transcendental importance" thatfamilies arranged under the influence if not theinspiration of divine guidance, little girls could alsobe married.4 Indian families, like Chinese,appreciated the malleability of the very young bridewhose husband and in-laws could train and mould.Child marriage was so widespread that in the singledecade between 1 921 and 1931, the number of childwives rose from 8,565,357 to 1 2,271 ,595. However,the custom of gauna-keeping the preadolescentbride in her parents home until she matured sexually-made many child marriages a two-step process. Thefirst was the wedding. The second was the gauna
ceremony, after which the bride was sent to live withher husbands family. Among the upper classes of western Europe, thesituation was not unlike the Asian. Parents so oftenmarried off their daughters at or before puberty thatthe words nubile and marriageable were synonymous.Pushing a young girl to marry guaranteed against thedisgrace of her having a bastard baby and therebydestroying her chances of consolidating or improvingher familys status and fortune through marriage. In the twelfth century, Pope Alexander III tried tobring a measure of protection to these young bridesthrough a canon law that specified that the minimumage for "present consent, " without which a marriagecould be annulled, was twelve for girls and fourteenfor boys. Some parents among the elitescircumvented this restriction by interpreting "twelve"to mean the twelfth year, and married off theirdaughters at eleven. Other parents simply ignored thelaw or applied for papal dispensations to marry offeven younger children.5 Often, young spouses were betrothed in infancy orearly childhood, despite a twelfth-century papaldecree setting seven as the minimum age forbetrothal. (Betrothal was akin to marriage except thatthe death of one partner did not mean widowhood.)This was the fate of Marguerite, who was only twowhen her father, the French king Louis VII, betrothedher to five-year-old Henry, son of Henry II ofEngland. Two years later, after Marguerites mother,Constance, died in childbirth, and Louis waited amere five weeks before remarrying, Henry IIresponded to the diplomatic implications of theseevents with an immediate celebration of littleMarguerite and Henrys marriage. Most betrothed girls lived at home until they weredeemed old enough to marry. But as in China and
India, some were brought up by their future in-laws.These girls learned their new homes customs,culture, language, and idiosyncrasies. Countess Agnesof Essex, betrothed at three years to Geoffrey de Vere,was six when she was handed over to Geoffreysbrother, the Earl of Oxford. Seven-year-old Matilda,daughter of Henry I of England, betrothed to HolyRoman Emperor Henry V, twenty-one years hersenior, was entrusted to Henrys court to "learn thelanguage and customs and laws of the country, andall that an empress ought to know, now, in the timeof her youth."6 To ensure her immersion in theGermanic court, the emperor dismissed her Englishcaretakers. The first time they married, husbands tended to beclose in age or a few years older than their wives,though it was neither uncommon nor illegal for aman of sixty to marry a child four or five decadesyounger. Sixteenth-century British translator AngelDay, for example, denounced a greedy fathers planto marry off his "young and dainty" daughter to arepulsive miser of "filthy tawny deformed andunseemly hue . . . so wretched and ill favoured acreature" as "repugnant to reason, or any manner ofconsiderate and sage advisement. "7 What was it like for a small child to be betrothedor married and delivered into the hands of strangers?Mohandas Gandhi, betrothed at seven and wed atthirteen, later condemned child marriage as a "cruelcustom" and added, "Little did I dream then that oneday I should severely criticize my father for havingmarried me as a child. "8 Rassundari Devi, anineteenth-century Bengali mother of eleven, likenedherself as a child bride to "the sacrificial goat beingdragged to the altar, the same hopeless situation, thesame agonized screams."9 Most of the once child
wives and grooms have left no traces, certainly nottestaments. And although some may not have mindedbeing married so young, we can reasonablyextrapolate that a great many women were wretched,and the laws against child marriage reflect a bitterawareness of their ill treatment and unhappiness.Even if well treated, they were deprived of childhood.A Korean girl gazes for the first time at the bridegroom she will soon wed in an arranged marriage, ca. 1 920. (photo credit 1 .3) Once ensconced in their new homes, these childrenwere not always well looked after. Some girls wereraped by impatient husbands or callous in-laws. Andboth boys and girls were vulnerable to their in-lawsvengeance if the alliances they had helped forge
changed, or the fortunes they commanded were lost.After her father lost his wealth, Countess Agnes ofEssex was confined to a tower and maltreated. Eventhose who were not unkindly treated suffered the lossof their parents, families, and homes, all replaced bynew people expecting the newcomer, almost always agirl, to be modest and obedient, soft-spoken andsubmissive, and virginally pure in word and deed. Yet however difficult the transition, howeveronerous the demands, however unnatural for merechildren to be cast in the role of apprentice spouses,few girls were subjected to sexual relations until theyreached physical maturity, usually menarche or anage between twelve and fourteen, commonly thelegal age of consent and the age most societiesconsidered suitable for marriage, at least for girlsfrom privileged families. Non-elite girls and boys hadquite different experiences. In ancient Athens, mostwomen married at between fourteen and eighteenyears, very soon after menarche, to men usually adecade or more older. The consequence of this agediscrepancy was that the brides fathers, by then atleast in their mid-forties and aware of their ownmortality, were eager to arrange their daughters futures while they could. (Their sons married asadults, and so were deeply involved in arrangingtheir own marriages.) Marriage pre-emptedpremarital pregnancy and its attendant disgrace. Italso freed young women to engage in the marital sexthen thought to cure gynecological problems,including the hormonal imbalances of puberty. In keeping with its militaristic culture, ancientSparta prepared its parthenoi-unmarried girls-fortheir future duties as the mothers of strong warriorswith a rigorous training regimen that set them apartfrom their sisters in other Greek city states. Muscular,conditioned, and fit, the parthenoi were at least
eighteen before they married. Marriage put an abruptend to this relatively unbridled life as the bride tookup residence with her husband or his parents. But ifher groom was under thirty, he continued to live incommunal military barracks and could visit his wifeonly "under cover of darkness, in conspiratorialsecrecy from his messmates and even from the rest ofhis household," even as the couple proceeded toproduce little Spartans. 10 Family life, known toencourage relaxation, was suppressed for as long aspossible to avoid eroding the militaristicinfrastructure that permeated Spartan culture fromtop to bottom. As in Greece, most girls in ancient Rome married intheir late teens to early twenties. Many scholars nowbelieve that there, too, only girls from the propertiedclass were married off at younger ages, to menusually in their mid-twenties. Upper-class marriageswere therefore characterized by a wider age gapbetween husband and wife, with all the implicationsthat had for marital relations, reproduction,widowhood, remarriage, and the transfer ofproperty. ll Centuries later in western Europe, nonelite brides tended to marry in their mid- to late teensto early twenties. This is necessarily a generalizationabout such vastly different nations and cultures, butit provides a useful rule of thumb and is the basis forscholarly interpretations of the dynamics and natureof marriage, as the following examples ShOW. 12 In Germany during the second half of the sixteenthcentury, tradesmen were prohibited from marryinguntil they passed the exams that transformedjourneymen into masters. But as economic constraintsmade it more difficult for even a master to affordmarriage, there arose a significant class of men whosefinancial situation made them unmarriageable.Engagements stretched from months to years, forcing
some couples to petition for exemption from therules, usually because of pregnancy or, as one urgentpetition phrased it, "weighty reasons." Despite criticswho argued that marriage prevented giving in to lust,that newlyweds should welcome financial hardship asa divine challenge, and that in any case God wouldprovide, the rules were so stringently applied that theaverage age of marriage rose, with many would-bespouses remaining single. Other examples suggest wide variations in the ageat first marriage. In 1864, in the northern andsouthern Portuguese provinces of Viana do Casteloand Faro, 15.5 percent and 42.7 percent respectivelyof women between twenty and twenty-four weremarried; 37.8 percent and 1 1 percent of womenbetween fifty and fifty-four remained single. In 1 880,in the Belgian arrondissements of Tielt and Charleroi,the average age of marriage was 28.4 and 25respectively; 30.5 percent of fifty-year-old Tieltwomen remained unmarried compared to only 9.2percent in Charleroi. 1 3 In England and Wales betweenthe 1 840s to the 1 870s, more than two-thirds of menand women in their mid-twenties had not yetmarried, and 1 2 percent of women in their fiftiesremained unmarried. 1 4 By the nineteenth century, North Americans tendedtoward the western European practice of latermarriage or lifelong celibacy, or at least singleness. InUpper and Lower Canada (now Ontario and Quebec),men and women married almost as late as westernEuropeans, though fewer remained unmarried. InLower Canada, more widowers than widowsremarried. In Upper Canada, however, with its ratioof 1 45 males to 1 00 women aged fifteen to thirtynine, widows were likely to remarry. In 1 871 in NovaScotia, especially in Scottish-settled counties, womenoften married in their mid- to late twenties, usually to
men a few years older. Though some women marriedbefore their twenty-first birthdays, men rarely did. ISIn 1 880, in Philadelphia, Irish immigrant women,many working as domestics, married at an average26.4 years (Irish men at 29. 1), German women at23.9 years (men at 25.9), and American-born whitewomen at 25.4 years (and the men at 28 years). 16 PATIERNS OF MARRIAGEA wealth of studies exploring the details anddynamics of marriage has allowed scholars topostulate the existence of marriage models. Inhistoric Europe, three are evident: the Western,Eastern, and Mediterranean models. Each is linked tothe age of spouses at their first marriage and is bestunderstood in the context of environmental,economic, and demographic conditions. Thesemarriage models help make sense of the past,particularly in understanding the effect that age atfirst marriage had on individual spouses, on theirfamilies and societies, and on the kind of householdthey lived in as a married couple. In the Western model, both men and womenmarried at relatively later ages, usually no more thana few years apart, and formed a new, usually nuclearhousehold. Few households were multi-generationalor comprised more than one family. For example,French peasants in the four centuries before theRevolution married later because of rules ingrainedin their culture. One such rule was that spouses didnot cohabit with parents after they married. Anotherwas that establishing ones own home and hearth wasessential. Western households, in other words,seldom included extended families or any sort ofpolygamous arrangement, although a variant Western
marriage model incorporated domestic servants orlabourers into the household. The Eastern model was almost the opposite of theWestern. Most people married at a young age andjoined an existing household, usually the grooms,instead of establishing a new one. These jointhouseholds included more than one married couplewho were usually related to each other, as well asother relatives such as unmarried siblings orwidowed elders. One result of this model was thatfew people lived alone or with unrelated people. (Inthe Far East, establishing new households wasactually forbidden.) The Mediterranean model was characterized byyoung brides married to older husbands. As inEastern marriages, the new couple seldom establisheda new household but instead took over, joined, orsplit an existing household. The result was a societyin which most households comprised more than onegeneration and family, and included extended familymembers . What primarily distinguished the Mediterraneanfrom the Eastern model was the age at first marriage,with its very different social, cultural, and economicimplications. For one thing, older husbands were lesslikely to have living fathers, which significantlyaffected their income and livelihood. Upon hisfathers death, for example, a man gained legal andsocial independence, which changed his position androle in society and in his extended family; usually theoldest male was the head of the household. In ancientRome, more than three-quarters of males and half offemales had lost their fathers by the time theymarried, greatly reducing the influence of the patriapotestas-the Roman fathers life-and-death powerover his family) ? Yet another marriage model waspolygamy. Usually polygamy was reserved for
wealthy men. In China, men could marry more thanone wife as well as taking concubines into theirhouses. One extraordinary consequence of thismarriage system was that today, one and a halfmillion Chinese men are directly descended fromGiocangga, the Ching dynastys foundersgrandfather, through his descendants many wivesand concubines. The average monogamously marriedChinese man, on the other hand, has an average ofonly twenty descendants. The Bible, too, describes the several wives of manyOld Testament notables, among them Abraham,David, and King Solomon, the latter having sevenhundred wives and three hundred concubines. KingPhilip of Macedon and his son Alexander the Greatboth had mUltiple wives, and polygamy was notuncommon among nobles and other privileged men.As Christianity developed, the church graduallyturned against polygamy, in part because GrecoRoman culture prescribed monogamy. "Now indeedin our time, and in keeping with Roman custom, it isno longer allowed to take another wife, " SaintAugustine observed. The new religion of Islam, however, did not banpolygamy. Instead, its Quran restricted Muslim mento four wives, and the Prophet advised a man witheleven wives to divorce seven of them. "If you fearthat you shall not be able to deal justly with theorphans, " the Quran advises, "marry women of yourchoice, two or three or four; but if you fear that youshall not be able to deal justly with them, then onlyone. " Unlike the Chinese system, in which a principalwife held sway over secondary wives, Islam decreedthat all wives were equal. Meanwhile Christian Europe struggled for centuriesto stamp out polygamy, which many theologiansregarded as less morally repellent than divorce. When
Henry VIII wished to divest himself of his first wife,Catharine of Aragon, Pope Clement VII and hisadvisers at one point proposed that the king marry asecond wife instead, averting the sin of divorce andgranting legitimacy to the male heir that she mightdeliver. Reformation leader Martin Luther, who could findno scriptural condemnation of polygamy, held similarviews; this was reflected in his advice to theadulterous Philip of Hesse. After Philip pleaded thatthe sexual wasteland of his arranged marriage toChristine of Saxony had driven him to defile hismarriage vows, Luther advised him to take a secondwife, keeping the marriage secret to avoid bothscandal and the risk of execution, which was then thepenalty for bigamy. (After news of Philips marriageto Margarete von der Saale leaked out, Luther urgedhim to deny it.) In early nineteenth-century NorthAmerica, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-daySaints, popularly referred to as Mormons, revived themostly moribund practice of "plural marriage, " orpolygamy, after founder Joseph Smith received adivine revelation that some elders should take morethan one wife. As this practice spread, so did publicoutrage. Yet it was not polygamy that sealed Smithsfate but his 1 844 declaration that he was a candidatefor the u.S. presidency, which led to his arrest oncharges of treason and conspiracy. A mob of about ahundred and fifty armed men charged the jail whereSmith was being held and shot him dead. Smiths murder did nothing to stop the debateabout Mormon polygamy. By the time of his death in1 877, Smiths successor, Brigham Young, had entered"sealings, " or marriages, with fifty-six women,sixteen of whom bore him fifty-seven children. Therest, he said, were "old ladies whom I regard ratheras mothers than wives, " whom he had "sealed" to
protect, a Mormon variant of a common practice inmany tribal societies that stipulate that a widow mustmarry her brother-in-law. Seven widows of Mormon leader Brigham Young pose in 1 899, two decades after their husbands death. On the right at the back is Amelia, who married Young when she was twenty-four and he was sixty-one. She was his favourite wife. (photo credit 1 .4) In 1878, after the u.s. Supreme Court ruled againstMormon George Reynoldss right to plural marriage,polygamists were subjected to severe penalties. Tosave the church, its fourth president, WilfordWoodruff, officially abandoned polygamy in an 1 890manifesto. Some diehard polygamists fled to remotecommunities in the United States and Canada, andthe Church of Latter-day Saints ceased toacknowledge them as members . In 1 892, Canada alsocriminalized polygamy, which ran counter to thelegal definition of marriage as articulated in the 1866English case of Hyde v. Hyde: "the voluntaryunion . . . of one man and one woman to the exclusionof all others. "
(Polyandry, in which women marry more than onehusband, has no North American history. Polyandryis almost always the product of, or perhaps thelogical response to, an environment so harsh that theland cannot sustain an ever growing population: theHimalayas are a good example. It enables men toshare rather than forgo fatherhood, and provides asocial structure in which hard-scrabbling people cansurvive and perpetuate themselves.) Besides Mormons and breakaway Mormons, NorthAmerican utopias such as the Oneida Community,founded in 1 848, practised "complex marriage, " withevery member theoretically married to every othermember and encouraged to have "interviews"-thatis to say, sex-with other community members. Toavoid pregnancies, which were supposed to be preapproved by a sort of eugenics committee, Oneidanmen practised coitus interruptus. But by 1879, theOneidans abandoned complex marriage in favour ofmonogamy, and in 1 880, over seventy of themmarried traditionally. In North America and Europe, monogamy hasdeveloped as the only legal form of marriage, andapart from pockets of resistance, polygamy has beenmostly stamped out. When North Americans marry,they are choosing a single mate whose qualities willnot be supplemented or complemented by anotherone. This convention is rooted in the strict regulationsabout bloodlines that in all societies defineacceptable spouses and prohibit incestuous mating.Most ban marriage with close blood relatives-sisterswith brothers, mothers with sons, fathers withdaughters-but permit or even encourage cousins tomarry. Marrying cousins was a common Greek andEastern strategy for reuniting property that had beendivided among heirs. I8 So was marrying uncles with
nieces, which Jewish canon law, for example,permitted. In India, marrying relatives was common,and in some parts remains so today. 19 Incest taboos identify those we are forbidden tomarry. Rules about lineage, exquisitely complexstatements about the nature of blood relationships,identify those we are permitted or even supposed tomarry. The levirate system, for example, requiredmen to marry their brothers widows. Among theancient Hebrews, levirate operated among membersof a household when the deceased had no male heir;it ensured his continuity by acknowledging him asthe father, rather than the uncle, of his livingbrothers child. (That living brother could procreateagain, guaranteeing that his bloodline did not dieout.) Rules about appropriate marriage partners stemfrom each societys view of itself and its people. Thenature of descent-matrilineal, patrilineal-is ofparamount importance. (A few small societies usevariations on these primary lineage systems: Hawaiisambilineality, which traces lineage through eithermother or father; or unilineality, by which theIroquois trace lineality through either their mothersor fathers descent.) Exogamous marriage, the unionof blood-unrelated people, involves different financialconsiderations, often in the form of a bride price orother arrangement. Endogamy, on the other hand,was the custom of marrying within a social class,religion, or ethnicity. Endogamy served to preserveminority cultures and to prevent assimilation into ordilution by (or of) the dominant culture. Aristocratsmarried aristocrats and peasants married peasants;Christians married Christians and Jews married Jews;whites married whites and non-whites married nonwhites. In India, with its intrinsically endogamouscaste system that permits marriage only between
members of castes of equal or similar rank, Brahminsmarried Brahmins and dalits, or untouchables,married dalits. In North America, the familiar European rulessometimes ceded place to urgent circumstances. InNew France, where the economic interests of the furtrade were paramount, officials overlooked racialdifferences and encouraged colonists to marryNatives as a means of facilitating the fur trade andensuring loyalty toward France. In the ThirteenColonies and later the United States, on the otherhand, the racialism that stoked black slavery sopermeated social consciousness that forty-one statespassed anti-miscegenation laws outlawing whiteblack marriage and, for good measure, often whiteNative and white-Asian as well. For three centuries,until the U.S. Supreme Court struck them down asunconstitutional, these laws reflected and supportedwhite supremacy and the twentieth-century notion ofwhite purity, and defined interracial marriage as thecrime of miscegenation. Though race was not an issue in homogenousEuropean societies, complex rules narrowed down thehunt for a suitable bride or groom. Among theprivileged classes, political, commercial, and socialconsiderations were paramount to parents selectingtheir childrens mates. Nobles and royals contendedas well with complicated diplomatic issues,betrothing their young sons and daughters to form orreinforce alliances they hoped would still beadvantageous when the marriage eventually tookplace. Less privileged people, the great majority, haddifferent concerns, but for them as well, marrying offchildren had serious financial implications for theentire family. It was not enough to ensure that themarried-into family were people of means. Parents,
usually fathers, were responsible for negotiating thebest deal possible and then for ensuring that allparties honoured it. If a potential bride was attractive, apparentlyhealthy and chaste, and unburdened with hopelesslyunmarriageable older sisters or disgraced relatives,her family could expect a substantial commitmentfrom a future husband. Depending on his familyssocial class, this could be anything from a job to asubstantial inheritance, future or already in hand. Insocieties with primogeniture, which kept landholdings intact by bequeathing them to one son,usually the oldest, these sons were valued maritalcandidates. Their siblings, however, were much lessso. The same was true wherever inheritance favouredfirst sons. Among the nobility in Poitou, France, fromthe twelfth to the fourteenth centuries, 77 percent ofoldest sons but only 30 percent of younger onesmarried. In one Portuguese province in the fifteenthand sixteenth centuries, 80 percent of first-born sonsmarried, compared with only 39 percent of fourthborn sons. Norways nineteenth-century inheritancelaws were so strict that they left about a quarter of allmales without the means to marry and support afamily. BRIDAL ENDOWMENTSBrides were also expected to bring property, money,or other valuables to the union, usually in the form ofa dowry. Without a dowry, most women could nothave married. But the dowry also offered somemeasure of protection to the woman in her newworld, especially if her parents paid it in instalments,encouraging her husband to treat her better than he
might have without the promise of further payments.Furthermore, if he died, the dowry was returned toher; though her father-in-law managed her dowry,she remained its legal owner. If it included land, shehad to consent to any sales. Maristella Botticinis detailed study of dowries infifteenth-century Tuscany, which examined bothwealthy and humble households, illustrates howdowries worked. 2o In Tuscany, the dowry was aprerequisite for marriage, regardless of class. Evenorphan girls reared in charities received smalldowries, provided by the charities or bytownspeoples bequests. In Florence, parents couldeven invest money in the Monte delle Doti, or dowryfund, which offered a good return for the dowriestheir daughters would inevitably need. Dowries involved substantial transfers of wealth. Inthe decades between 1 4 1 5 and 1 436 in the city ofCortona, when the average annual salary for anurban worker was only 1 4 florins, dowries averagedan impressive 1 25.5 florins. The size of dowriesdepended on several factors. After searching out asuitable candidate for their daughter, parents offereda dowry based on the work she would do in thehouse and, sometimes, the field, and how manychildren she would bear and raise. An older bride, "aless valuable product" who would cost her familymore in keep and then offer fewer child-bearing andhousework years to her future husband, wouldrequire a bigger dowry to persuade the groom toaccept her. (This category included women marryingfor the second time.) A younger daughter, with moreyears of work and child-bearing to offer, could bemarried off with a smaller dowry. Social mobility also determined the size of dowries.Tuscan girls marrying down (for example, from themercantile class to the peasantry) were given larger
dowries than those marrying up (from the peasantryto the professional class). Botticini interprets this asevidence that caring parents thereby enabled theirdaughters to maintain a standard of living similar totheir birth familys. Compared to girls with smallerdowries, girls with larger ones tended to producemore children, likely because they were better fedand treated. The dowry system, however, also spawned muchsadness. Because societies that greatly valued malesover females regarded endowing a daughter as adrain on the family finances, countless unloved,unattractive, inconvenient, orphaned, or just plainunlucky girls got married off to patently undesirablemen or were interred in convents, because bothaccepted smaller than usual dowries. In colonial North America, the importance ofdowries was leavened by the dearth of marriageablewomen. This was the case in seventeenth-centuryNew France, where, among a population of threethousand, men outnumbered women five to one-andmany of those women were nuns. Though some furtraders, adventurers, and colonial servants enteredunions with Native women and a few married them,most bachelors faced such gloomy marital prospectsthat King Louis XIV and Jean-Baptiste Colbert, hisfinance minister, developed a program that preparedrobust young women to immigrate to New Franceand marry settlers. This chapter introduced a couple of the 737 fiZZesdu roi, most of whom ranged in age from fifteen tothe late twenties. Most had urban backgrounds, andmore than half were orphans raised in the HopitalGeneral du Paris, which trained them in domesticskills that qualified them to work in bourgeois homesor to marry men eager for such capable wives. Sixpercent of les fiZZes were of impoverished noble or
bourgeois stock, welcomed into the program because,as Intendant Talon remarked in his report to FinanceMinister Colbert, "Three or four girls of high birthand distinguished by quality would perhaps be usefulto unite in marriage with Officers whom nothingholds to the country except their appointment andtheir land grants. " In France, a coterie of well-born,well-endowed women signed on to marry theseofficers. Like their consoeurs, they were adventurouswomen game to make better lives in New France thanOld France could offer. Dowries played an important role and weresubstantial: from 50 livres to as much as 3,000 livresprovided by the families of higher-ranked womenwho expected to marry military officers and whosehouseholds needed more finery. (The royal treasuryprovided at most 1 00 to 200 livres for thesegentlewomen.) Among such women were MargueriteChabert de la Carriere and Judith de Matras, eachwith substantial dowries of 3, 000 livres. Margueritemarried Troop Captain Jacques Du Mesnil-Heurry,and Judith married a seigneur, Charles-Pierre LeGardeur. Catherine de Belleau, with 1,000 livres,married another seigneur, Jean-Baptiste Morin deBelleroche. Les fiZZes also received trousseaus of ordinaryclothing and such useful items as needles, thread,scissors and pins, a comb, stockings, gloves and abonnet, 2 livres for spending money and (subject tothe fluctuations of the royal treasury) 50 livres tostock their future households. 21 At least 95 percent married and seemed to farewell in their marriages, managing to withstand theharshness of Canadian winters. Observers praisedtheir homes, conduct, and fertility-about 90 percenthad children. After a decade, New Frances genderimbalance greatly lessened and its marriage rate
increased. The fiZZes du roi program was discontinued,a victim of its own success. Most of that success wasdue to its French overseers clever matching of pairedbachelor-colonists under orders to marry withdowered and trained women well prepared for whatawaited them, including the likelihood of having tomarry outside their social class. PARENTAL PRESENCE AND PRESSUREUnlike les fiZZes, who were under the tutelage of theFrench state, many young women in both Europe andNorth America had parents who took an activeinterest in their marital arrangements, although highmortality rates meant that a significant number hadat least one step-parent or guardian instead. Katarinavon Bora, for example, was five when her motherdied and her father sent her to a Benedictineboarding school; soon after, he remarried and neverbrought Katarina back to live with him. Inadolescence, she was consigned to the convent, whichshe later fled in search of a husband and a family life.On the other hand, American Mary Westcottsstepmother was devoted to her and, with herhusband, was deeply involved in Marys marriageplanning. After the financial and other issues had been dulyconsidered, many parents took pains to investigatethe characters of both the potential spouse and thein-laws. First-time brides were expected to be virgins,though first-time husbands did not need to be. Goodlooks, good character, and good health wereimportant and, in the marriage market, openlydiscussed. Pity the pockmarked, bucktoothed,bowlegged, or cross-eyed, who were mercilessly
described and demeaned to force up (or down) thedowry or bride price. Where beauty had its price, subterfuge had itsplace. Where light skin was valued, so were powder,sunbonnets, and bleaches. Juiced lemons and rhubarblightened dark hair. By the sixteenth century, makeupfrom powder, rouge, and mascara recast faces. Badteeth could be (temporarily) concealed behindsombre expressions or shy smiles. Odours could bemasked-or at least diluted-by powder. Mothers had a duty to produce presentabledaughters who conformed to the beauty standards oftheir time and place. In 1 609, Ben Jonson describedvarious duplicities a woman should employ tocounteract her flaws. Among them: "If she be short,let her sit much, lest, when she stands, she bethought to sit. . . . If a sour breath, let her neverdiscourse fasting, and always talk at her distance. Ifshe have black and rugged teeth, let her offer the lessat laughter, especially if she laugh wide and open."22 In eras of high mortality, good health was at leastas important as good looks, and a robust constitutiondesirable. The pale skin that was an asset amongpatricians was a disability among ruddy-facedpeasants; the calloused palm that made aristocratsshudder indicated an experienced field hand. The terrible and permanent consequences ofserious error made selecting a mate a demanding taskfraught with anxiety. Some families preferred not torely solely on their own impressions and hired specialdetectives to investigate. In the late nineteenth century, young Edma Griggs,daughter of Detroit Alderman Stephen AdelbertGriggs (and the authors great-aunt), fell in love andaccepted a proposal of marriage. As the weddingpreparations proceeded, so did a discreetinvestigation by a detective hired by Edmas father.
Belatedly, after the invitations had been printed, thedetective discovered that the young man already hada wife. Edmas parents cancelled the wedding andpacked their heartbroken daughter off on a Europeantour to recover. She returned to live with them and,after their death, a paid companion. She nevermarried, and her broken engagement entered familylore as a muted tragedy. An exhibit at the Jewish Museum in Berlin details ahappier premarital investigation by the detectiveagency Salamonski & Co, hired by nineteen-year-oldAnne Schmidts parents after twenty-eight-year-oldPaul Benedick asked for her hand in marriage. For 40Deutschmarks-the same amount Paul paid eachmonth for his rented room-Salamonski investigatedsuch questions as: What is Pauls uncle Siegmundsprofession? Where does Pauls family come from?How is his familys business doing? What did Paulinherit from his family? Who is Pauls aunt marriedto? What can be found out about Pauls mother? Howmuch does Paul earn? Is he able to support a family?What type of person is he? How much rent does hepay for his lodging? What does he like about life inthe big city? Is he able to father healthy children andwill he raise them as Jews? Happily, Salamon ski &Co. uncovered nothing untoward and, in 1 928, Anneand Paul were married. Les fiZZes du roi would have understood why Annesparents hired Salamonski & Co. and they almostcertainly could have provided the detectives with alist of similar questions. They would also havesympathized with Edma Griggs when her fiances truemarital status was revealed, because Jean Talon andlocal priests shared the same concerns and suspicionsabout certain French immigrants to New France-andindeed about a few of les fiZZes.
Throughout history, choosing marriage partnershas been a complex and, especially in the case ofnobles and royals, often convoluted procedure. Beforea deal was struck, a host of considerations wereweighed, and usually family needs and obligationstook priority over individual preferences.Nonetheless, future spouses were necessarily at theheart of their own marriages, and had to bepersonally prepared for what was to come.
Chapter 2 Learning Marriage, Rites of Passage THE MARRIAGE STAKESIn the late 1 820s, Caroline Sheridan was officiallyintroduced into London high society. As she danced,flirted, and chatted at Almacks Assembly Rooms, shenever lost sight of her mission: to find a husband in asingle social "season." Carolines chances appearedbright. She was named one of Almacks twelveprettiest debutantes, and she and her sisters, Helenand Georgiana, were referred to, approvingly, as "theThree Graces," a nickname inspired by their beautyand breeding, and because they lived in a grace-andfavour apartment at Hampton Court, beneficiaries ofa charitable gesture to honour their grandfather, theplaywright Richard Brinsley Sheridan. The stakes were high for the sisters. Their fatherhad died young, leaving his widow with four sons,three daughters, and only a small pension to supportthem. Marrying well seemed the only way out for thegirls, and because they had no dowries, they had torely on their personal qualities: Helens charm,Carolines wit, and Georgianas great beauty. Theyhad to abide as well by the convention that sistersshould marry, or at least be engaged, in descendingorder of age. This meant that Helen and Caroline hadto weigh the cost that refusing proposals would haveon Georgiana, their beauteous little sister, alreadycourted by several bachelors.
Countess Lieven, the Russian ambassadors wife, waltzes at the high society social club Almacks in this 1813 sketch by GeorgeCruikshank. Almacks was considered the best marriage mart for the elite. (photo credit 2.1) Helen capitulated first and, though she did not lovehim, married Captain Price Blackwood, heir to theIrish peer Lord Dufferin. Blackwood overlooked herlack of a dowry and his familys disapproval becausehe loved her so much, and before long, Helen grew tolove him as well. Caroline, next oldest, had noproposals from the men she met during her season,perhaps because of her confident intellectuality, andso the Honourable George Nortons pursuit of herbecame an urgent matter. Norton, brother of LordGrandey, had been enamoured of Caroline since shewas sixteen. Her mother had advised him to waituntil she was eighteen and a debutante; he did so,and once again asked for her hand in marriage. By then Caroline was in her second social season,terrified of "living and dying a lonely old maid" anddeeply affected by her mothers plea that she sacrifice
her personal qualms and accept Nortons proposal forits apparent financial benefits. Reluctantly, sheagreed to marry "a man she did not love; whom shedid not profess to love; for certain advantages-toavoid certain pressing miseries." l On June 30, 1 827,nineteen-year-old Caroline wed twenty-six-year-oldGeorge Norton and was trapped for nearly a lifetimein a marriage soon notorious for her legalhelplessness as an abused wife. After her failure toattract a suitor during nearly two London socialseasons, the English gentlewomans rite of passagefrom maiden to woman, Caroline had taken a (mis)calculated risk and accepted the only proposal shehad, thereby-she thought-ensuring her financialfuture and freeing her younger sister, Georgiana, tomarry in her tum.Marriage has always been a serious business thatushered spouses into a new stage of life, and in mostsocieties, rites of passages helped prepare them forthe transition from childhood to their future lives aswives and husbands. Menarche, marking sexualmaturation, is a rite of passage in itself and is oftenthe occasion for ceremonies. Many North AmericanNative peoples, for example, confined menstruatinggirls to a menstrual hut where their mothers cared forthem and taught them what it was to be a woman. 2 Rites of passage involving feats of daring, courage,or skill often propelled adolescent boys into the nextstage of life. Some rituals, like scarification,tattooing, or circumcision, forced them to suffer pain"manfully"-that is, in silence. Circumcision, whichunderscored sexual maturity, also encouraged malebonding, and marked the passage between boyhoodand young manhood. Other kinds of rites, such asNative American vision quests, sent young men (and
sometimes women) alone into nature, fasting andawaiting a supernatural vision to guide their future. In ancient Rome, a boy surrendered the purplebordered toga praetexta that was a symbol ofchildhood and donned the pure white toga of aRoman man. He also dedicated his bulla, a locket-likepiece of jewellery containing a talisman, to the lares,the household gods. Then a public procession led tothe Forum, where the no-longer boy was formallyenrolled as a citizen. Fathers would decide when thisrite of passage would take place, usually when theirsons were fourteen to sixteen years old and physicallydeveloped enough for military service. Afterward, thenew citizen began a years training with a prominentcivilian or military man his father had selected tocare for him. In Europe and Euro-North America, breechingdressing boys in breeches or trousers at the age of sixor seven-was an important ritual passage that ended"infancy" and corresponded to the age of reason asmost societies understood it. After breeching, fathersassumed more control over their sons education ortraining. This included arranging for schools or tutorsor instructing them personally, including about theirroles and responsibilities in society. Religious rites of passage such as Protestantconfirmation and Jewish bar and (since 1 922) batmitzvahs emphasized statements of faith andknowledge of theology, and conveyed a sense of thecelebrants responsibilities upon entry into religiousand social maturity. This maturity has been reflectedin laws that, by specifying legal ages of consent forsexual activity, transfer personal responsibility fromparents to their children. Whereas rites of passage mark the arrival ofmaturity, parents and other married adults havealways been the principal instructors about the
realities of domestic married life. From earlychildhood, girls "helped" their mothers withhousehold work, cooking and baking, dusting andscrubbing, mending, darning and sewing, tendinggardens, poultry, and small animals, and mindingyounger children. They accompanied mothers tomarket and helped or watched them buy and sell.Like their brothers, who learned how to be men byassisting and imitating their fathers, their upbringingconstituted an apprenticeship in adulthood and in themarried life most expected would be part of it. Aristocratic girls learned different skills: literacy inEnglish, and enough arithmetic to keep householdaccount books and even conduct or understandbusiness ventures. They were also expected to masterhousehold and estate management, includingsupervising servants, and to be competent at fineneedlework, weaving, herbal medicine, and playingmusical instruments such as the lute and virginal. But a girls most essential skill, learned byobserving her mother and the adult women in otherhouseholds, was to obey her male relatives, includingher brothers, without being meek-what historian J.Barbara Harris calls "subordinate agency," a termthat reflects the contradictions built into theirposition.3 Excluding girls from studying Latin, thelanguage of legal and official documents such as landtransactions, manorial accounts, and court rolls,reinforced their dependence on males.
Vermeers Lady Seated at a Virginal, ca. 1 6 73. Playing the virginaland other instruments was an important skill for elite women. (photo credit 2.2) In addition to parental "apprenticeships," societieshad other, more direct methods, such as ritualstorytelling, to teach youth about marriage. Books,especially sacred texts, laid down rules. In Europeand North America, the Old and New Testaments andtheir interpretations were especially importantmarriage manuals that described patriarchalhusbands who honoured their obedient andsubmissive wives fashioned, as the Book of Genesis
explained, from their very ribs. The balance of powerwas clearly set out: "Wives, be subject to your ownhusbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the headof the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church,He Himself being the Saviour of the body. But as thechurch is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought tobe to their husbands in everything" (Ephesians 5: 22-24). At the same time, a good wife was "far moreprecious than jewels," and won her husbands lifelongtrust (Proverbs 3 1 : 10-1 1). The ideal biblical marriage was usuallymonogamous (despite polygamous characters in theOld Testament) and permanent (though divorceexisted) . Marital sex was designed to conceivechildren and to express mutual love, and wives hadsex only with their husbands, who might also havesex with their concubines. More practically, marriage was an economic anddomestic unit that formed the core of society. The"excellent wife" worked in and outside her home,earned money, and increased her familys property.As chatelaine and entrepreneur, she "rises while it isyet night and provides food for her household andportions for her maidens. She considers a field andbuys it, with the fruit of her hands she plants avineyard . . . . She seeks wool and flax, and works withwilling hands . . . . She perceives that her merchandiseis profitable." The excellent wife seldom rests; "herlamp does not go out at night" as she spins, weaves,and "makes linen garments and sells them; shedelivers sashes to the merchant." She is charitable,and gives to the poor and needy. Her reward is thather children call her blessed, and her husband praisesher above all other women (Proverbs 3 1 : 1 3-29). Marriage manuals almost exclusively centred onreligious texts and their interpretations, simplified forpopular edification. They varied greatly in content
and context, reflecting changing attitudes. Usuallythey were practical how-to guides predicated on anideal version of marriage, but they also offeredadvice on how to deal with the often difficult realitiesof life together. A fourteenth-century to-do (and to-be) list directedto the Italian bride advocated suppressing all tastes,interests, and habits that displeased the groom,including forthright speech and curiosity. FrancescoBarbaros highly influential essay "On Wifely Duties,"published in 1 4 1 5, prescribed a marriage lovinglyunified by wifely submission to husbandly control.Such advice was in part a response to the fear thatelite women were undermining their patriarchalsociety by using dowries to favour daughters oversons. In 1 523, Desiderius Erasmuss popular and muchtranslated colloquy "Marriage" considered thehorrors, in an era in which divorce was unknown, ofa drunken and brutal husband whose stepmotherhated his long-suffering wife. Erasmus advised her toresist the temptation to dump a full chamber pot onhis head (clearly not all abused women resisted thistemptation) and to employ sexual ploys to appeal tothe brutes good nature, however minuscule thatmight be. The marriage manuals directed to Protestant wivesin Germany, England, and North America between1 500 and 1 700 also defended male dominance asdivinely decreed but did introduce the notion ofmutuality between spouses. In the much-republishedA Godly Fonn of Household Government, Puritanpastors John Dod and Robert Cleaver exhortedspouses to love each other, husbands to exercisewisdom and restraint, and wives to remember theirmultitudinous duties: housekeeping, not wastinghousehold money, holding their tongues, and
presiding over an orderly home. Men had to earnmoney, obtain needed goods, conduct business, andact as family spokesperson. "The duty of the husbandis to be lord of all; and of the wife, to give account ofall, " they advised. Dod and Cleaver also painted adramatic picture of homes made wretched byslovenly or sottish wives, or by husbands heedless oftheir wives capacity for revenge. The influential clergyman William Gouge stressedwomens inferiority and subjection to her husbandbut at the same time counselled mutuality. "Of allother inferiors in a family, wives are far the mostexcellent, and therefore to be placed in the firstrank," he wrote conciliatorily. However, "among allother parties of whom the Holy Ghost requirethsubjection, wives for the most part are mostbackward. "4 Other popular essays on marriage denounced whatmust have been seen as common wifely behaviour:laughing, flirting, dressing immodestly, speaking outof turn, reading unsuitable books, eating too much,even reading letters without their husbandspermission. A widely read sixteenth-century writerdescribed the ideal wife as one who leapt early frombed "to start on the housework, without combing herhair and putting on stockings, with her shirtsleevesrolled up and her arms bare, getting the servants towork and giving the children their clothes to put on.What a joy to see her do the laundry, wash thesheets, sift flour, make bread, sweep the house, fillthe lamps, get lunch going, and then pick up hersewing needle. I dont think those women are anygood who do nothing but to sleep at midnight andarise at noon, telling dirty stories all evening."5 A sixteenth-century wedding play extolled the idealpeasant wife as one who knew how to stoke the fireand wash pots and pans, make good noodles, mill
grain and fatten oxen, guide pigs to market, and,once there, buy and sell shrewdly. From the Reformation and to this day, the sermonsand writings of Martin Luther, the great Reformationtheologian, have shaped the development of marriageand family life. His towering stature and (at the time)controversial marriage to former nun Katharina vonBora inspired an insatiable interest in his life andproduced a wealth of Luther-centric literature. Inaddition to his voluminous other writings, Table Talk,the memoirs of the many boarders and guests whoregularly dined at his table ("Make a note of this ! "Luther would exclaim. "Write it down ! ") hasprovided endless material for admirers and detractorsalike. Revered or reviled, the union of the formerreligious was an important and exciting marriageguide. Table Talk had no startling revelations but ratherdescribed the relationship between two intelligentand extremely busy people who seemed much likeother men and women. Martin respected and trustedKatharina but scolded her for chattering too muchduring meals-she was well educated, spoke Latin,and enjoyed the mens spirited discussions-becauselike his contemporaries, he believed that womenwere less rational than men. Their broad hips, hepointed out, were evidence of their child-bearingdestiny and so what little schooling girls neededshould focus on housekeeping and pious motherhood.The male and female spheres were separate anddivinely ordained, with husbands earning money andwomen running the household. Table Talk, however, also describes how much theLuther family reality deviated from these"principles." For one thing, Luther delegated much ofthe paid work to Katharina, who rose at four everymorning to give her enough time to manage not just
the Black Cloister, which was both family home andboarding house, but also a brewery, stables, andseveral gardens, including one outside the city limits.Katharina also supervised the Luther familys farms. But even in face of Katharinas masterfuladministration of most of the couples incomeproducing activities, Luther reserved his husbandlyright to ultimate control: "In the household I concedeto you the governance, saving only my right," he toldher. "For the rule of women never accomplishedanything good. God made Adam the lord of allcreatures so that he might rule all living things. Butwhen Eve persuaded him that he was a lord aboveGod, he thereby spoiled it all. We have that to thankyou women for . . . "6 Lady Sarah Penningtons immensely popular andmuch-reprinted An Unfortunate Mothers Advice(1761) described difficult relationships and offeredwomen practical advice to deal with them. What todo, she asked, if your husband is a chroniccomplainer, happy only when criticizing, and lessintelligent to boot? Her response: remember yourduty and your promise to love, honour, and obey. Sheadded one caveat: if your husband demands anunchristian act, it is your duty to disobey him. LikePenningtons, Victorian and post-Victorian marriageguides tended to focus more on marital strategies. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, manymarriage guides painted cautionary portraits of whatmarriage could be. Though many marriages wereperfect unions of kindred spirits, others were between"unmatched souls . . . held in hateful contiguity by alegal bond, but divided in heart by a torrent ofpassionate aversion."? An American writing in 1 871decried "modern" womens fashions: "A big hump,three big lumps, a wilderness of crimps and frills, ahauling up of the dress here and there, an enormous
hideous mass of false hair or bark piled on the top ofher head . . . while the shop windows tell us all daylong, of the paddings, whalebones, and springs,which occupy most of the space within that outsiderig. . . . How is a man to fall in love with such acompound, doubled and twisted, starched, comical,artificial, touch-me-not, wiggling curiosity?"8 In Modem Marriage: A Handbook (1 925), PaulPopenoe, known as the father of North Americanmarriage counselling, found men equally repulsive:"What pimply-faced, hollow-chested, greasy, flabbyspecimens many of them are; saturated with theproducts of constipation, flavored with nicotine andfusel oil, peppered with the germs of gonorrhea! Is itany wonder a superior girl looks over these fellows,thinks of being tied to one for life and havingchildren like him, and shudders?"9 (A eugenics expertwho believed that blacks were racially inferior,Popenoe argued against intermarriage and forregulating human reproduction for the good ofsociety. He also wrote the Ladies Home Journalslong-lived and wildly popular "Can This Marriage BeSaved?" column, based on case histories .) In Eves Daughters; or Common Sense for Maid, Wife,and Mother (1 882), Marion Harland presentedmarriage from the perspective of the disillusionednewlywed bride who must tolerate everything,including infidelity, "the heavy cross appointed foryou to carry" that is a sadly common "crime" thatwomen have to bear "because they must! " Andthrough all marriages trials and tribulations, awoman must remember always: better to lose hisaffection than his respect. 10 By the early twentieth century, Dr. Sylvanus Stallsclassics What a Young Wife Ought to Know and What aYoung Husband Ought to Know emphasized mutual
interests and suggested that a pre-nuptial campingtrip would be an excellent test of compatibility. Thehomemaker wife and mother and the providerhusband and father together form a complete unit,each sex superior in its own sphere. Moderation ineverything was the key: not too much sexualintercourse, not too many children, no extremeclothing such as corsets or high heels. Novels, devoured by the literate minority, providedintimate portraits of fictional marriages and, by thelate 1 820s, supplanted marriage manuals inpopularity. By the Victorian era, this genreproliferated, with the stories usually structured topreach moral messages contextualized within lifelikestories "on the There but for the Grace of Godcombined with the How like my life principles,"according to historian Judith Rowbotham in GoodGirls Make Good Wives. ll The ubiquity and influenceof novels prompted La Rochefoucauld-Doudeauville,in his Family Guide, to advise mothers to warn theirdaughters against reading novels, which, he warned,encouraged them to believe in a kind of happinessthat does not exist, thereby weakening their moralfibre. 12 In the United States, the Reverent DanielWise, author of The Young Ladys Counselor (1 857),commented caustically about "the multitude whoform their notions of love and marriage from sicklynovels, from theatrical performances, and fromflippant conversation."13 HOPE CHESTS AND COMING OUTMost western European and North American girlsexpected to marry, and all the literature influencedtheir expectations. And they were keenly aware ofthe domestic dimensions of marriage and the need to
establish their own households. Their female relativeshelped out by contributing to a hope chest, the nameitself an acknowledgment of the very real possibilitythat not all girls would find these hoped-forhusbands. The hope chest was a sturdy box-thoughit could also be a drawer or part of a closetdedicated to the accumulation of linens, silverware,and other essential household items. Hope chestsoriginated in medieval European peasant culturesand, by the last decades of the nineteenth centuryand the first of the twentieth, were an establishedtradition among both peasant and middle-class girlsin both Europe and North America. Hope chests were common in North Americanhomes until recent decades. As late as 1967, a studyof university students found that 38 percent wereassembling a hope chest. "In a sense, " the studyconcluded, "the hope chest represents on asymbolical level a young womans aspirations and ona reality level her concrete investment in the maritalestate prior to its onset. " 1 4 The annual birthdayspoon, Christmas tea cup, and Easter pillowcaseinculcated in the growing girl her communitys valuesand expectations, and framed marriage in essentiallydomestic terms. The privileged classes had different priorities, chiefamong them the snaring of socially and financiallysuitable spouses. After the Industrial Revolutioncreated a bourgeoisie so wealthy that its memberscould aspire to marrying into the aristocracy, amarketplace in which to introduce and match eligibleyoung men and women was needed. The social"coming out" of debutantes provided both venue andritual. These debutantes, usually seventeen oreighteen years old, were launched into adult societyduring the social season of balls, dinners, and formalvisiting. In England, young belles were presented in
one of the drawing rooms at the Court of St. Jamess;elsewhere, the ceremony was held at royal courts,grand ballrooms, or hotels. The debutantes required a facility for dancing,singing, or playing a musical instrument, anunderstanding of societys rules and customs, and amodicum of beauty or at least handsomeness. Theseattributes were, of course, offered within the contextof her parents social status, reputation, and wealth,and the dowry and connections she would bring toher marriage. Debutantes had one season to find a husband, Aprilto August in England and usually from November toJanuary in North America. In the United States, asearly as 1 748, fifty-nine families in Philadelphia held"Dancing Assemblies" that introduced young womento polite society and, hopefully, to their futurehusbands. Failure to make a match was adisappointment for both the young woman and herparents . She could still marry but, shopworn andeclipsed by each seasons newcomers, she had tolower her sights as her prospects worsened. In the antebellum American South, teenaged girlsleft their schooldays behind to come out into society,meet and enchant a suitable beau, and afterwardmarry him and devote the rest of their days tokeeping house and raising children, just as theirmothers had. That was, as diary after diary reveals,the problem: though they flung themselves into thesocial round that coming out involved, revelling inthe chance to dress fashionably and to show off theircultivated young beauty, "they proved remarkablyresistant to the intended purpose of this stage of life:finding a husband, " writes historian Anya Jabour inScarletts Sisters. I S One such resister was North Carolinian PenelopeSkinner, who staved off marrying by flirting,
attracting then rejecting one suitor after another: inthree years, she sent thirty suitors packing. InWashington, D. C., Laura Wirt declined threeproposals and declared, "I do not fall in love. "16 Likemost other eligible young women, Penelope andLaura eventually married, but only after years ofindulged freedom as unattached "belles" still "on theCarpet. " Debutantes at the Tidal Basin, Washington, D. C. (photo credit 2.3)
A delighted debutante in her designer evening gown, ca. 1 91 6. (photo credit 2.4)
Debutantes in 1 923, likely before they began a dance rehearsal thatincluded the CharlestoTL Their accompanist is playing from popular songbooks. (photo credit 2.5) When Penelope finally fell in love with andmarried Thomas Warren, a physician whose workoften took him away from home, she suffered greatlyfrom loneliness. "I have nothing to do but to think onmy sorrows-while you have your business to attendto & young companions to associate with," shecomplained. "Being absent from you has the sameeffect on me that sickness has-it perfectly subduesme-makes me as meek & gentle as possible." 1 7 Lauramarried Thomas Randall and, heartsick at leaving herfamily ("My heart falters . . . dies within me . . . 1 killmyself by dwelling on this")-moved with him to aFlorida homestead. 18
Penelope Warren became pregnant almost at once,and concentrated on taking great care of herself: inletters to her husband, she described her healthfuldiet, "loose" clothes, "troublesome" but "hardly at allpainful" hemorrhoids, and determinedly cheerfulspirits. In January 1 841 she gave birth to a daughterand, in sad justification of her dread of childbirth,died shortly after. 19 Laura Wirt Randall did not die but, despite a whitenurse and several slave women, was exhausted byrepeated pregnancies and nursing infants: "I declareif I thot I was to be thus occupied for the rest of mylife, I wd-I was going to say-lie down & die. It wdbe a slavery beyond that of all the galleys-& for alifetime too ! " Laura was even unhappier about hermarriage and husband, whom she no longer loved. "Iam now, as my husband declares the most miserable,poor, good-for-nothing woman he ever saw. "20 In patrician England, where money and statusweighed more heavily than love, expectations werecorrespondingly different. In the 1 870s, debutanteAlice Catherine Miles navigated the season and kept afrank account of it in her diary. Alices family was toolarge to allow her a good income, and even atseventeen, she knew that she could satisfy herexpensive tastes only by parlaying her connectionsand beauty into marrying a man with at least £5,000per year. At the same time, her modest means putvery rich men, like flirtatious young Henry CharlesKeith Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne-he had inherited an estate of 1 40,000 acres inBritain and Ireland-out of bounds, so that payingattention to his advances wasted precious time(though he was scarcely serious; she was too poor forconsideration). Alice understood that she could nevercompete with the likes of Miss Harriet Ives Wright,"rather a pretty little heiress . . . who I suspect will put
us all in the shade from the mere fact of herpossessing £4,000 a year."21 Typical of her society, Alice was obsessed withincome and real estate. As her cousin introduced herto eligible bachelors, he provided "a rapidlywhispered enumeration of their possession and socialstanding: "Beauty Campbell, Captain, Guards,splendid place in the North, £20,000 a year:Captain Campbell-Miss Miles." Alice made shortshrift of one would-be suitor, Sir Samuel, "as I hadpreviously ascertained he has only £4, 000 a year, "well below her minimum. 22 Alices pursuit of a suitable marriage was astuteand calculated. Her familys inability to provide anadequate dowry seriously handicapped her, but theyhad tried to counter this with her excellent personalpreparation for the marriage market. Toward the endof 1 869, twenty-year-old Alice identified a suitableprospect: George Duppa, a sheep rancher thirty-threeyears her senior who had made a fortune in NewZealand. She had few illusions about the nature oftheir union, though she believed that Georges wealthwould offset the age difference and any personalincompatibility. But what truly mattered was that shehad achieved her long-time goal of securing amoneyed bridegroom.
Chapter 3 Weddings and the Married State THE MYSTERY OF WEDDINGSIt is 1 434, and a handsome young couple stands,hands clasped in contented intimacy, in their sundrenched bedroom. Giovanni di Arrigo Amolfini, amerchant from Lucca who frequently visited Bruges,and Giovanna Cenami are richly clothed, he cloakedin fur, she in an ermine-trimmed green gown. As heholds her slender hand he gazes forward and pointsslightly; she rests her fingers on her swelling stomachand gazes toward the hand that holds hers. A tinyterrier stands beside her, close to her trailing gown,eyes alert and tail high. Giovanni and Giovanna are sharing a tendermoment that the great portrait painter Jan Van Eyckimmortalizes in glazed layers of oil paint. If Giovannatires of posing, she can lounge on the bed behind her.But it is much more likely that she relaxes on thechair beneath which her shoes lie askew. Giovanniswooden clogs are still beside him, as if he hasshucked them off where he stands. What does this portrait mean? Why, more than halfa millennium later, do scholars still engage inpassionate debate about The Amolfini Portrait? AreGiovanna and Giovanni already married, marrying,or pledging their troths? Or does their joint portraitsignify something else altogether? Is she pregnant? Isshe even-alive?
Van Eycks Arnolfini Portrait, painted in 1 434. (photo credit 3.1) The mystery has its origins in the vagaries ofmarriage as much as in artistic metaphor. 1 Oneinterpretation is that the painting is actually amarriage licence. Clandestine marriages requiredonly the spouses consent, and Giovannis raised handindicates his pledging an oath that he and Giovannahad just recited, while their j oined hands were atraditional element in ancient marriage. The dog,symbol of fidelity, and the likeness of Saint Margaret,patron saint of childbirth, carved into the bed
reinforce this hypothesis. Van Eycks image reflectedin the mirror, and his stylized signature on the wallover it, seem to confirm that he was witness to amarriage, and that his painting doubled as a marriagelicence. On the other hand, Van Eyck might be painting analready married couple, comfortably posed in theirlavishly furnished house alongside their cherishedlittle dog. After all, why would such obviouslywealthy people resort to a clandestine marriagerather than the ostentatious wedding that wouldimpress the grooms guests and prove his worth? Or perhaps the painting records a betrothalceremony, an alliance designed like a businesscontract between two prominent and affluent Italianfamilies. But Giovannas hair, styled like a wifesrather than worn long, in the manner of a virgin,contradicts this. So does her presence in the portrait,because in Tuscan betrothals only male relativesattended. No, the painting is a legal document validatingGiovannas right to Giovannis power-of-attorneywhen he travels on business, as he so often does; heis, after all, a major textile supplier to the Burgundiancourt. The double portrait flatters both husband andwife, and the symbols-faithful dog, round belly, andblossoming cherry tree-suggest faithfulness, fertility,and a strong marriage. Even when he is absent, thepainting proclaims, Giovanna has her husbands fullconfidence. Yet all the above may be wrong, even their names.Arnolfini is not Giovanni Arrigo-Arrigo marriedthirteen years after the portrait was painted, and sixyears after Van Eycks death-but Giovanni diNicolao, his cousin, and Van Eycks painting is amemorial to his wife, Costanza Trenta, who by 1 434had already died, likely in childbirth, at the age of
twenty. But why, in an era when women were notvalued as individuals but for their lineage, was adead woman memorialized? Precisely because of herlineage, which was the basis for the alliance hermarriage had cemented. The evidence for this theory is persuasive.Costanzas blue-lined green dress symbolizesfaithfulness and the state of being in love; Giovannissombre garb expresses his grief at losing her.Costanza is deathly pale; he is in sad shadows. Thelittle dog at her feet will be her companion in theafterlife, as are so many other dogs in funeralportraits of laid-out women. She died childless, andso her rounded belly hints at a pregnancy that she,like so many other women, did not survive. Thesingle carpet and the two silver candlesticks signifythat the bed behind her is the bed in which she willlie-in-and die in. Even the carved Saint Margaret issubdued, sorrowing rather than proudly besting thedragon. And Costanzas hand is not folded intoGiovannis but rather lies limply, fingers alreadyslipping away. Nearly six centuries after Van Eyck painted hismasterpiece, its meaning and layered dimensionsremain baffling. Art historians steeped in the historyof fifteenth-century marriage interpret the paintingsrich details in the light of law and custom, and theirmany versions of what it means are testimony to thecomplex nature of weddings and their relationship tomarriage, and to the social, economic, and legalfoundations of individual marriages. THE WEDDING PROCESSVan Eycks cryptic painting is living testimony to themysteries of marriage. At what precise moment did
men and women make the transition from theunmarried to the married state? Was it after areligious or civil authority made his finalpronouncement? Was it the moment the ink was dryon the deed of marriage? Was it, as in the Catholictradition, when a man and woman agreed betweenthem that they were married, even if no witnesseswere present? 2 Was it as soon as the spousal partnershad, through sexual intercourse, consummated, andthereby legitimized, their marriage? Was it when abloodstained sheet testified that the bride had been avirgin? There is no single answer because around theworld, marriage has always been a complex processthat involved parents, relatives, and the communityas much as the marrying couple. Parents exercised so much control over theirchildrens marriages that the children were oftenexcluded from the arrangements. In 1 4 1 3, inDerbyshire, an English father negotiated a marriagecontract but reserved the right to decide at a laterdate which one of his two daughters would be thebride.3 Marriage contracts often specified the namesof siblings who would wed in place of the bride orgroom should one die before the wedding. InReformation Germany, after the brides parentsaccepted the groom or his representatives proposaland agreed on property and inheritance issues, thecouple was formally engaged and referred to as"bride and groom." Traditionally, they wereintroduced only after both sets of parents agreed tothe provisions of the contract. France took a different path from the rest ofEurope. In France, the church and the state wagedferocious battles to control marriage. The church sawmarriage as a sacrament that a consenting man andwoman conferred on each other and that was alsoconfirmed sexually and blessed by church nuptials.
Clandestine marriages, however, meant secretpromises, and so the churchs clerics, lawyers, judges,and courts strove to regulate them through exactingpenance and by re-enacting the alleged or clandestinemarriage. The French state, on the other hand,claimed that marriage was primarily "a public acttransmitting family property, sanctioned by the state,and tied to the public good."4 Clandestine marriage,often the fruit of abduction, seduction, or sexualpassion, violated the "natural law" of honouringparents and abiding by the French civil law; as such,these marriages were illegal and challenged Frenchstate authority. A series of edicts reinforced Frances positionagainst the church. The first French marital edict, in1 557, set the tone. It required minors to obtain bothparents consent and raised the age of majority fromtwenty to thirty for men, and from seventeen totwenty-five for women, effectively trapping youngadults in childhood. The edict allowed parents tolegally disinherit "children" who marriedclandestinely, thereby forfeiting their right to adowry and an inheritance. It also directed judges incivil courts to determine penalties. The 1579 Ordinance of Blois strengthened the edictof 1 557. It removed clandestine marriage cases fromchurch court jurisdiction by making clandestinity acapital crime, and capital crimes could be heard onlyin civil court. (In practice, most judges opted toimpose fines, banishment, or imprisonment ratherthan the death penalty.) It also extended theclandestinity charge to majors (men over thirty,women over twenty-five) and to all levels of society,from the highest to the lowest. The ordinanceestablished Frances official standard for marriage:before a priest officiated at a wedding, he had toobtain proof of age and parental consent for minors,
publish marriage banns, and ensure the presence offour witnesses. The marriage of Pierre Houlbronne and ElisabethPallier tested Frances commitment to the FrenchMarital Law Compact, unique in Europe and fiercelydefended as a cornerstone of national sovereignty.Since 1587, Elisabeth, a widow, had lived withPierre, who fathered her children, all of whom haddied. In 1 595, a church judge moved to re-enact theirclandestine marriage. When Pierre resisted, the judgehad him arrested and thrown into prison. When atlast the unwilling bridegroom capitulated, churchguards escorted him to his wedding. Later, Pierre began a new job in the Palais deJustice. It made him a marital catch who, his parentsfelt, could do much better than Elisabeth. They founda more suitable candidate and petitioned to have hismarriage annulled on the grounds that they had notconsented to it though Pierre had been a minor.Enraged, Elisabeth lodged a complaint at a churchcourt that Pierre planned to abandon her for anotherwoman his parents had arranged for him to marry.The court ruled that, despite the lack of banns andparental consent, the re-enacted wedding hadlegitimized the marriage. Pierres parents appealed this judgment to theParlement of Paris. In 1601, French civil judges ruledagainst the decision of the church court becausechurch officers had intimidated Pierre intoconsenting, and the ensuing wedding lacked thebanns and parental consent necessary to authenticateit. Their decision transformed Pierre into a bachelorand Elisabeth into an unwed mother, albeit childless.The case underscored the churchs determination tore-enact clandestine marriages between minors andthose of age, to bully couples (or individual spouses)
to submit, and to place canon law above French civillaw. Elsewhere in Europe, parental consent, publishedbanns, two witnesses, and written records ofmarriages were merely recommended. In theirabsence, however, the couples "wedding" could bere-enacted and thereby validated. Until the fifteenth century, marriage forced by rapeor kidnapping was also practised in England. (It wasalso common in Central and parts of Southeast Asia,Turkey, the rainforests of the Philippines, Central andSouth America, and parts of Africa.) As well asviolating the property rights and the pride of thefathers and male relatives of the victim, such anassault instantly eroded her bride price and made hera social pariah. Usually such marriages were rootedin violence and pain, and could exist only in societiesthat held women in low regard and valued theirvirginity as a fragile commodity owned by the father.(A persistent legend holds that honeymoons are relicsof marriage by capture, when a new "husband" hidout with his wife hoping to impregnate her so thather relatives would no longer plan retaliatoryattacks.) But there was a way out: the abducted bride couldnegate her disgrace by staying with her husband. Andsometimes she wanted to. Indeed, some youngcouples defied their parents disapproval-oralternative marriage arrangements-by staging boguskidnappings that effectively disguised elopement asbride capture and forced parents shamed by adaughters "rape" to agree to an otherwiseunacceptable groom.
MARRIAGE CONTRACTSMarriage contracts, agreed to by the spouses parents,included a trousseau and dowry, and even thepoorest girls parents tried to supply a bed. InAugsburg as elsewhere, a civic dowry fund helpedpoor couples equip themselves. In many parts ofEngland, Wales, Lutheran Germany, and Germanspeaking Switzerland, the community collectedhousehold goods for the couple and money for theirwedding celebrations. The contract and the bride and grooms exchangeof marriage promises were publicly proclaimed,sometimes on church property. Then, in keeping withthe custom for completing deeds of sale, the coupleshared a celebratory drink and shook hands toconfirm the agreement. A wealthy groom might alsopresent jewellery. They were now engaged, andcalled each other bride and groom. What was the significance of an engagement?What, besides sexual urgency and social pressure,drove men to marry? (Unlike men, women seldomhad a choice about marrying.) The answer, for themerchant, trade, and professional classes, was thatmarriage was the key to achieving social, financial,and political adulthood. For example, a journeymanor tradesman who had completed his apprenticeshipand could now support a wife endeavoured tocoordinate the transition to master by marrying."Marriage marked the boundary between the guild ofmasters, who had to have wives, and the journeymen,who ought not to, and weddings enacted the rites ofpassage between these two states, " explains historianLyndal Roper.5 Some other advantages for men (andwomen): non-patrician spouses gained patricianrights as long as their patrician spouses lived, andnon-citizens acquired citizens rights. (Though wives
gained some control over their new household, theyremained politically impotent and financiallydependent on their husbands.) Now followed weeks or months of weddingpreparations interspersed with parties, and all ofthese together constituted the marriage. The weddingitself involved days of feasts and dances, culminatingin either a ceremony at the church door or a bridalmass. Though the very devout and the veryabstemious married in sedate privacy, for mostpeople weddings were the occasion for exuberantcelebration, drinking and feasting, boisterous pranks,and ostentatious display. No other event, even such life passages as births orfunerals, was worthy of such expenditure. The finerthe jewels offered a bride, the more luxurious herapparel, the more extravagant the feasts offered, themore prestige accrued to the couple and theirparents . Sumptuary rules, however, limited howmuch members of each social class might spend: insixteenth-century Nuremberg, for example, no morethan 1 50 gulden on rings for the brides of patricians,75 for merchants, and 3 for ordinary citizens. (Atrained midwife earned 2 to 8 gulden annually, amale barber-surgeon 1 0 to 25 gulden.) The poorstruggled to compete, even pawning their meagregoods to raise money. Privacy was seldom an option.Weddings were public, and local chroniclersdescribed the most impressive. Sumptuary rules for weddings also limited thenumber of guests, although foreigners andchurchmen were excluded from the count. Patricianpetitions for extra guests were usually accepted, butthose of less distinguished citizens were denied. Toensure compliance, civic officials queried guests andothers about details of the wedding. The guests of theless well-off ate in taverns and paid out of their
pockets, whereas the wealthy paid for their guestsfood. The dishes they served were varied andabundant, and both church and secular officialsurged, usually unsuccessfully, that the surplus bedonated to the needy. Staking out ones social position was a centralfunction of weddings. Bachelors on horses carriedpatricians invitations to guests; before they left, theyenjoyed a wine-splashed wedding breakfast.Tradespeople paid Hochzeitslader ("wedding inviters")to walk to the homes of those invited; poorer peoplemanaged without any such formalities. As weddings became "pageants of the towns socialstructure, where each individual might read off his orher place in that society, " and sexual definition wasrigidly enforced, civic authorities even determinedthe order in which people walked to the church. InAugsburg, a 1 571 decree dictated that bankrupt menshould sit with the women at weddings-"a powerfuldenigration of their manhood at a moment whenritual rejoiced in the dissimilarity of the sexes." (Atdifferent times, sometimes only decades apart, and indifferent regions, and among different social classes,men and women were separated at weddings-butnot always. "Throughout the wedding ritual, themutually complete but distinct offices of husband andwife found non-verbal expression in gifts, clothes andaction. Moving from single-sex celebrations to partiesfor men and women together, weddings constantlycreated and reflected on sexual difference. ")6 In both religious and secular wedding rituals, brideand groom symbolically gave themselves to eachother by sharing food and drink or by holding hands,and by exchanging rings and vows at the churchdoor. This exchange of rings was integral to theceremony. An early sixteenth-century marriagemanual explained that the ring must be worn on the
fourth finger of the left hand, where a vein connectedto the heart, just as the couple was sexually andemotionally united. As a circle made of gold, themost precious of metals, the ring represented bothfertility and the enduring nature of marriage. Thematrimony rite in the English Book of CommonPrayer described the ring as a "token and pledge"that, just as "Isaac and Rebecca lived faithfullytogether, so these persons may surely perform andkeep the vow and covenant betwixt them made." The bride typically wore a wreath on her flowinghair, symbolic of her virginity. She also presented thegroom with a wreath at the time of their engagementand at the wedding, where her bridesmaidsdistributed wreaths to guests. (Brides known to havehad sex with their grooms before marriage could beforced to wear a straw wreath open at the back.) During the wedding ceremony, held at the churchdoor or inside the church, sermons drummed homethe message of wifely subservience to the husbandwho would keep and "rule her and the whole housein Christian earnest and by good example." But manywomen resorted to folkways to gain the marital upperhand, for example by putting mustard and dill intheir shoes. To an eighteenth- or nineteenth-centurycommunity, the wedding ceremony was notnecessarily the defining moment that made thecouple "married." More important was the custom of"going to church and street, " the public processionsto the church and then to the couples new lodgings,all to the beat of pipe and drum. If the legitimacy ofthe marriage was later questioned, witnesses to thosepublic processions, rather than church documents,constituted proof. At the same time, social as opposedto legal recognition of a marriage was more nebulous.One man described a woman he visited as
"practically his wife or not far off it." Another saidthat "he has taken a wife . . . but they have not heldthe wedding yet. " A woman pledged to "go to churchand streets, according to Christian custom, with myhusband to whom I am now married. "7 The public role in legitimizing marriages includedreading the banns of marriage three times before theactual wedding. ("If any of you know cause, or justimpediment, why these two persons should not bejoined together in holy Matrimony, ye are to declareit. ") Before the Reformation, the church hadencouraged banns, though it also sanctioned apriestly pre-wedding "bridal examination" thateffectively eliminated the likelihood that anyonewould object to the marriage for reasons of kinship orprior engagement. Reformation Protestants, whodefined marriage as secular rather than a sacrament,believed strongly that banns should be read beforethe congregation. Some German cities levied hefty fines on those whomarried in Winkelehen, private or secret marriages orelopements without parental permission, though theystill acknowledged them as legal. Communitymembers, however, were inclined to act as if theywere not, and often challenged the legitimacy ofchildren born to privately married parents. InEngland, some clerics offered cut-rate prices forclandestine marriages devoid of banns and ritual.After these were outlawed by the 1 753 Marriage Act,many poor English people emulated their Europeancounterparts and simply lived together as man andwife. The state of being married had the effect ofimplementing the terms of the marriage contract. Thebride brought a trousseau and household goods,anything from a good bed, tin pans, and a cow to asmall fortune in cash, while her groom brought the
tools of the trade with which he would support thehousehold, anything from carpentry to property,investments, or real estate. The bride also broughtthe dowry, which the groom afterward controlled.Should he die leaving no children, the dowry wouldrevert to his widow. These inheritance relationships, however, and alsothe "morning gift, " a legal provision for supporting awife should her husband predecease her, took effectonly after a successful wedding night. In keeping withthe public nature of marriage, the wedding night wasthe subject of intense public scrutiny. After thefeasting, celebrating, dancing, and often ribaldentertainment, guests watched as the bride andgroom left for the bridal chamber. At that point thebrides virginal wreath was removed, her father orrelatives handed her over to the groom, and, thewedding party hoped, her virginity would soon ceaseto exist. If this happened, the next morning shewould receive her morning gift, a sum of money thatremained in her possession. (Remarrying widows,having no virginity to give, were ineligible for amorning gift.) The wedding night was fraught with danger fromevil spirits, black magic spells cast by jealous exlovers, and impotence, the last a cause for annulling amarriage. Before the Reformation, Catholic cleansingrituals defused evil spirits. Afterward, variousstratagems were employed, including, in France,marrying after dark. In Germany and elsewhere,wedding guests combated malevolent forces bydrinking, singing, and shouting bawdily. Wherepermitted, the Catholic Church blessed both bed andbedroom. On wedding nights, the local community gatheredto celebrate or censure the newlyweds. In France,charivaris (transplanted to England and later Canada
and the United States, where they are known asshivarees) could be raucous events, as jeeringparticipants clanged pots and pans, heckling olderwomen and old men who married youngsters, orimpatient widows or widowers who married whilestill in mourning, and punishing them by keepingthem up all night. (British immigrant Susanna Moodie described herfirst Canadian charivari in 1 834, a terrifyingcacophony of clanking metal, horns, drums, andcracked fiddles, shrieking, and gunshots. A neighbourtold her the charivari was "a queer custom" borrowedby English Canadians from the French, during whichlocal idlers disguised themselves by blackening andmasking their faces, and sporting clothes put on backto front and "grotesque caps . . . adorned with cocksfeathers and bells."8 As in Europe, charivaris could befatal. After a runaway slave escaped to Canada andmarried an Irish woman, a mob that included thesons of prominent families broke into his house,dragged him from his bed, and rode him on a rail.Naked in the freezing night, the just-wed bridegroomdied at their tormenting hands. In its early twentiethcentury manifestation in Louisiana, an observerexplained, "It is a matter of inequality, or lack ofbalance, that makes for charivari. A widower of fiftyeight takes a bride of eighteen. Ho-ho, he has a noisecoming to him, that one. What you think, ahn? ") When the bride and groom were well matched,charivaris were crudely cheerful. In parts of ruralFrance, the tradition was (and still is) for drunkenbachelor wedding guests to break in, pull the coupleout of bed, and dump them onto the floor. Then theyoffered a curious gift: a chamber pot full ofchampagne and chocolate, symbolizing urine andfeces, which everyone devoured.9 In earlier times, thepot would contain a roast chicken, eggs, and a doll,
symbols of sex and fertility. This custom originated inthe Middle Ages and sprang from the communitysneed to control the process of marriage, including theappropriateness of the spouses, and to ensure thatsexual intercourse confirmed it. In England, revellingwedding guests escorted the couple to bed, playedcrude games, and, the next morning, woke thenewlyweds with loud music and banter. Post-wedding charivaris also humiliated spouseswhose behaviour offended their community;favourite victims were husbands whose wives beatthem. Over a long period, as new notions of privacyspread, bourgeois newlyweds began to spend theirwedding night in a secret location, alone.The dissolute Tom Rakewell has wasted his inheritance, so he marries a rich old one-eyed woman he intends to bilk of her fortune. In thispainting from Hogarths "A Rakes Progress, " Tom strains to look athis "brides" maid. His abandoned fiancee, mother of his child, standsin the background with her mother, desperate to prevent the wedding.
The two dogs symbolize the bizarre nature of the wedding. (photo credit 3.2) CHURCH WEDDINGS: PORCH, YARD, OR INTERIORMarriage was the only one of seven sacraments thatdid not require priestly participation and religiousinvocation. The consent of the spouses alone wassufficient, although, after the mid-twelfth century,the mutual declarations "I take you as my husband"and "I take you as my wife" were also required.Throughout western Europes sixteenth-centuryReformation, church, state, and reformers wagedbattle over whether the nature of marriage wassacramental, spiritual, or CIVIC. Though theoverwhelming majority of people were unaware of it,the site of weddings and the liturgy were thebattlegrounds. From the fourteenth to the sixteenthcenturies, the public exchange of vows in the churchporch was both the custom and the fashion. TheReformation, seeking to cleanse marriage of thesullying effects of blending economic interests withthe religious ceremony, moved weddings from thechurchs porch to its holier interior. The nature of betrothals, or spousals, slowlychanged as well. Traditionally, betrothed couples hadreferred to each other as man and wife even thoughthey did not act as if they were fully married, byhaving sex and cohabiting. But by the lateseventeenth century, writes historian Christine Peters,spousals could be described as "in great measureworn out of use. "l O One reason was that, more andmore, spousals did not precede church weddings. Among prosperous English people, the weddingserved as the vehicle for spouses to consent to theirmarriage, as spousals used to. Even then, the
completion of the financial arrangements andcohabitation did not always immediately follow.Brides often returned to their parents, and themarriage was finalized only later, when theirhusbands brought them "home." Although the Reformation clarified the boundariesbetween sacred and secular, people continued tocelebrate marriage with weddings that mingled thereligious with the secular as in pre-Reformation days,when priests sometimes blessed spousals or rings.They also bestowed religious meanings on formerlysecular customs, as priests served wine in place of"love drinks, " organ music replaced the pipes anddrums, and wedding sermons taught both wifelysubservience and the horrors of adultery. A PROTESTANT WEDDINGOver the centuries, all these developments andrefinements, to say nothing of regional, national,religious, and class variations, changed the religiousand political meanings of marriage and, to a lesserextent, the face of European and, later, NorthAmerican weddings. The well-documented midsixteenth-century courtship, wedding, and marriageof Felix and Madlen Platter is an intriguing case studyof how that upwardly mobile professional-class SwissCalvinist couple celebrated their nuptials. l l
The Peasant Wedding by Bruegel, 1 568. The bride is depicted in the traditional posture of modesty, in front of a dark green cloth beside crossed sheaves of wheat, symbols offertility. Her groom is not identified; he may be the man pouring out beer or serving food.Bruegel, black-clad and red-bearded, sits on the far right, chatting with a monk. (photo credit 3.3) Felix Platters father, Thomas, an autodidactprinter and boarding schoolmaster, had first glimpsedMadlen Jeckelmann on a visit to her surgeon father.Though Felix was only fifteen, Thomas decided thatMadlen, a very shy and pretty teenager, would be hisbride. He and Dr. Jeckelmann began to negotiate theterms of the marriage and exchanged small gifts. Felix was delighted to learn that he was engaged,and eagerly set out to fulfill Dr. Jeckelmannsstipulation that he establish himself professionally.With Thomass help, Felix enrolled in the worldrenowned medical faculty at the UniversiteMontpellier and returned to Basel in 1 557, with hisbachelors and masters degrees. But, because he andMadlen had not been formally introduced, Madlenfled whenever she happened upon him in the street.
Felix respected her circumspection and the fact thather father insisted on strict observance of socialniceties. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, the Platter familysbiographer, divides the Platters "campaign" to winMadlens hand into three phases: the introduction,the marriage proposal, and the romance. They wereofficially introduced at a formal luncheon at ThomasPlatters country estate; Madlens father attendedalong with her brother Daniel and his fiancee,Dorothea. After the post-prandial music and dancing,at which Felix played the lute and danced thegalliard, an athletic dance much loved by QueenElizabeth I, the group walked back to Basel. "Whentwo young people are fond of each other and see eachother frequently, " Dorothea counselled Felix andMadlen, "they mustnt wait too long [to marry] , forthere can easily be a mishap." Madlen blushed atDorotheas reference to sex. Felix, reflecting on thedays events, felt "like stone." As the campaign entered its next phase, Felix andMadlen began to establish a personal relationship.They went cherry picking together with approvedchaperones. They chatted in the privacy of her homethough never in public. When Madlen complainedbecause a much older widow was flirting with Felix,he broke off all contact with the other woman. Felixwas by then madly in love and Madlen responded tohis fervent declarations with shy warmth. Dr. Jeckelmann was a more difficult conquest. Heheld out for better terms, demanding, among otherthings, that Felix obtain his doctorate. He worried somuch about Thomas Platters financial soundness thatthe intervention of various friends and relatives wasrequired to convince him to clinch the deal. Felixsmentor, Professor Hans Huber, brought Dr.Jeckelmann Felixs formal proposal and reassured the
physician that Thomas Platters real estate was worthmore than his notorious debts. He also made severalpromises. First, Thomas would close his studentboarding house because Madlen would find it toonoisy. Secondly, she would continue to manage herfathers household as well as Felixs; Dr. Jeckelmannneed not worry about losing his housekeeper. Lastly,Felix would complete all the requirements for hisdoctorate. Felix, who was to become a noted physician andmedical scholar, was up to the challenge. OnSeptember 20, 1557, before his twenty-first birthday,he was awarded his doctorate and appointed aprofessor at the university. On November 1 8, Dr.Felix Platter accompanied his father to Dr.Jeckelmanns to sign the marriage contract. Dr. Jeckelmann had four witnesses; the Plattershad three. The meeting, in a room off the kitchenwhere Madlen stood eavesdropping, was acrimoniousand, for the rookie physician and his hopelesslyindebted father, humiliating. Jeckelmanns proposeddowry was stingy and his financial demands werecrushing. In desperation, Thomas pledged that, inlieu of a cash contribution, he would lodge and feedthe young couple in his own home and, as promised,give notice to his noisy student lodgers. The subduedand disheartened Platters, Dr. Jeckelmann, and theseven witnesses "celebrated" the signed contract.
Felix Platter in 1 584, twenty-seven years after his marriage to Madlen Jeckelmann. (photo credit 3.4) From Dr. Jeckelmanns perspective, the deal hadgone well. He considered Felix an accomplished manwith a brilliant future and excellent connections. ButMadlen had other suitors and, though her heart wasset on Felix, her father would not compromise on hisdemands . He was sure he knew what was best forher, and he also factored in the cost of her weddingand the loss of her undivided attention to hisdomestic needs. Many other widowers, loath to lose
their daughters housekeeping skills, forbade them tomarry. Two days later, on November 20, 1 557, onehundred and fifty people, among them merchants,artisans, medical men, Protestant clergymen, a fewartists, and four nobles, were invited to theNovember 22 wedding. On Sunday, November 21,the Thomas Platter household frantically cleaned,cooked, and baked in preparation for the next daysfestivities. They had to live up to their communitysand their new in-laws expectations. Felix dressed in a close-fitting blood-red silk jacketset off by flesh-coloured breeches and a wedding shirtwith a short ruff, gold pins, and collar; his head wascovered with his velvet doctoral cap decorated withbraided pearls and flowers. Madlen, less spectacular,wore a blouse that turned out to be the same colouras Felixs breeches. A printer led the weddingprocession to the church. There, Dr. Jeckelmann gaveMadlen away to Felix, who exchanged vows and ringswith her. After the marriage sermon, everyone set outfor the Platter house. Fifteen tables had been set up throughout thehouse. Felix presided over the table for elite males inone room, Madlen over the table for elite females inanother. The first of two substantial meals began.Appetizers included chopped fish, soup, meat, andchicken, followed by entrees of boiled pike, roastbeef, pigeon, cock and goose, boiled rice, and liver inaspic, and after that Gruyere cheese and fruit. Whenthe guests could eat no more, the entertainmentthat fundamental element of celebrating weddingsbegan. The guests may have expected the usual wildofferings provided by wandering musicians, clowns,rhymesters, and sometimes even prostitutes, ascelebrants turned their backs on decorum, lost their
inhibitions, and engaged in rowdy dances andobscene gestures and jokes. No number of decrees,rules, or ordinances could erase peoples interest inthe erotic possibilities and the sexual realities thatmarriage evoked. The Platter-Jeckelmann guests,however, were treated to a childrens choir fromThomas Platters school. Afterward, Felix performed asolo galliard. Madlen, too bashful to join him, lookedon as her husband leapt, jumped, and hopped for hisguests edification. Supper followed, a lavish meal that mostlyobserved the sumptuary rules. Chicken liver, tripe,meat soup, and chicken were succeeded by boiledcarp and then roast, Black Forest game stew, and fishcakes; this time the dessert was pastries, even thoughthe sumptuary rules mentioned only cheese and fruit. Evening fell. The guests were stuffed and soused. Itwas time to end the wedding and begin the marriage.Felix now joined Madlen and served sugared claret tothe matrons who had gathered around her to offerencouragement and advice. Then, amid the gleefullysuggestive comments of their guests, the youngcouple retired to an attic room, where they sat at theedge of the bed, shivering in the November chill.They debated briefly: should they indulge in sexualintercourse right away or, like Felixs parents, waitseveral weeks? The coldness decided them. Theycrawled under the covers. But they were not quite alone. Felixs mother,joyous that her son had finally succeeded in marryingMadlen, had tramped upstairs and now stood in thenearby privy, serenading them boisterously. A fewfeet away, in her wedding bed, Madlen roared withlaughter. The Platter-Jeckelmann union raises severalquestions that focus attention on some of the keyissues in marriages evolution. As they bartered hard
about the marriage contract and exchanged vows andrings in their church, did these Protestants evenconsider the changed nature of post-Reformationmarriage as a less economically driven union? DidMadlen resent or resist the patriarchal structure thatgranted her father the right not only to give her awaybut also to retain her housekeeping services despitethe vastly increased workload this required of her?Why did Felix mention only the flesh-coloured blouseMadlen wore to their wedding, and neglect todescribe the rest of her outfit? Why did this groom,who recorded the details of his own weddingwardrobe, seem so much less interested in hisbrides? Were the wedding guests, segregated by sexand class, appreciative or apprehensive about theappearance of unsanctioned pastries? NORTH AMERICAIn North America, marriages could be as difficult todefine as those in Europe, and a great many werecreated without benefit of a wedding. As in theEuropean custom, private vows between twoconsenting partners were often considered sufficientto constitute a marriage. Self-marriage, later knownas common-law marriage, was widespread. (So wasself-divorce.) There were myriad reasons for self-marriage. Manypeople were unaware of the legislation that, overtime, specified the need for wedding licences, banns,and ceremonies. They assumed that mutual consentlegitimized a marriage and that, as in Europe, theircommunitys witness to their relationship constitutedproof of marriage. It was also a common belief thatconceiving a child together constituted marriage. In1 728, a chaplain serving on the North Carolina and
Virginia border was called on to christen more than ahundred children but not to marry any adults."Marriage is reckond a lay contract in Carolina, " hissupervisor concluded. 12 Self-marriage had other causes. Religious or secularauthorities were often unavailable to perform therites. In Texas, Catholics without access to a priestmarried "by bond" in improvised ceremonies. NonCatholics without access to a pastor simply pledgedthemselves to each other in the presence of friends. In1791, future president Andrew Jackson married hisnot-yet-divorced wife, Rachel Donelson Robards, inthis simple way. Afterward, her first husbanddivorced her on the grounds of her adultery withJackson. Disavowing self-marriage, at least among whites,had such dire consequences, notably thebastardization of huge numbers of children, that itrarely happened. "The maxim semper praesumitur promatrimonio (the assumption is always in favour ofmatrimony) directed and summed up judgesthinking," American historian Nancy Cott explains. l 3This assumption embraced even marriages createdwhen one partner had been married to someone else,as long as that now extraneous spouse was divorcedor dead. Some jurisdictions recognized marriageceremonies held in circumstances later provedfraudulent, as long as the spouses had married ingood faith. In the United States, the great exception wasinterracial marriage. If a white persons spouse wasrevealed to be not entirely white, laws and outragedcommunities rushed to end the relationship witheverything from fines and compulsory divorce to mobattacks. The Civil War and emancipation fuelledwhite terror of "amalgamation," and interracialmarriage evoked hysterical and violent reactions.
To some extent this was also true of intermarriagebetween whites and Natives, which manyjurisdictions and governing agencies such as theHudsons Bay Company banned. In the fur-tradinghinterland, Christian marriage was not an option forwhite men involved with Native women. Instead,these men had to follow la Ja<;on du pays-the customof the country or Native rituals. The prospectivehusband had to obtain his would-be brides parentspermission to marry-otherwise, as an elderly tradercautioned, "There is danger of having ones headbroken if one takes a girl from this country withouther parents consent" 1 4 -and he had to negotiate abride price, often as substantial as a horse. After hecompleted his payment, he smoked tobacco in aceremonial pipe shared with her relatives or bandmembers . Her relatives then prepared her for her roleas a wife, cleansing her and dressing her in newclothes. Her groom-now her "squaw man"escorted her home, united as a couple by Nativerites. IS How valid were these marriages? Until thenineteenth century, many white husbands consideredthemselves legally bound, and English courts tendedto agree. When their employers tried to force them todivest themselves of their embarrassing Indian wives,many refused and stoutly defended the legitimacy oftheir marriages. But when traders were company menrather than independent entrepreneurs, retirementoften ended their relationships. Some husbands dealt with white societys revulsionto their Native wives by staying put in Indianterritory. Others resorted to "turning off-marryingoff their suddenly burdensome wives to new,womanless arrivals. Others simply disappeared intothe white world. A few fair-minded judges attemptedto force white husbands into legal marriage with
their Native wives, and to transfer to the wives onethird of the mans property. But this seldomhappened, and the abandoned women packed uptheir mixed-blood children and returned to theirtribes, which welcomed them back, stigmatizingneither. In 1 824, in Green Bay in the Michigan Territory, agrand jury summoned by newly arrived u.s. circuitcourt judge James Duane Doty indicted thirty-sixtownsmen for fornication and two for adultery. Mostpleaded gUilty and, to avoid paying a fine, marriedtheir Native wives in front of a justice of the peace.Two husbands countersued, arguing that they weregUilty of nothing, being legally married in the Indianway to women with whom they had fathered manychildren.
Sophia Tod, daughter of B. C. s Chief Lola, had seven children with herwhite husband, John Tod, who in 1 863 formally married her after he leamed that his wife in England had died. (photo credit 3.5) John Lawe, however, refused to repent or amendhis ways and continued to live with Therese Rankinuntil her death nearly two decades late. Lawe hadchosen well: Sophia Therese Rankin, or Ne-kick-oqua, was the granddaughter of a prominent Ottawaman whose policy was to marry his daughters andgranddaughters to white fur traders and to settle aland grant on them. But, as Lawe lamented to a Metisfriend, "the old times is no more that pleasant reignis over and never to return any more. " 1 6
In the American South, black slaves were forbiddenlegal marriage. They had no legal status as personsand were, therefore, legally incapable of consent. Aswell, their masters demands on them tookprecedence over other aspects of their life and madefulfilling marital obligations impossible. Indeed,white slave owners worried that consenting to aslaves legal marriage might even be interpreted astantamount to manumISSIOn, in part becauseChristian rites implied that slaves had soulsrecognized by God. I? They were also aware that slavemarriages created complicated legal property issues,for example when slaves of different owners married,or a slave married a free black or person of colour.Unlike unmarried slaves, who could be sold or rentedout without any problems, spouses would want tovisit each other and would demand not to be soldaway as so often happened. The ownership of theirchildren could also cause tensions between the slaveowners. Nonetheless, slaves married, by choice or coercion,though these unions were neither registered legallynor sanctioned by the church. After courting, slavesrequested permission to marry from their owners. Ifthey had different masters, however, this became acomplicated property issue. Some slave ownersaccommodated their slaves pleas, as happened onthe South Carolina plantation of Mary BoykinChesnut. She writes, "When Dick married Hetty theAnderson house was next door. The two familiesagreed to sell either Dick or Hetty, whicheverconsented to be sold. Hetty refused outright, and theAndersons sold Dick that he might be with his wife."So far so good, but, as Chesnuts account makes plain,the Andersons had made a grievous sacrifice, "forHetty was only a ladys-maid and Dick was a trainedbutler, on whom Mrs. Anderson had spent no end of
pains in his dining-room education, and, of course, ifthey had refused to sell Dick, Hetty would have hadto go to them. Mrs. Anderson was very muchdisgusted with Dicks ingratitude when she found hewas willing to leave them." 18 Very few other slaveowners inconvenienced themselves for slave lovers asthe Andersons had done. Slaves with different masters usually hoped at bestfor an "abroad" arrangement with visiting privileges,and asked someone else to intercede on their behalf.(Even more contentious was a slaves request tomarry a freeman or freewoman.) If permission weregranted, a ceremony might mark the union, oftenpresided over by the master and sometimes cappedby jumping or stepping over a broom, and usuallyheld in agricultural down-time: the Christmas seasonor July.19 A celebratory party in the quartersfollowed. An estimated 1 0 percent of slaves were forced tomarry against their will, matched up by largeplantation owners or overseers desirous of increasingtheir slave stock through breeding. A former slave inAlabama, Penny Thompson, recalled that "mos timesmasters and misses would jus pick out some man foa woman an say Dis yo man, an say to the man Disyo woman. Didnt make no difference what theywant. Then they read some from the Bible to em ansay now you is husban an wife. "20 Sometimes themale slaves preference clinched the deal if his mastergranted him permission to marry a woman whomight not reciprocate his feelings. The woman had nosay in the matter. West Virginia slave Lizzie Grantrelated how sometimes masters purchased slaves and"put us to live together to raise from just like youwould stock today . . . . They never cared or thoughtabout our feeling in the matter. " 21
But slave unions were also forged in deepest love.After Emancipation, former slave Laura Spicermanaged to locate her husband, sold away from herand their children years earlier. Her husbandresponded with a profoundly sad love letter: I love you just as well as I did the last day I saw you. . . . [YJou know it never was our wishes to be separated from each other, and it never was our fault. . . . I had rather anything to have happened to me most than ever have been parted from you and the children. . . . The woman is not bom that feels as near to me as you do . . . . I thinks of you and the children every day of my life. . . . My love to you never have failed. . . . You feels and seems to me as much like my dear loving wife, as you ever did. 22 Thanks to slavery, slave unions were inherentlyunstable, and white owners ended two out of five byselling away one of the spouses. Historian WilmaDunaway calculates that in the Upper South by theend of the Civil War, half of slave families had beenaffected by broken marriages, and many of thesefamilies were now headed by women. (Blackhouseholds were complex mixtures of kin and nonkin, children from previous marriages, adoptedorphans, and old people. Many incorporated at leasttwo families.) The "structured absence of blackfathers" through abroad marriages, hiring them outelsewhere, or sending them to distant workassignments eroded slave marriages. Separatedspouses were often forcibly mated with new"spouses"; others voluntarily took new ones, as slaverescuer Harriet Tubman discovered when herhusband, John, a free black, declined to join her inthe North because he preferred to remain in theSouth with his new wife, Caroline, and their children.Laura Spicers hopes of reunion were also smashedbecause, in his love letter, her husband explained
that "I would come and see you, but I know youcould not bear it. . . . I have go [t] another wife, and Iam very sorry, that I am." Unable to leave his newfamily, Spicer told Laura sorrowfully, "please gitmarried" and "send me some of the childrens hair. "2 3 During the Reconstruction that followed the CivilWar, married freedmen flocked to legalize andregister their marriages. "Weddings, just now, arevery popular, and abundant among the ColoredPeople, " a Union army chaplain commented. 24 Unionarmy officers, missionaries, and officials presidedover mass marriages. State legislators validated slaveunions if husband and wife continued to cohabit. In1 866, in seventeen counties in North Carolina, forexample, more than nine thousand couples registeredtheir unions. The nature of slavery and white manipulation ofslave unions created a legal and moral quagmire: ifslave unions could be retroactively validated, werepeople who had had more than one spouse bigamists?Which of multiple "marriages" was the mostlegitimate? "Whenever a negro appears before mewith 2 or 3 wives who have equal claim upon him, Imarry him to the woman who has the greatestnumber of helpless children who otherwise wouldbecome a charge on the Bureau," a FreedmensBureau agent reported. 25 Reconstruction judges,recognizing the extraordinary circumstances of suchunions, often dealt leniently with African-American"bigamy" and were inclined to apply the test ofcontinued cohabitation to determine if a marriageshould be validated.
WEDDING RITUALSWedding rituals differed from era to era and fromplace to place, shaped and coloured by individualtastes and resources. There was little standardization.Until the late eighteenth or early nineteenthcenturies, the common denominators were parentalconsent (required by law) and marriage licences.Banns of marriage were usually posted. From themid-sixteenth century, most Christian weddingservices included versions of the Church of EnglandsSolemnization of Marriage from the Book of CommonPrayer, the nearly identical vows adopted byProtestant churches, or the Roman Catholic marriageliturgy from which the others were derived. By the mid-eighteenth century, weddings weregrowing in popularity. But cost was a hugeconsideration, and poorer people who did not opt forself-marriage could not always afford even thesimplest wedding. Instead, they were often content topublish banns, mutual pledges, or both and thenmove in together. Wealthier people, meanwhile,hosted gala weddings, usually at home, to celebrateand to entertain in a manner befitting their positionsand possessions. Wedding garb ranged from the humblest to themost lavish, in accordance with the brides familysambitions, status, and means. In Europe, noble andpatrician women wore spectacular dresses made ofthe costliest fabrics-velvet, damask silk, or satin,sometimes glimmering with interwoven gold or silverthreads. They chose the deepest, richest colours-red,indigo, or black-that only the very wealthy couldobtain. They disdained economical styles in favour ofwide, gathered skirts, generous sleeves, andconspicuously lavish trains that trailed for yards. Furtrim and jewellery, often part of the dowry and, for
the wedding, sewn right into the dress, completed theensemble. Wedding gowns had their own history, with royalsand nobles establishing fashions and standards oftaste. For her strategic marriage to Charles the Boldin 1 468, Margaret of Yorks jewel-encrusted dress wasso heavy she had to be carried into the church. Hercoronet, nearly five inches high, was a magnificentcreation of pearls and finely crafted enamelled whiteroses that symbolized the House of York. It featuredher name in red, green, and white enamel, withlovers knots and the golden initials C and M. (Thecoronet is still on display at Aachen Cathedral.) The well-to-do woman emulated much wealthierbrides by using extravagant amounts of fabric shetrimmed with cheaper fox or rabbit fur, and bydecking herself in her best jewellery. The less affluentbride made a dress of linen or wool, softer than thecoarse, rough, homespun fabric she usually wore. Shewas limited to dying it a shade of affordablevegetable-based dye, but she aspired to a granderstyle: flowing sleeves and trains, impractical butbeautiful, were particularly prestigious. For the frugalor financially constrained, a new dress that couldserve as "best" for years to come was a calculatedexpense, and drab colours that would not show stainswere the most practical. Grey was popular; white toowildly impractical. The truly impecunious simplymade do with whatever they had. Traditions that travelled across the Atlanticincluded superstitions about the choice of colours:blue, the colour of Roman bridal gowns and of theVirgin Mary, symbolized purity and fidelity; brideswore blue to ensure that their husbands would notstray. Pink was pretty but unlucky; red as scandalousas a scarlet letter. Yellow was in vogue in theeighteenth century, but green evoked fairies and the
verdancy of rainfall that might drench theproceedings. Homespun brown was common ifunloved; grey was popular and considered very smartand useful, especially for a bride in mourning.Ribbons tied into love knots made plain or shabbydresses special. At the ceremonys end, guests pulledoff the ribbons and took them home as favours. Bythe nineteenth century, flowers had replaced ribbons.Brides wore them in their hair and carried them asbouquets. By the late eighteenth century, the machine-madecloth of the Industrial Revolution and inexpensive,thin Indian muslins became the fabrics of choice forwedding gowns. By the end of the century, weddingwhite was coming into its own, though silver withwhite, topped by a coloured cape, remained classic.In her much-discussed May 1 8 1 6 wedding, PrincessCharlotte wore silver lame over a silver slip, its hemembroidered in bells and flowers also in silver lame.In 1840, Queen Victoria created the tradition of thewhite wedding dress in her lavish, ceremonious, andvery public wedding to her beloved Albert. Despite aheavy downpour, thousands gathered hours early towatch the wedding procession into the Chapel Royalat St. Jamess Palace. At ten oclock, a marchingbands "Haste to the Wedding" reflected theimpatience of many onlookers and ticketedspectators; the latter, waiting inside, were 2, 1 00strong. At noon, after a twenty-one-gun saluteannounced that Victoria had entered her carriage, thedamp but determined multitude outside cheeredlustily as the celebrants arrived. Prince Albert and hisentourage arrived first, to the accompaniment oftrumpet and drum, and after formally greeting royaland church dignitaries, they waited for the bride. Tothe strains of music, Victoria and her manyattendants proceeded slowly into the chapel.
Victorias dress was white silk satin trimmed withsweet-smelling orange blossoms. The train, about sixyards of the same fabric, was carried by twelvebridesmaids. Her headdress was a simple orangeblossom wreath; attached to it was a veil, one and ahalf yards of diamond-studded Honiton lace drapedover her shoulders and back. (Sixty-one years later,Victoria would be buried in it.) The flounce of thedress was also Honiton lace, four yards of it, speciallymade in the village of Beer by over two hundred laceworkers, at a cost of more than £1 ,000. Victoriasshoes were square-toed, leather-soled flats trimmedwith a small bow and six bands of ribbon and, likethe rest of her outfit, British-made. Victoria designedher bridesmaids gowns; they were "dressed all inwhite with white roses, which had a beautiful effect, "she wrote in her diary. 26 Prince Albert designed thegold brooches she gave each of them, eagle shapedand set with turquoise, pearls, rubies, and diamonds-setting off another tradition, of giving thebridesmaids gifts .
Queen Victorias official wedding portrait, and portraits of her in her wedding gown, were much reproduced. The lavish ceremony influenced the style and culture of weddings throughout Europe and North America. (photo credit 3.7) After an emotional ceremony that included the67th Psalm, Victoria and Albert left the chapel andstepped into the sunshine that had broken throughthe fog and rain. The brides eyes were "swollen withtears, but great happiness was seen in hercountenance, and her look of confidence and comfortat the Prince when they walked away as man andwife was very pleasing to see," Dowager Lady SarahLyttelton recalled. 27 These details were reported in hundreds ofnewspapers and magazines, and read and replicated,as perhaps never before, by hundreds of thousands ofbrides throughout and beyond the Empire. What thisattention to the clothing, the music, the ceremonyillustrates, though, is that the wedding itself gained
in prominence, and, as it did so, people focused onthe wedding rather than on the (supposed) lifetimeinstitution of marriage. (Part 2 will discuss how todayour culture blinds us to the realities and practicalitiesof marriage by stressing the wedding ceremony.) Victorias wedding inspired instant "traditions. "She was not the first royal to marry in white, but hergown, seen by thousands and reproduced innewspaper sketches, fashion magazine colour plates,and a flood of popular engravings, became the modelfor brides and their parents everywhere. And so,despite family photos showing ancestral bridesclutching modest bouquets over their dark-colouredoutfits, and even though white was the traditionalcolour for royal mourning, and despite the fact thatVictorian white, innocent of bleach, would today beclassed as cream, white became the colour of weddinggowns. Victorias choice of orange blossoms, an ancientChinese emblem of purity and fertility, inspiredmillion of brides to wear them, and Victorianwedding etiquette manuals prescribed them asessential. Where the real, fragrant ones wereunavailable, brides made do with wax replicas.Thanks to Victoria, these floral wedding accessoriesbecame so ubiquitous that the expression "to gatherorange blossoms" became the euphemism for "to seeka wife." The public splendour of Victoria and Albertswedding, with its parade of train bearers, its pomp,ceremony, and music, and the grand slow marchdown the aisle transformed North American as wellas European weddings; it injected them with dramaand held brides up to a new standard of dress andpresentation that became an almost instant tradition.The result, writes Stephanie Coontz, is that"thousands of middle-class women imitated her
example, turning their weddings into the mostglamorous event of their lives. "28 Another wedding tradition, "Something old,something new, something borrowed, somethingblue, " is often interpreted as representing family andpast (old); the brides future life (new); the sharedhappiness of the loved lender (borrowed); and thecolour of the Virgin Mary, signifying purity andfidelity, and formerly a popular choice for weddinggowns (blue). Less known is that the source of thissaying is actually a poem that ends, "And a silversixpence in her shoe," a good-luck token especially ifworn in the left shoe. The bridegrooms attire also mattered, even to thepoint of competing with the brides. Like her, he worehis best clothes, his suit (of wool, worsted, or evencashmere) and his shirt (of linen, cotton, or silk)reflecting his economic status. If he possessed awaistcoat or tie, he wore them too. The man whocould afford special wedding attire sported strongcolours of blue, green, or wine until the latter part ofthe nineteenth century, when the well-turned-outgroom was more muted, in a black or navy coat wornover grey trousers cheered up by a white vest and tie.
This young bride, ca. 1850, poses among studio props, but the orange blossoms in her hair may be real. (photo credit 3.8)
Despite the devastation of the Civil War, Godeys published this ad for extravagant and expensive gowns. The bride on the far right wears aVictoria-inspired wreath of leaves and orange blossoms. (photo credit 3.9)Mamie and Bill Abbott, the authors parents, pose outside Hart House, University of Toronto, after their wedding in 1 940. Women werepermitted into the chapel at Hart House, but it was otherwise o f limits fto them. In wartime austerity, Mamie chose to wed in a dressy suit. A year later, she graduated from law school and articled with Bill. (photo credit 3. 10) Over the decades, male wedding fashion slowlyevolved until, by the 1 930s, it embraced the dinnerjacket, known in North America as the tuxedo and
until then regarded as suitable for less formal events.(In 1 866, tobacco heir Griswold Lorillard shockedfellow guests at the Autumn Ball of the Tuxedo ParkCountry Club, in Tuxedo, New York, by wearing ablack, tail-less dinner jacket copied from one worn bythe Prince of Wales. The style became popular, andNorth Americans called it the tuxedo. ) The groomwho lacked the resources (or the desire) to buy onewore a dark suit instead. By the mid-twentiethcentury, tuxedo rentals offered a thrifty way for mento indulge in extravagant wedding attire. In the centuries since Van Eyck tantalized the artworld with his hauntingly lovely but cryptic painting,weddings assumed greater importance until theybecame the climactic event in the marriage process.And, just as wedding traditions were increasinglyassociated with notions of love-romantic, erotic, andeternal-so did the ideal of marriages rooted in lovealso evolve.
Chapter 4 Love and Sex in Marriage LOVE AND AFFECTIONWho in the world knew more about love andmarriage than Jane Austen? As one of eight childrenof an Anglican rector forced to supplement hisincome by farming and teaching student boarders,she understood very well the social and economicrealities of her era, especially the narrow range ofopportunities for women. In her personal life as inSense and Sensibility (181 1), Pride and Prejudice( 1 8 1 3), Mansfield Park ( 1 8 1 4), Emma ( 1 8 1 5),Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion (1817), she tackledthe conflict between the new respect for love-basedmarriage and the old and often morally-fraughtdilemma of womens economic and legal dependence. Jane Austen had the happiest of home lives, rich incompanionship and in intellectual stimulation. Hersister, Cassandra, was her closest friend. Her brotherswere kind and committed. Her parents wereaffectionate and encouraging. She participated fullyin her familys social life and was a favourite of herbrothers children. She was an exceptional seamstressand a virtuoso of the satin stitch. She played thepianoforte and sang. She read English and Frenchbooks and drew. Secretively, she also wrote storiesshe shared only with her family, relying on acreaking swinging door in her writing den to warnher when domestics and visitors were approaching. In
a world where men recoiled from too-clever women,nobody knew just how clever Jane Austen really was. From her late teens, Jane was a candidate for themarriage market, the well-bred and accomplisheddaughter of a distinguished family. She was goodnatured and very pretty; one young woman reportedthat "her Sister & herself are two of the prettiest Girlsin England. " l Jane was particularly fond of dancing, and excelledat it, her favourite brother, Henry, remembered. Inher familys social world, where financial constraintsprevented parents with marriageable daughters fromlaunching them as debutantes, regular socializingdoubled as the locus for matchmaking. Dancing wasoften involved, either impromptu gigs after supperparties or at balls in the local assembly rooms. As acharacter remarks in Pride and Prejudice, "To be fondof dancing was a certain step towards falling in love."
This engraving of Jane Austen was inspired by a drawing by her sister, Cassandra. Thanks to Cassandras modest artistic talents, Janes reputed beauty has been lost to posterity. (photo credit 4.1) This happened to Jane, who often attendedThursday-evening dances with her parents. Duringthe Christmas season of 1 795 to 1 796, she had abrief, quasi romance with Tom Lefroy, herneighbours nephew, visiting before he headed toLondon to study law. Janes excitement about theirrelationship percolates through her letters toCassandra: "I am almost afraid to tell you how myIrish friend and I behaved. Imagine to yourself
everything most profligate and shocking in the wayof dancing and sitting down together, " she exclaimedin one. 2 Their mutual joy was short-lived. Toms familynoticed the intensifying relationship and packed himoff out of harms way. The Lefroys had the greatestrespect for Janes lineage and character, but otherconsiderations weighed more heavily. Tom had nomoney of his own and was dependent on a greatuncle to finance his education and, later, to help himestablish his legal career. How then could he marryJane, who had neither dowry nor inheritanceprospects? Jane left no record of any pain anddisappointment at Toms departure; her biographerDeirdre Le Faye believes her feelings "were poised onthe knife-edge between flattered amusement and theexciting apprehension of possible romanticcommitment. "3 There followed a second "stillborn romance" with aman whom Cassandra thought so charming,handsome, and elegant that if ever a man could winJanes love, it would be this one. They met at aseaside vacation spot, and he declared before leavingthat he would soon see them again. Shortly after, thesisters heard that he had suddenly died. "I believethat, if Jane ever loved, it was this unnamedgentleman," opined her nephew.4 The years went by, pleasant and rewarding, butJane could never forget that her status as a spinstermade her a financial burden to her family. She wrotea ditty that gently mocked the desperation of Maria,good humoured, handsome, and tall, "a middle-agedflirt" who, "having in vain danced at many a ball"and "for a husband was at her last stake," married "aMr. Wake, whom, it was supposed, she wouldscarcely have accepted in her youth." In a moreserious vein, Jane warned her niece that "single
women have a dreadful propensity for being poorwhich is one very strong argument in favour ofMatrimony."5 For a single day, Austen succumbed to thatargument. In December 1 802, Harris Bigg-Witherproposed to her, and, though she did not love him,she accepted. Harris was a family friend she hadknown since childhood, "a large, plain-looking manwho spoke little, stuttered when he did speak, wasaggressive in conversation, and almost completelytactless." He was, however, heir to vast familyestates, and as his wife, Jane could have providedcomfortably for her parents, offered still-singleCassandra a permanent home, and even helped herbrothers. But the day after accepting his proposal, sherejected it because she did not love him. She did notregret her decision, and years later begged her niece,then considering a marriage proposal, "not to commityourself farther, & not to think of accepting himunless you really do like him. Anything is to bepreferred or endured rather than marrying withoutAffection. "6 WHEN THE TIMES WERE UNLOVINGSince time immemorial, even in the mostpragmatically created of marriages, passionate lovecould stir. Yet when it did, that love was disparagedas unseemly, equated with lust, and believed tocorrode good marriages. "Nothing is more impurethan to love ones wife as if she were a mistress, "thundered the Roman thinker Seneca. In Rome in 1 84BC, the politician, general, and writer Cato expelled asenator from the Senate for the shameful act ofkissing his wife in broad daylight in full sight of theirdaughter.
Far from challenging the perception that loveequalled lust, theologians of the new religion ofChristianity reinforced it by teaching that womenwere intrinsically lascivious and fickle seductresses.For Saint Jerome, who struggled so hard againsttemptation, women were sexually insatiable, and ifyou extinguished their desire "it bursts intoflame . . . it enervates a mans mind, and engrosses allthought except for the passion which it feeds."7 The churchs introduction of mutual consent as afeature of marriage did not alter this perception of"love" as a destructive feeling or sensation on whichto base a union. Nor did the Black Death of 1 348,which did not greatly reduce parental control overchildrens marriages, though it undermined the basisof feudal society by killing so many people. As longas property and financial considerations wereparamount, they overrode the imperative of love asthe basis for marriage. In the words of historian BrentShaw, "The institution of marriage was inextricablybound up with a vocabulary of property, wordswhich were not just coincidental metaphors." 8Women as "chattel" and marriages as "contracts" areexamples. Historian Amanda Vickery concurs: "Thelength of a mans rent-roll remained the ultimateaphrodisiac. "9 The subordinate status of women largely accountsfor the seeming immutability of love-based marriage.As long as men controlled family property, includingwomens earnings, as long as women had no legalstatus apart from their husbands, as long as legalcouverture-covering-smothered wives with theirhusbands identity, as long as husbands pledged toprotect and support their wives and wives pledged toserve and obey their husbands, pragmatic marriagetrumped marriage rooted in love. "The body ofmarriage was understood to rest on this economic
skeleton as much as on sexual fidelity, " writes legalscholar Nancy Cott. l0 Poorer people shared similar marital perspectives.In France in 1 700, for example, the prior of Sennelyen-Sologne wrote that his parishioners "get marriedout of financial interest rather than any otherinclination. Most of them when looking for a brideonly ask how many sheep she can bring in marriage.Women and girls who have lost their honour are notprecluded from the search. It is a daily occurrence tosee a man take a wretched bride, pregnant bysomeone else and adopt the child for a modestsum. "l l Marriage was further protected from the ravages oflove by the knowledge that mistresses, with whomhusbands could share passions consideredinappropriate in marriage, had few or no rights. Theirchildren usually remained illegitimate, bastardized bya society intent on protecting marriage from theinternal erosion love could inspire. A concomitantwas that, despite Henry VIIIs spectacular attempts,changing spouses or divesting oneself of themthrough divorce was an almost impossible endeavour.With mistresses, men could indulge in erotic passionwithout greatly damaging their marriages or theirwives status. The sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation andthe Catholic Counter-Reformation in response to itboth encouraged radical changes in marriage. Thenew reformed Christian denominations rejected thelong-held Roman Catholic doctrine that celibacy wasa superior way of life. After years of forbiddingclerical marriage, they permitted their priests andpastors to marry. This was a dramatic change aftercenturies of forcing legions of priests de facto wivesto live as lowly concubines and to raise childrenstigmatized as bastards. The most prominent cleric to
marry was the great reformer and ex-monk MartinLuther, who in 1525, aged forty-two, marriedKatharina von Bora, a twenty-six-year-old former nunhe had helped escape from a Cistercian convent byhiding her, along with eleven other nuns, in a wagonused to transport herring. One of his studentsreported wryly, "A wagon load of vestal virgins hasjust come to town, all more eager for marriage thanfor life. God grant them husbands lest worse befall. "12 Luthers marriage legitimized clerical marriage asnothing else had. But it did not begin as a lovematch. As a former nun, Katharina had three choices:to go back to the convent she had fled, to returnhome to her family, or to marry. Desperate to avoidthe first option, unwilling to return to the father whohad sent her away to boarding school and afterwardthe convent, and who had remarried the year afterher mothers death, she decided to marry. She fell inlove with Hieronymus Baumgartner, but his nobleand conservative family disapproved of his marryinga former nun and he became engaged to anotherwoman. Afterward, Katharina implored Luther, whowas busily finding husbands for the nuns he hadencouraged to renounce their cloisters, not to marryher off to the one he had found for her, the (to her)miserly Pastor Kaspar Glatz. Instead, she said shewould marry either Luthers friend Nicholas vonAmsdorf or Luther himself. Luther initially had not planned to marry, but inearly 1 525 surprised a friend by announcing, "If I canmanage it before I die, I will still marry my Katie tospite the devil, should I hear that the peasantscontinue [to rebel] ." (He also wished to please hisfather, who longed for a continuation of the maleline.) Luther recalled later that "I never loved mywife but suspected her of being proud (as she is), butGod willed me to take pity on the poor abandoned
girl, and he has made my marriage turn out mosthappily. " 13 The marriage was a small and privateceremony at Luthers residence, and so sudden thathis close friend the theologian Philip Melanchthoncomplained, "Unexpectedly Luther married Bora,without even mentioning his plans to his friends. "Two weeks later, the Luthers hosted a publiccelebration. Not a romantic beginning, but the Luther marriage,which produced six living children, grew into animmensely satisfying union. "I wouldnt give up myKatie for France or for Venice, " Luther confided to afriend. To another: "Katie, my dear rib . . . is, thanksto God, gentle, obedient, compliant in all things,beyond my hopes. I would not exchange my povertyfor the wealth of Croesus." Katharina reciprocated,and after his death told her sister-in-law, "I am intruth so very saddened that I cannot express my greatheartache to any person and do not know how I amand feel. I can neither eat nor drink. Nor again sleep.If I had owned a principality or empire I would havefelt as bad had I lost it, as I did when our dear LordGod took from me . . . this dear and worthy man."14 The Luther marriage also had a powerful eroticdimension that Martin reconciled with his convictionthat marital sex was a remedy against worse sin,because even Christian spouses performed the act ofintercourse as if caught in the frenzy of epilepticseizures that made them impervious to thoughts ofGod. He warned that they should not disrobe andfurther agitate their senses, and certainly not turn the"unspotted marriage bed" into "a manure heap and asow bath" with acrobatic or unusual positions. IS Hebelieved, however, that women needed sexualfulfillment as much as men did and, in his lastmonths of life, regretted for Katharinas sake that hehad become impotent.
One of their student boarders recalled that a dinnerguest had once asked Katharina if she would like toreturn to the nuns life in her former convent. "No !No ! " she exclaimed. Why not? the guest persisted.Martin jumped in, answering one question withanother: "And, I wonder, why dont women choose tobe made virgins?" The table was silent and all presentsat smiling. 16 But Luthers great affection forKatharina-"my little love," "my beloved housewife, ""preacher, brewer, gardener, and whatever else shecan be"-did not change his conviction that marryingfor love was unsound, and that parents had the rightto stop their children from pursuing love marriages.When his own nephew became engaged without hisfamilys consent, Martin promised to write a severeletter to the young womans parents. At the sametime, he denounced the custom of parents forcingtheir offspring into arranged marriages with spousesthey did not love. This emphasis on what Luther called bridal lovethat is, postmarital rather than premarital love-andon parental control over childrens marriages enduredin both western Europe and North America. Sermonsdescribed the love between husband and wife interms that would today connote affection or greatfondness. "People valued love in its proper place, "writes Stephanie Coontz. "But it is remarkable howmany people still considered it a dreadfulinconvenience. " 1 7 For one thing, love could derail the balance ofpower between spouses, weakening lovelornhusbands and setting bad precedents for otherhusbands. Love had little place in an institution inwhich wives who quarrelled with errant husbandswere castigated as troublemakers rather than pitiedas victims; a husbands philandering was a way oflife, and reasonable women knew they had to
swallow it. The same was true of wives who werebeaten. They were supposed to accept their husbandsright or even duty to "correct" them, as long as thecorrection did not mutilate or kill them. "Thepotential for violence and cruelty in marriage can beglimpsed from the horrible complaints of theaggrieved minority who felt compelled to seekredress in the church courts, and from the depositionsgenerated when noblemen sued their wives lovers forfinancial compensation," writes historian AmandaVickery.1 8Lucas Cranach the Elder was a court painter renowned for his realism. He witnessed Martin Luther and Katharina von Boras betrothal. Hepainted this portrait of Luther in 1 529 and that of Katharina in 1530. (photo credit 4.2) THE GROWTH OF LOVEBy the seventeenth century, just decades afterElizabeth I had declared, "Affection is false ! " loveor affection-was considered a necessary component
of marriage, and husbands and wives were counselledto "love one another. " Most in the highest ranks ofsociety ignored this advice; for them, dynasticconsiderations continued to prevail in choosingmates. Renowned jurist Sir Edward Cokedemonstrated this when he tied his daughter to abedpost and beat her until she consented to marrythe man of his choice. The lesser gentry and themiddle class, however, began to grant personalinclination or love a greater role. In New France, Swedish traveller Peter Kalm wasintrigued to hear girls leavening their houseworkwith songs full of the words amour and coeur. 1 9 Theexpatriate fiZZes du roi, too, gave amour a glance,though they had been recruited to marry quickly, andtheir future husbands had been warned that "allVoluntary Companions and other persons old enoughto enter into marriage [had] to marry within fifteendays of the arrival of the ships carrying Zes fiZZes underPain of being deprived of the rights to any kind offishing, hunting, and trading with the natives."2o Yetofficial impatience did not stampede Zes fiZZes intomarriage, and, as historian Yves Landrys analysis oftheir marriage contracts and other documentsreveals, they averaged five months, not theprescribed fifteen days, before they married. After disembarking in New France, Zes fiZZes weresent to various convents where nuns supervised them.Soon after, at a ceremony at the Governors chateauhosted by senior colonial officials and society women,they met the bachelors. Ursuline Mother SuperiorMarie de lIncarnation described approvingly how ZesfiZZes evaluated the men, who were at least a decadeolder. Their first concern was whether the men hadsomewhere to live; "they acted wisely, because thosemen who were not established suffered a great dealbefore they could lead a comfortable life." 21 At the
same time, les fiZZes took into account the degree oftheir attraction to the men they were considering,and many cancelled hastily made betrothals because"there is no longer affection between them. "Afterward, they betrothed themselves to a differentman. A few changed their minds yet again, renegedon the new agreement, and later married someoneelse. 22 At the same time, they followed their heartsonly if the men were otherwise satisfactory. By the next century, Enlightenment philosopherswere examining marriage through the lens of reasonand the exciting new principle of the pursuit ofhappiness. Their ideas, trickling down into thepopular consciousness, softened long-heldperceptions about the role of love. In the 1 770s inFrance, unhappily married spouses applied theory totheir personal realities, and the percentage seeking toannul their marriages on the grounds of lovelessnessrose from less than 1 0 percent in earlier decades tomore than 40 percent. In England, too, love wasgaining ground as a legitimate feature of marriage.Thomas Blundell, for example, told his daughter,Molly, "that I would not compel her to marry, muchless to marry one she could not love and so to makeher miserable as long as she lives . . . . All I require isthat he be a gentleman of a competent estate, one ofgood character and a catholic."2 3 Yet until well into the eighteenth century there wasstrong resistance to giving love such importance.Young French aristocrat Genevieve de Malboissieresscathing remarks to her friend AdelaIde Meliandreflected the sophisticates attitude to the properplace of love in and out of marriage. "Imagine, " shewrote, "M. de Lavigny is still in love with his wife.What a lasting passion after ten months of marriageliving together in proximity. They will be an examplefor posterity. "24
English gentlewoman Elizabeth Parker, on theother hand, struggled between her longing to marryan unwealthy man she loved and her desire to obeyher parents, who objected to him. "Every Parenttakes utmost care to marry his child [where there] isMoney," her lover mused, "not consideringInclination w[hil ch is [the] only plea forHappiness." 25 It took Elizabeth seven years ofstrategizing and suffering to win her fathers consentto her marriage. Other women fought bitterly to avoid marryingmen they did not love or who repelled them. Twentyone-year-old Frances Burney wept inconsolably,stopped eating, and begged on her knees to beallowed to live with her father rather than the (toher) repulsive man he wished her to marry. Herfather finally relented, and Frances later fell in lovewith and married an impoverished French exile, thenstaved off destitution with the proceeds of CamillaJ ora Picture of Youth, her novel about frustrated love andimpoverishment. Anne and William Gossips conventional marriagein England united their family fortunes but alsoinspired a deep love that lasted their lifetimes.Twenty-six years married, Anne described William as"you who I love a thousand [times] better thanmyself or anything in the world. " William wrote her,"My heart will open itself towards the object of itsdesires."26 But when their son and heir, George,secretly married a pretty but socially inferior woman,William disinherited him. Love was all very well, butonly in the proper sort of unions. "Mutual affectionwhich crowned an advantageous match was awelcome blessing, but immoderate passion leadingcouples to disregard other criteria was thought nearinsane, " writes historian Amanda Vickery. 27
As the eighteenth century wore on, the notion ofmarrying for love crept into popular thinking, even ifthat love was not so much passion as strong affectionand companionship that would provide emotionalsustenance, and a cessation of the unkindness andviolence that marked so many marriages. "Themeasure of a successful marriage was no longer howbig a financial settlement was involved, how manyuseful in-laws were acquired, or how many childrenwere produced, but how well a family met theemotional needs of its individual members,"Stephanie Coontz writes. 28 Mutuality and companionate marriage werebecoming the new standards, but because wivesremained financially and legally subservient tohusbands, many caveats leavened the notion thatlove was all-important. In 1 8 1 1 , Jane Austensfinancially embarrassed teenager, MarianneDashwood, the younger sister in Sense and Sensibility,could not imagine marrying a man who had anythingless than a "competence" of about £2,000 a year, tosupport "a proper establishment of servants, acarriage, perhaps two, and hunters." Men were equally subject to these strictures.George Du Maurier, an impecunious artist and writer,was an example of a middle-class man preventedfrom marrying. In the early 1 860s, Du Maurier hadended his courtship of the very suitable EmmaWightwick when her familys business collapsed. But,because he adored her, he soon resumed wooing her.They became engaged, with marriage to follow whenhe accumulated £1,000. Time passed, and he realizedthe impossibility of his raising the money. His healthand mental stability deteriorated. His mothersuggested he take a mistress to relieve his anxieties,but George declined, with the remark that "everywoman but one is a gorilla." 29 Emmas father
salvaged the situation by renegotiating the maritalstake down to only £200. The discounted pricerestored George to health, and he and Emma weresoon married. As long as dowries and financial and socialconsiderations dominated the process of marrying,and parental consent was paramount, love-basedmarriage developed more as a literary ideal than areality. Alice Catherine Miles, whose enterprisingpursuit of a husband was described in chapter 2, heldattitudes typical of Englands privileged class. As theymanipulated the marriage market, Alice and herfriends experienced love and discussed it frankly."Love in a cottage overgrown with roses is a very finething in theory, " Alice concluded, "but depend uponit, love in a palace is the pleasanter of the two . . . .Love is a charming thing in itself and givesundoubtedly a delicate flavour to life, not to beimparted by anything else, but as in a cunninglywrought sauce, you must have all the otheringredients as well. Otherwise it will be an utterfailure." To her dear friend Aggie, Alice wrote, "Somelove must of course enter into the compact, but likethe scriptural leaven, a very little leaveneth thewhole lump. " When the "intensely" pretty EdithWood agreed to a loveless marriage with "an oldEssex bumpkin between 45 and 50, owner of a fineunencumbered property and £ 1 2,000 a year!" Alicewas delighted for her friend. 3o In her view, £1 2,000 ayear trumped love any day. Among the North American bourgeois and upperclasses, money, property, and financial expectationswere also priorities, but a culture of carefulsocializing and common expectations allowed love agreater place in marriage making. The routine offamily life included extensive socializing-visits, teas,dinners, dances, berry picking, picnics, sleigh rides,
church, and benevolent activities-all within a highlyregulated social network of kinsfolk, friends, andacquaintances. Few strangers crashed these invisible gates,cemented solid by a shared concern to protect thoseinside, especially young people of courtship age. In acircle of compatible suitors and almost always ingroups, couples flirted and developed specialfriendships without the need for close parentalsupervision. They seldom rushed, waiting instead forlove to root and determine their final choice of mate. In Virginia, for example, Elizabeth Gamble rejectedWilliam Wirts first proposal ("I have struck, andhave been stricken down . . . alas me! " he confided toa friend), then his second (this time "so gently, sosweetly, so angelically"), and his third, until finally,admitting that he held a place "deep in her secretheart," she accepted him.31 In Upper Canada, MaryGapper agreed to marry Edward OBrien only afterconcluding that she would gain "the possession of aheart capable of entering into all my views & feelings& attached to me with an affection so exactly suitedto my humour that I sometimes fancy that I myselfhave dictated it. "32 The system worked so well thatmost found mates within their own communities andreligious denominations. The rest cast their netsfarther afield or never married. In the American South especially, romantic lovewas seen as the lifeline to a decent life, a guaranteethat in a patriarchal society, an otherwise vulnerablewife would be respectfully treated by her lovinghusband. So clear was this understanding of the roleof love that a great many women resisted marryinguntil they inspired love in a prospective husband. "Isee so many unhappy matches it almost discouragesme," wrote one young woman. Another observed thatin marrying, her friend "has taken the irrevocable
step by which her future is decided. Her happiness isin another hand. "33 One clever young belle identified only as MissToombs, courted and loved by one lovelorn suitorafter another, devised a strategy to evaluate her ownfeelings. "So, as they sat by the lamp she would lookat him and inwardly ask herself, Would I be willingto spend the long winter evenings forever after sittinghere darning your old stockings? Never, echoanswered. No, no, a thousand times no. So, each[suitor] had to make way for another."34 When love and money were not both present,parents made it clear that financial resources tookpriority. Sometimes their offspring rebelled. InMontreal in 1 8 1 7, Cecile Pasteur incurred thedispleasure of both her mother and brother by"sacking" her rich but unloved suitor. "I will nevergive my hand without giving my heart, " shedeclared. "35 In Texas, Lizzie Scott defied her parentsto marry financially unsound Will Neblett. Others voluntarily entered loveless but financiallysecure marriages. After her friend did so, UpperCanadian Mary Hallen lamented, "I can conceive ofnothing more dreadful, but peoples tastes are not allthe same & I have heard some people say that thosesort of matches turn out happier than love marriagesbut I cannot fancy it & think it far too great anexperiment to be tried. "36 Southerner Marry Shannondeplored the loveless nuptials of a Miss Georgiana toMr. Brown "or rather his money bags." Anotheryoung woman vowed that "adversity can not driveme to the extremity of marrying for mammon."37Women who believed that love was an essential toolto empower them in an inherently unequalrelationship struggled hard to identify and nurture itin potential husbands. Romantic novels also
influenced their view that just as love was ennobling,marrying without love was degrading. LOVE FOR THE UPPER CLASSESAmerican Mary Westcott and French-CanadianAmedee Papineau faced no financial hurdles afterthey fell in love, but their religious differences-shewas Presbyterian, he Catholic-loomed large. Yearselapsed before they married, and the story of theirconvoluted courtship illustrates the systemsunderlying values and how it served the elite of bothcountries. The common denominator was socialstatus and the wealth at its core. Mary Eleanor Westcott was the fetching andcultured only daughter and stepdaughter of widowedmerchant James Westcott of Saratoga Springs, NewYork, and his second wife, Mary. Louis-JosephAmedee Papineau was the oldest son of Louis-JosephPapineau, lawyer, political leader, and seigneur,whose conservative economic and patrician socialviews conflicted with his anti-imperialistrepublicanism and his virulent anti-clericalism. Aftera Patriote military defeat in 1 837, Papineau fled toSaratoga Springs, where Amedee, a law student alsosought by the authorities for his complicity in therebellions, joined him. Amedee, who was fluent inEnglish, resumed his legal studies and supportedhimself by teaching French at the Wayland Academyfor girls. For the next two years Amedee moved in the samesocial circle as Mary and he developed a friendshipwith her family that included attending her twelveyear-old brothers funeral. But it was only onDecember 1 , 1 840, just as he was about to depart forFrance where his exiled family had settled, that
Amedee realized that he had fallen in love with her.He was twenty-two, Mary nineteen. After a longfarewell, the young couple made do with long lettersand newspaper clippings until June 1 843, whenAmedee returned to Saratoga. Before he did, Maryclarified her feelings for him, and he rejoiced in hisdiary: "Oh! happy man that I am. "38 But their Saratoga reunion was brief and, after theyshocked James Westcott with the news of theirmutual affection, difficult. Westcotts primary fear,shared by his wife, was that marriage to Amedeewould force Mary to abandon her Presbyterian beliefsand practice, which the Catholic Papineaus wouldmock. He was also loath to see the daughter he wasso close to move all the way to Montreal, especiallyafter losing his son. He did not order the lovers tobreak up but he decreed that they wait four or fivemore years to test their love, and that theycorrespond only occasionally. Mary gave Amedee alock of her hair and swore eternal love. She alsowarned him that she would not forgive anyinfidelities. "My soul is so sad, " Amedee lamented. Ina poem, "Farewell to Mary W. ," he wrote, "I mustseek in another land my lot,/And strive dear Mary, tolove thee not. "39 Back in Lower Canada, where his political past hadbeen forgiven, Amedee worked as protonotary of theCourt of Queens Bench in Montrea1.4o Obedient toJames Westcotts command, he made do with asparse correspondence and expressed his longing forMary in poetry. Mary, on the other hand, was soconflicted that she contemplated breaking off withhim, primarily over their religious differences. Sheasked herself if she really loved him, and decidingthat she did, agonized over the pain her marriage to aCatholic foreigner would cause her parents. Finally,
with her fathers reluctant assent, she committedherself to marrying Amedee. "So my dear child," wrote her stepmother, you have taken the most important step in womans existence; I think him the most desirable man I have met in many years; as a man, and a gentleman he exactly hits my mark, . . . in fact if he had been my own son, I do not know that I could wish him to be other than he appears to be, except in his reli on- . . . I gi think his education, and his information, is superiour my sincere wish and desire is that you may be happy. . . . You must try and establish yourself in the Protestant faith, make it your study you will need a strong bulwark against their incursions. . . . Mrs. P has a brother who is a Priest, and they are so stealthy, so cuning, they leave not stone untumed to make one prosolite-I said so to Mr. P-your family and friends will look upon Mary as a Heretick, how shall we feel do you think? . . . he said how mistaken you are my Parents, are very liberal they can have no such feelings or any of my family. 41 Her stepmothers letter goes a long way to explainwhy Mary had struggled so hard with her feelings. Ina letter to Amedee she pleaded for understanding andtried to convey something of what she hadexperienced. I was subject, It LS true, to no open influences, yet forever feeling the effects of an influence more powerful and dangerous, constantly struggling between my own feelings and filial duty . . . I dared not trust to a self-examination, and for months I communed not with my spirit. You may not understand me. I think no one could, who had not passed thro it. I wrote you I should immediately tell my parents of any state offeeling, but . . . I could not speak the words that would have roused the lion in the hearts of those who love me. 42
If her stepmothers deep-rooted SuspICIOns aboutCatholic priestly proselytizing and her evidentignorance about the Papineaus anticlericalism werenot obstacles enough, Marys father pulled out all thestops in his campaign of relentless emotionalblackmail. When, after years of waiting ontenterhooks for Mary to accept his proposal, Amedeeproposed an early wedding date, Westcott refusedoutright. "The contents of [your letter] cause memany, and painful emotions. The separation from mydaughter at any time, would make my heart to bleed,but the time you mention, so close at hand, I cannoteven give it a thought." He added, "Mary is my onlyone and I must for once exercise, decidedly, acontrol, which will soon, in the same sense, be mineno longer."43 When Amedee-jealously? petulantly?-wondered if Mary loved him less than she did herfather, she reproached him: "Had I sisters, were thereothers to take my place, I could act fearlessly andwith independence, but it is otherwise. You cannotknow how my Father depends upon me for dailyenjoyment, " she wrote .44 Unsurprisingly, Amedee hadto accede to James Westcotts decision that theydelay the wedding for a year, until May 20, 1 846. In early May, Amedee made a brief trip to SaratogaSprings, where he and Mary, accompanied by severalfriends to act as witnesses, signed a marriage contractthat kept them separate as to property. In the eventone spouse died, the survivor would receive anannual income of $600. Soon after, Amedee returnedto his job in Montreal. On May 1 9, Amedee returned to Saratoga with hisfather and brother, Lactance. The wedding ceremonywas simple. Amedee had failed in his attempt toobtain the bishop of New Yorks dispensation for aCatholic wedding, and so the Reverend A.T. Chester,a Presbyterian minister, officiated. The ceremony,
held in the Westcott family parlour, was over infifteen minutes. There was a brief recital of themarriage rites. Amedee gave Mary a ring, and theyjoined hands. A short prayer followed the sacrament,and the guests began to celebrate. Lactance,Amedees groomsman, or best man, doled out slicesof wedding cake. Mary distributed flowers to thewomen. The guests ate and drank, then bid the newcouple and their families farewell. The wedding tripthat was not a honeymoon began. Many couples went straight from their weddings totheir new lodgings to begin married life. Othersstayed with relatives or visited friends who had beenunable to attend the ceremony. A few opted for ahoneymoon, with its implications of privacy andwithdrawing from the world. But the notion ofnewlyweds travelling alone was alien to theworldview that in uniting individuals, marriage alsounited families. A wedding trip, on the other hand,allowed the couple to experience the married stateand the public to identify them as spouses. Parentscould forge deeper relationships with their childsnew spouse and in-laws. And so Mary and Amedee,who shared these fundamental values, happily set outon their wedding trip in company with her parentsand his father and brother. The wedding party toured, sometimes together,sometimes splitting off. Amedee and James Westcottvisited construction sites and conducted business,Louis-J oseph and Lactance Papineau made a briefside trip to New York City, Mary explored the sightsand shopped, sometimes with Amedee, sometimeswith her parents. During one such excursion, herfather bought her a rosewood Chickering piano forthe enormous sum of $450. The wedding trip endedwith a farewell dinner and champagne toasts onboard
a Montreal-bound steamboat. Then, wIpmg awaytears, the Westcotts bade their daughter goodbye. Amedees diary entries portrayed the wedding tripas a series of sightseeing excursions and meetings;despite his poetic bent, he did not see it as a romantictime. In letters to her parents, Mary described herheartbreak at leaving them "to return no more"rather than her joy at marrying her loved one, but aromantic breakfast with Amedees friends in St.Johns quickly dried her tears. Then she focused onthe anxiety-swiftly dispelled-of truly entering hernew life as Mary Papineau. Her letters home reassured her parents as shereported even the minutiae of her busy days.Compared to slow and stately Saratoga Springs,Montreal was vast and impressive. Julie Papineauthrilled her new daughter-in-law, who spokeexcellent French, with her warm and affectionategreeting. "I never felt more at ease in my own dearhome than in the family circle I have now entered, "Mary enthused. "Every thing is so well understood &easily done that one feels at home at once."45 A weekof visitors-upwards of one hundred-introduced herto the Papineau world, followed by a ball honouringher marriage. To make sure that Mary would shine,Julie Papineau gave her a "splendid Brocade silkdress" that, embellished with precious jewellery,would outdo everyone elses. The marital alliance ofMary Westcott and Amedee Papineau started off well,and would continue so until her death in 1 890.
Five years into married life, Mary and Amedee pose together with the serene confidence that characterized their union. (photo credit 4.3) On one level, the Westcott-Papineau marriage wasa love affair that began uncertainly, unfoldedtortuously (if not torturously), and triumphed as alifelong union. Certainly both Mary and Amedeerelated on that emotional and erotic sphere. Buthowever powerful their love, it led to their marriageonly because the couple came from compatiblebackgrounds. Saratoga Springs was one of New Yorkswealthiest and most urbane towns, and the Westcottswere among its leading citizens. The professional andseigneurial Papineaus were not only wealthy butsocially and politically dominant. The two familiesshared social standards and cultural appreciation;they valued education, spoke each others language,and dressed and decorated similarly. Politically, too,they were compatible, republicans who saw nocontradiction between their reformist principles andtheir privileged lifestyles. But there were differences. To the Westcotts,Amedees Catholicism was a giant stumbling block; tothe Papineaus, Marys Presbyterianism less so, at least
theologically, because Louis-Joseph had renouncedthe Catholicism he was born into, though hecontinued to believe in God. Despite Marysstepmothers fears, the Papineaus did not proselytize,and both Amedee and Mary attended each otherschurch services, apparently without conflict. Theirother principal difference was nationality andgeographical location, which they overcame withfrequent and lengthy family visits. And so, with loveas the wildcard, the two young people merged theirworlds that were so much more compatible thandifferent. After that, it was in everyones interests towork hard to make the new alliance functionsmoothly. A CONFEDERATE WEDDING, SEPTEMBER 1 861In the secessionist American South, another marriage,also inspired by romantic love, was forged in thetraditional context of the communitys socialnetwork.46 Rebecca "Decca" Coles Singleton was aSouthern belle engaged to Alexander Cheves Haskell,a devout Christian soldier on the staff of BrigadierGeneral Maxcy Gregg. Decca and Alex, both fromprominent families, conducted their courtship withinthe safety of their families social milieu, and MaryBoykin Chesnut, whose husband, James, was also aConfederate brigadier general, described the progressof their wartime romance. "Decca was the worst inlove girl she ever saw," and Alex a persistent suitor.In letter after letter he urged Decca to let him marryher at once because, Chesnut observed, "in war timeshuman events, life especially, are very uncertain." Decca cried for days. Then she agreed to marryAlex right away. The plans were made: the weddingceremony, in Charlottesville, Virginia, would be
followed by a luncheon at Deccas grandfathers, andthen a "brief slice of honeymoon" in Richmond. "Theday came," Chesnut wrote. "The wedding-breakfastwas ready, so was the bride in all her bridal array;but no Alex, no bridegroom. Alas ! such is theuncertainty of a soldiers life. The bride said nothing,but she wept like a water-nymph." At dinnertime, Alex appeared with his best manand an explanation that dried Deccas tears:circumstances over which he had no control haddelayed him. After the lovers returned from a briefpost-prandial stroll, Decca told Mary Chesnut to fetchthe minister. "I mean to be married to-day," sheinsisted. "Alex says 1 promised to marry him today. "Mary objected that it was too late that evening, butDecca, "the positive little thing," responded: "I dontcare. 1 promised Alex to marry him to-day and 1 will.Send for the Rev. Robert Barnwell." Chesnutcapitulated, "found Robert after a world of trouble,and the bride, lovely in Swiss muslin"-the samedress she had worn on her engagement day-"wasmarried." That night Chesnut vacated her bedroom so thatthe newlyweds could sleep alone. At dawn the nextday, they boarded the train for a few days inRichmond. "Such is the small allowance ofhoneymoon permitted in war time, " Chesnut wrote. A year later, Decca gave birth to a daughter. Dayslater, grieving because she was convinced Alex haddied in battle-though saying she had had "monthsof perfect happiness "-she died, pressing several ofhis unopened letters to her breast. She was buried in"the little white frock" that had been herengagement-wedding gown.
LOVE FOR THE WORKING CLASSESA thrice-married old farmers ruminations aboutmarrying first for convenience and afterward for loveare pragmatic and tinged with cynicism. Sams firstwife, who was also his cousin, "was not very pretty,but she was good and industrious [and hadinheritance prospects] . . . . She was fond of me, and Ithought I could not do better than to make her mywife. It is all very well to marry for love . . . if a fellowcan afford it; but a little money is not to be despised;it goes a great way towards making the homecomfortable. " After his wife died in childbirth, Samfell passionately in love. "There was a devilish finegall in our village, only she was a leetle flighty, or so.The lads said to me, when they saw what I was after-Sam, you had better carry your pigs to anothermarket. The lass is not right in the upper works. "But Sam, "desperately in love, " did not heed thewarning. Three days after the wedding, his beautifulnew wife slit her throat, preferring "killing herself toliving comfortably with me. " Though her suicidesullied his reputation with eligible women, Sammarried again, for love, to "a good woman. "47 Unlike Sam, women struggled with the new idealsof companionate marriage. Elinore, a young domestichelper, was stunned when a former workmateannounced their marriage banns even though she hadnot consented to marry him. She "had no sort of lovefor him tho she likes him well enough to marryhim, " her employer reported.48 For Elinore, publiclyand dramatically courted, a few days reflectiondecided the matter. Fearing the gossip her suitorsboldness might generate if she declined him, andimpressed by his determination, Elinore accepted hisproposal.
Elinore and other working women-and the menmost would marry-had much at stake. Like theirmore privileged compatriots, they were fully awarethat society expected them to marry, indeed wasstructured with married families at its core; theywere aware, too, of the growing emphasis on love inmarriage. Their task, then, was to find suitable mateswhom they loved and were loved by. Increasingly, working-class men and womenassumed more control over their lives as theirparents authority was gradually diluted. Asburgeoning cities full of hungry factories andbourgeois families demanded more workers, thoseworkers came, from the countryside as well as fromcities, to work in factories, shops, and private homes.Waged day labour began to replace theapprenticeship system. Men no longer had to wait toinherit a field or to take over a business. Women whoearned and managed their own money became lessdependent on their parents. As they accumulateddowries in the form of household goods and a littlenest egg, they could now make concrete plans for thefuture. Usually, marriage topped the list.
In the nineteenth century, young working women preferred factory jobs to even worse-paid domestic service. These sisters pose in aphotographers studio holding shuttles, used to weave cloth, just before they leave Montreal to work in a Massachusetts textile mill. (photo credit 4.4) Most married within their communities or groups,the son or daughter of a family friend or neighboursuggested by their parents, or a colleague ortradesperson they met while working. Love or strongattraction was a consideration, though seldom thedecisive factor. Young women, for example, werewarned against mistaking "romance" and "irrationallove" for the kind of enduring affection marriagedemanded. Instead, they were urged to choose a
spouse who would fulfill both their expectations offamily life and their sense of their personal worth aswage earners. The families they established were unlike the oldmodel of the working-class family that strove toproduce almost everything it consumed. In NorthAmerica, among the better off, a stay-at-home wifegradually became a status symbol, testimony to herhusbands earning capacity. Many poorer wives alsostayed home because their homemaking-gardening,churning butter, sewing and mending clothes,pickling and canning, soap- and candlemaking-wasworth more to their families than the small wagesthey could earn outside. The wages of children oldenough to send out to work would later compensatefor this arrangement. The exigencies of the quotidian grind tested andsometimes obliterated the ideal of companionatemarriage between mutually respectful and lovingspouses. That is not to deny that marriages weregrounded in love; some were. But the imbalance ofpower between men and women that essentiallystripped wives of personal autonomy made many ofthese marriages "an exercise in raw power. "49 Plentyof women were the victims of physical and emotionalabuse, and some died as a result. But when thathappened, public opinion tended to blame thewomen, and so did the judicial authorities. As anoften reprinted caution to a daughter warned in1 777, "In the fate of a woman, marriage is the mostimportant crisis: it fixes her in a state, of all othersthe most happy, or the most wretched. "5 0 These stark reminders of a wifes vulnerability keptthe role of marital love in perspective even as theideal of companionate marriage evolved in popularculture. In the self-consciously companionatemarriage of Southerners Elizabeth and William Wirt,
who corresponded extensively when he was absenton business, the responsibility for marital happinesswas hers. As a wife, she was expected to hide anytraces of unhappiness, but William worried thatElizabeth, who described herself as "exceedinglyunhappy," needed to learn this. "I cannot repress anapprehension," he wrote, "that . . . you will bedrawing comparisons between the liberty you onceenjoyed . . . [and] the high bounding hopes of youryoung heart . . . and the reality which has put an endof those hopes. . . . And now do you not say toyourself all this is over-I am a wife and amother. "51 In a society that deemed marriage as much a civicresponsibility as a personal necessity, and thereforedisdained singles, love coexisted with (and sometimesvied with) economic considerations and familypressures in the push to the altar; love wasincreasingly associated with marriage. As the stay-athome wife married to the male breadwinnergradually became the marriage model, the home wasidealized as a haven for weary husbands, a sanctuarypresided over by women who offered "disinterestedlove . . . ready to sacrifice everything at the altar ofaffection. "52 Instead of, or as well as, workmates,wives and husbands expected to be each otherssoulmates. In literature if not in life, marriagebecame a happy ending rather than a lifelongnarrative. The perennial heroine Jane Eyre evokesthis sentiment when, at the end of her harrowingstory, she announces triumphantly, "Reader, Imarried him."
ANGEL IN THE HOUSEAs literature and popular culture sentimentalizedhome and linked it with marriage, "Home SweetHome" epitomized an ideal way of life. A subculturedeveloped as doyens of domesticity preached theirvisions of what a good homemaker should do, andhow she should do it. Wifeliness, the narrative went,was a demanding combination of domestic skills andmoral standards that made a house a home, and awoman who succeeded in transforming herself intothe "angel in the house" was rewarded with hersocietys approval and her husbands praise andprotection. The treacly glorification of wives was epitomizedby admiring poet-husband Coventry Patmores verylong poem The Angel in the House (1 854), a mysticalapproach to love that gained a huge readership andsaddled generations of women with its title. FelixVaughan, the husband in the poem, reflects that loveis divinely ordained through Natures parting of"each thing into him and her, /And, in thearithmetic of life,/the smallest unit is a pair," and hecalls his beloved Honoria his "oh, strange, sweet halfof me." At the same time, Felix makes it clear that he chosecarefully before falling in love-"A dear, good Girl!shed have/Only three thousand pounds as yet;/Morebye and bye"-and he also made sure to followconvention by asking her fathers permission for hisdarling Honorias hand in marriage. Honorias fatherpermitted Felix to court her, but his consent tomarriage was contingent on her growing to love hersuitor. Nonetheless, as the father of three unmarrieddaughters, he was properly appreciative of Felixssubstantial income, estate, and prospects.
By the end of the nineteenth century, increasinglongevity cast love in a new light. In 1 7 1 1 inEngland, men died at an average age of thirty-two.By 1 831, that had risen to forty-four, and by the endof the century, to the late fifties. The consequence tomarriages was in how long they lasted: in theeighteenth century, about fifteen years, and morethan double that by the end of the nineteenth. The same was true of marriages in North America,where life expectancy also soared, from twenty tothirty years during the Colonial period when diseasessuch as measles, smallpox, and dysentery wereendemic in a population already debilitated byinfections and parasites. By the late eighteenthcentury, improved public health gave ten-year-oldwhite males a life expectancy of almost fifty-sevenyears. (At the same time, African-American males,many of them slaves, had an estimated lifeexpectancy of twenty-three years, 40 percent lowerthan for whites.) Thanks in large part to improved medical practices,diet, housing, public health, and personal hygiene,the twentieth century ushered in the mostextraordinary rise in life expectancy in humanhistory, to about seventy-four from forty-six years formen and to eighty from forty-eight years for women. If spouses lived much longer, so did marriages. Inan era of sentimentalized marriage, those years andoften decades could feel like an eternity if they werespent in a loveless union. MARRIAGE AND SEXThe sentimentalization of marriage and thesanctification of wifedom had many subtexts. Anangelic woman was supposed to entrust her well-
being to her husband; he, in return, acted on herbehalf in the economic and political spheres-hevoted and she did not, for example. In the case ofrecalcitrant or otherwise difficult husbands, hermoral superiority would prevail; she was, forexample, advised to feign giggly girlishness. (Anintelligent woman "may be admired but she willnever be beloved, " one devoted father reminded histeenaged daughter, who had a passion for theclassics.)53 But this simultaneous veneration andinfantilization also desexualized the Angel: who, afterall, lusts after someone so never-wrong, selfsacrificing, and passionless? So, with longerengagements and a double standard that enforcedfemale but not male chastity, legions of menapproached their wedding beds with sexualexperience and expectations while their (usually)virginal wives waited quavering, either dreading theimminent violation or longing for this finalconsummation. Sex was couched in contradictory terms that couldconfuse and appall as well as delight. Sex meantpleasure for men but pain for women. In an era oframpant prostitution, it spread venereal disease thatcrippled its victims and their children. It involvedbody parts otherwise associated with effluvia. It wasa womans moral and legal duty to submit to it. Ahusband could take legal action against a wife whomanaged to withhold sex, but a wife could not layrape charges against a husband who forced sex onher. This double standard also permitted men to indulgein extramarital sex, visiting prostitutes or, for the fewwho could afford it, taking mistresses. Women,however, had to remain chaste, because thelegitimacy of their family bloodline was at stake. The
consequence was that a Good Wife was supposed totolerate sex without enj oyment, to satisfy herhusbands sexual needs. Medical and popularliterature justified this version of proper sexualrelations, describing the female organism as colderand calmer than the male and, if not passionless, thenat least less sexually motivated than the male. (Ithelped that the Good Husband tried not to shock hisGood Wife with the kind of foreplay and sexualpractices he associated with mistresses or evenprostitutes.) If-to a Good Wifes surprise and shock-she responded to sex with unexpected arousal, sheworried that she was morally degraded, and manyhusbands felt the same way. One confided to MarieStopes, whose book Married Love was initially bannedin the United States, that his wifes orgasm hadfrightened him because he "thought it was some sortof fit. "54 As a result of this dissonant sexual culture, somehusbands could scarcely bring themselves to have sexwith their Good Wives. A man of Stopessacquaintance, "after a loose life, met a woman whomhe reverenced and adored. He married her, but topreserve her "purity, " her difference from the others,he never had sexual relations with her. " In the American South, the issue had racialovertones rooted in slavery, as white males soughterotic satisfaction with women of colour rather thantheir wives. Until slavery ended, they followed the"tradition" of losing their virginity with a blackwoman, usually a slave. "Why, Sir, if you could onlysee [white men] slipping around at night, trying toget into negro womens houses, you would beastonished, " a mulatto man testified just afteremancipation. 55 Thereafter, white men sought outand forced themselves on women of colour, poisoningboth the womens family lives and their own.
Twentieth-century Mississippi-born writer WillieMorris was twelve before he realized that whitewomen, too, were sexual beings. The white woman,one observer remarked, "was not supposed to knowshe was a virgin until she ceased to be one. "56 During the slave era, some white wives fought backin myriad ways, including lashing or selling off slavewomen their husbands favoured. Most, however,preferred to feign ignorance of the paternity of theirhouseholds light-skinned children, including thoseborn to slave concubines assigned to the Big House sothey would always be sexually accessible. Whitewives accepted the double standards-gender andracial-entrenched in their culture, softened by a fewassociated "privileges, " notably the laws thatprotected their wifely status and denied thelegitimacy of any children born of a husbands illicitrelationship. These laws, decreeing that the offspringof slaves inherited their mothers status, resolved thethorny issue of many mulattoes-12.5 percent of theAfrican-American population by 1 860-though theyran counter to English common law. (Some mulattoeswere born to white mothers with black lovers or,rarely, black husbands .) It would be easy to conclude that because of thesexual double standard and the repression of so manywomen, North America was teeming with sexuallyfrustrated wives. Yet many wives unabashedlyenjoyed marital sex as much as their husbands did.Robert and Eliza Hoyle, he a widower in his fiftieswith three children, and she thirty-eight, apparentlyenjoyed a satisfying (and fruitful) sex life sheplayfully referred to as "disturbing his repose. "Confederate war bride Ellen Shackelford Gift teasedher soldier husband: "I am so very glad that you weredrugged or Shanghaied "-their code word for sex-"on your last visit, & was it not a sweet little visit
after all Darling?"57 Another Confederate wife, JaneGoodwin, sent her soldier husband a letter so erotic itamounts to private pornography: [Do] you ever suffer your mind to scan the scenes of love and pleasure of the first nights transactions, which was only witnessed and enjoyed by ourselves. . . . Think, James, my dear husband, [of] the night we first retired to the midnight couch, one by one to enjoy the highest streams of pleasure that the soul and body ever knows. . . . Soon did I feel my delicate form embraced by his gigantic and robust one for a pillow and the other fondling with anxiety over my small but firm breastworks . . . you becoming more adventurous inclined your right downward you know where . . . better to ascertain the position and strength of my noble and generous battery, which so often has given you relief and pleasure. Your remarks so singular as a Quaker: Jane, hoist thy linen, spread thy thighs abroad and receive the seed of Jacob in the name of the Lord. James . . . procure a furlough. . . . I think a certain portion of it is necessary to life . . . . You would find only one difficulty in charging my battery-your ammunition might give out. . . . you need not fear . . . reinforcements could be brought up every twelve hours. . . . You have charged many times satisfactory to both of us without even the amputation of a limb . . . write soon. S8 Jane Goodwin was by no means alone inluxuriating in sexual intercourse, and in using it tokeep her absent husband connected to her. Butcountless other women were terrified of yet anotherpregnancy or horrified when newlywed friends diedin childbirth-in the antebellum South, at twice therate of northern women-and they conflated sex withchildbirth and potential death, a potent combinationof negatives that far outweighed intercoursestransitory joys. Lizzie Nesblett, who had alreadyborne five children, wrote to her husband in despair,
"This constant & never ceasing horror I have ofchildbearing constantly obtrudes itself between meand & my desire & longing to see & clasp you roundthe neck once more, & thus my longing wears acurb."59 Other women, with low expectations of enjoyment,kept silent, and a contingent of white middle-classwomen, perhaps responding to the popularperception of female arousal as a perversion,welcomed unsatisfying sex as evidence of theirsuitability as moral guardians. They accepted thatprocreation, the purpose of marriage, must involve atleast some sex, but they shuddered at the moralimplications of sex for pure pleasure, or as a way todeepen intimacy. When illnesses real or feigned kept spouses apart,some women relished the respite from sexualintercourse. Harriet Beecher Stowe, petite and wornout with the drudgery of child-rearing in straitenedcircumstances, extended her stay at Brattleborosanitarium, where, with her sister, Catharine, shelodged in the aptly named Paradise Row, took "watercures," exercised in the fresh air, and spent hoursconversing with other women. After one visit, CalvinStowe railed against his sexual deprivation and "themean business of sleeping in another bed, anotherroom, and even another house, and being with you asif you were a withered-up old maid sister instead ofthe wife of my bosom . . . this having the fonn ofmarriage and denying the power thereof is, to my mind,of all contemptible things the most unutterablycontemptible." He had not slept with her since herlast miscarriage, a year earlier, he complained, and"it is enough to kill any man, especially a man suchas I am." Harriet, unmoved by his pleas, stayed atBrattleboro for eighteen months. "Not for years, have
I enjoyed life as I have here, " she reflected. 6o Ninemonths after returning home, she gave birth to a son. Some women avoided sex with men altogether, andremained unmarried, usually in their parents homeor with relatives. Others lived in quiet contentmentwith other women, expressing their feelings andyearnings behind closed doors, lesbians before theterm was invented. Victorians approved romanticfriendships among girls, who expressed their feelingsfor each other in the most extravagant language, andkissed and fondled each other. What were they, afterall, but girlhood rehearsals for marriage, the greatdrama of a womans life? (Henry WadsworthLongfellow answered this rhetorical question inKavanaugh.) After Henry James observed in The Bostonians thatadult versions of these friendships were very commonin New England, they became known as Bostonmarriages. Boston marriages were committed, usuallychaste love relationships between women, most ofthem unmarried working professionals. Thedifference between romantic friendships and Bostonmarriages was cohabitation, which in itself provokedno suspicions about possible homosexuality. NorthAmerican spinsters and widows reliant on their owndevices often pooled resources by living together.Especially after the American Civil War created somany spinsters and widows, the practicality ofunrelated, unattached women sharing living quarterswas recognized and accepted. Cloaked in this social respectability, Bostonmarriages thrived. In the absence of a controllingmale, they provided the structure and domesticcontext for women to achieve their personal goals.Some wanted just to go through life together. Othershad professional or artistic aspirations. "Out of thedarkness of the nineteenth century," writes Lillian
Faderman, "they miraculously created a new andsadly short-lived definition of a woman who could doanything, be anything, go anywhere she please. "61 Some Boston marriages stemmed from a refusal toendure the constraints of heterosexual marriagerather than from homosexual orientation. An artisticwoman committed a "moral wrong" by marrying,wrote nineteenth-century sculptor Harriet Hosmer,because either her art or her household would suffer,making her a poor artist or a poor mother. "I urgeeternal feud with the consolidating knot, " shedeclared. But some women tied consolidating knotswith each other. VARIETIES AND VAGARIES OF MARRIED SEXUALITYFor wives, or for women who expected to marry, thenotion of female sexual satisfaction was fraught. Toadmit that female orgasms were essential to sexualsatisfaction implied that non-orgasmic women wereunhappy, perhaps because their husbands wereincompetent lovers. (It also meant that women had toknow or learn what orgasms were.) And if sex was anintegral part of the romantic love that wasincreasingly invoked as an important factor inmarrying, then unsatisfied spouses had legitimatecomplaints. If they were legitimately unhappy, theymight reasonably look at a wide range of solutions toend their unhappiness. This had such horrifyingimplications, notably divorce as the logicalconsequence of failed marital love, that it skeweddiscussions about sex and its meaning until the sexualrevolution cut to the bones, simplifying, permitting,and forgiving. Sexual fidelity was another area of contention. Thedouble standard was tolerant of bachelors who had
sex with prostitutes, less forgiving of husbands withextramarital adventures. But the man who hadpressured his fiancee to have premarital sex couldbreak off their engagement on the grounds that shewas an impure woman, and any wife who cheatedwas furiously denounced. A primary reason for thisdouble standard was that female fidelity guaranteedpaternity, to say nothing of loyalty and obedience toa husband. (We know through DNA testing as well asanecdotal evidence that at least 1 0 percent of us arenot our fathers biological offspring. The laws,anticipating this possibility, awarded husbands thepaternity of all children born in the marriage.) A 1 929 study details the attitudes of 2,200 womento marriage and sex. Almost all were educated whitewomen of means, married and unmarried; becausemost of them were born before 1 890, their responsesreflected late- and post-Victorian attitudes andvalues, and were likely more open than those early inthe nineteenth century. Of the married women, 90 percent said theirhusbands sex drive matched or was stronger thantheirs; only 3.3 percent claimed their own wasstronger. Forty percent of wives and 64.8 percent ofunmarried women masturbated, though two-thirdsagreed that this was "morally degrading. " The 1 2percent who denied having any sexual feelings orexperience claimed they were the happiest. Slightlymore than half of the single women had had "intenseemotional relations" with other women; of these,more than half described their behaviour as overtlyhomosexual. To compile "an index of current feeling andthought, a reflection of the mores of today andyesterday" regarding sex, Davis asked single womenthe following questions:
Do you believe sex intercourse necessary forcomplete physical and mental health? (No: 61 .2%) Is a young man before marriage ever justified inhaving sex intercourse? (No: 79%) Is a young woman before marriage ever justified inhaving sex intercourse? (No: 80. 5%) Is a husband ever justified in having sexintercourse with a woman or women other than hiswife? (No: 75.8%) Is a wife ever justified in having sex intercoursewith a man or men other than her husband? (No:79.2%) Are married people justified in having intercourseexcept for the purpose of having children? (Yes:84.6%) The results of Daviss survey confirm the evidenceof personal correspondence, memoirs, andcontemporary accounts of nineteenth-centurywomens attitudes toward marital sex. Denying andrepressing sexual urges was one of them. Femaleorgasms were particularly frightening. Marie Stopes,whose own five-year marriage was annulled on thegrounds of non-consummation, likened womenssexual desire to "a rhythmic sex-tide" with a"Periodicity of Recurrence of Desire. "62 The frequency of sex in marriage was anothersensitive issue. Though even sexual moderates suchas Martin Luther had suggested three times weeklyfor spouses in their prime, the North American moralpurity movement, which dated from the 1 830s,advocated sex no more than once a month, and onlyfor procreation. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, author ofPlain Facts about Sexual Life (and creator of KelloggsCom Flakes, designed to be nourishing and so blandthat they numbed all taste buds), described sex as"the reproductive act . . . the most exhausting of allacts." Rather than risk that exhaustion, and despite
being married, Kellogg practised lifelong celibacy anddied a virgin. Masturbation, the self-love that proved whatmarital sex so often did not-that women couldreach, and revel in, orgasms-became an urgentsocial concern. Masturbating was condemned asimmoral, perverted, and the cause of imbecility,insanity, consumption, blindness, cowardice, theinability to look people in the face, melancholy, splithair ends, constipation, epilepsy, apoplexy, paralysis,premature old age, even (probably welcome) death. Abook describing masturbation as "mans sin of sins,vice of vices [causing] incomparably more sexualdilapidation, paralysis and disease, as well asdemoralization, than all the other sexual depravitiescombined," sold more than half a million copies. 63Our Family Physician (1871), a widely consulted andmuch-reprinted home health manual, warned that"there is probably no vice which is more injurious toboth mind and body . . . the whole man becomes awreck, physically, morally and mentally."64 A vast market developed for devices andmedications to control masturbation or nip it in thebud. (Even wet dreams were dangerous.) Theseincluded "erection alarms, penis cases, sleeping mitts,bed cradles to keep the sheets off the genitals andhobbles to keep girls from spreading their legs."65Some worried parents improvised by tying theirchildrens hands behind their backs or to bedposts.The more fanatical resorted to straitjackets. Astonishingly, or at least counterintuitively amidthe centurys "masturbation phobia," clinical,physician-administered masturbation emerged as atreatment for female "hysteria," the term used todescribe many "female conditions," including theabsence of orgasm. 66 In an era when the respected
British Medical Journal debated, as it did in 1 878,whether the touch of a menstruating womans handcould spoil a ham and concluded that it could, femaleorgasms, like menstruation and menopause, wereviewed as crises. Rachel Maines, a historian of masturbation,estimates that at least half of women in Westerncultures failed to reach orgasm during vaginal sex.But because male ejaculation during intercourse was"known" to satisfy both man and woman, and tosuggest that a man was an inadequate lover was aheresy, womens symptoms-their failure to achieveorgasm or satisfaction, that is, their hysteria-werepathologized, medicalized, and treated. The treatments included hydrotherapy, with strongjets of water pulsating onto the genitals, or having aphysician perform "vulvular stimulation" that, bybringing (or trying to bring) a woman to climax,eased her hysteria. But physicians found these pelvicmassages tiring and tedious, and many grumbled thata husbands penis should be doing the j ob instead. In1 880, Dr. Kelsey Stinner invented the first batteryoperated vibrator for women to treat themselves athome (and to relieve his colleagues). Though the firstvibrators were large, awkward, and expensive,"vibration therapy" became very popular and widelyavailable. Luxury resorts in North America andEurope offered "musical vibrators, counterweightedvibrators, vibratory forks, undulating wire coils calledvibratiles, vibrators that hung from the ceiling,vibrators attached to tables and floor models onrollers. "67 In 1902, the Hamilton Beach company patented thefirst electric model for retail sale. The vibratorbecame the fifth electrified domestic appliance afterthe sewing machine, the fan, the teakettle, and thetoaster, and preceded the vacuum cleaner and iron by
a decade. Manufacturers disguised their vibrators sexual connotations with medical terminology,describing them as appliances designed to producenot orgasms but "hysterical paroxyms " that relievedpathological hysteria. Advertisements in such popularwomens magazines as Needlecraft, Womans HomeCompanion, Modem Priscilla, and the Sears, Roebuckcatalogue used the vocabulary of healthful self-help,promising rest, strength, rejuvenation, and, daringly,"release. " These advertisements disappeared only inthe 1920s, when vibrators began to be associatedwith pornography. Learning how to use the vibrator, 1 891 . By 1 900, vibrators were available for home use. Its erotic uses were euphemistically noted.Hamilton Beachs vibrator included six "special attachments" and a"300 page library bound book, profusely illustrated, " instructing how to apply them. (photo credit 4.5) Women were not the sole victims of sexual anxiety.Male impotence, sporadic or chronic, was a privateembarrassment that sometimes became a publicshame. In many jurisdictions, unconsummated
marriages could be annulled, and the primary causeof non-consummation was male impotence. (In canonlaw, the impotent female was defined as "so narrowthat she cannot be rendered large enough to havecarnal relations with a man, " but records do notindicate that anyone was ever prosecuted.) In themid-sixteenth century, French churchmen aggrievedby the notion that in marrying, impotent men wereattacking the churchs authority, tracked them downand inspected their genitals for proof of erection andej aculation. One accuseds erection was rejectedbecause of its "tension, hardness and duration. "Others were invalidated as merely byproducts of anurgent need to urinate. The French Revolution ended these humiliatingtrials but not the shame of impotence and its assumedassociation with infertility. In the words of popularwriter John Marten, whose Onania ( 1 7 1 2) sparkedeighteenth-century Europes anti-masturbationcrusade: For as the due Erection and Stiffness of the Yard is one main qualification for the performing the Office of a Husband, so no less is the regular ejaculation of the Seed thro the Yard so erected. [The impotent man,] Unfruitful, and not able to Generate, . . . is a useless Member to the Commonwealth in which he lives, and One, whom the Fair Sex would avoid, unless it were to look at him, Point and Laugh with their Fans before their Faces, as not fit for that Conversation, which they are so susceptible of, and take so much Delight and Pleasure in.6s Impotence inspired much genuine and pseudomedical literature and countless recipes and productsto reverse it: Nervous Cordial and Botanical Syrup,Cordial Balm of Gilead, galvanic cures, andphysicians remedies such as cold bathing of genitals,
bloodletting, purges, and painful injections or candlelike bougie probes into the urethra. In the eighteenthcentury, English surgeon John Hunter dismissedmasturbation as a cause of impotence and declaredthat male pride-such as anxiety about deflowering avirgin-could bring it on. Men who had consortedwith prostitutes, for example, could be renderedimpotent by gUilt at the thought of sex with theirpristine and sexually unresponsive brides. (One suchwoman read during the sexual act, stopping only toinquire if her husband were through. A few bookslater, his erotic urges had withered to nearimpotency.) Female prudishness and frigidity were also blamedfor male impotence. A woman might feign sexualpassivity to conceal what she feared was her overlybestial nature or, much more commonly, as a form ofbirth control. The ferocious female erotic appetitewas equally a cause of male impotence. So were thesight and smell of a womans body. As CharlesKingsley confided to his fiancee, Fanny, he wouldneed to learn "to bear the blaze of your nakedbeauty. You do not know how often a man is struckpowerless in body and mind on his wedding night."69 Conversely, ugliness, a "flabby vulva, or a verylarge vagina, " to say nothing of menstrual blood,body odour, or false teeth, could erode a mans sexualpower. This was the case for nineteenth-centurywriter John Ruskin, whose (still virginal) wife, Effie,won an annulment on the grounds that he wasimpotent. On their marriage bed, something aboutEffies naked body had disgusted him: either that,unlike the Greek statutes he so loved, Effie had pubichair or, more likely, that she was menstruating. Or perhaps Effies sin was that she failed to practise"feminine hygiene." Had she lived a few decadeslater, she might have read the July 1 933 issue of
McCalls Magazine-among hundreds of sources-andlearned that "fewer marriages would flounder aroundin a maze of misunderstanding and unhappiness ifmore wives knew and practiced regular marriagehygiene. " What she needed was to cleanse her vaginawith Lysol, the douche that would appeal to herwomanly fastidiousness and also stave off pregnancy.Used regularly and correctly-and the manufacturerspromised to elaborate on this in a helpful bookletforwarded in a plain envelope-Lysol would ensure"health and harmony" throughout a marriage.70 Withthis "power to please" within her grasp, indeedwithin her household cleaning supplies, the onceflailing wife could banish the odoriferous agingprocess, rekindle the restorative air of romance-andstop contributing to her husbands impotence.
"PLEASt DAVE PLEASE DONT LET.. ME BE LOCKED OUT fROM YOU!" 01,... " "",. I<aI, IV ",,,... Il00. dat>llh dir. 10 _ ,,, Ihfi.- � ,ot. .. t "r _, ,,..,,., Ioopp y _-- ...... It.m: I" � .., .. - l a..a KI,. :: ��:: ::�til. �.�t!,.-:: �� r ••••• ,.- •• _ •••• - - --- .. 5 --- . . • , : r4if�I" _,"Inin. ��� i H�. f!il, .ii • • • 1 1..., ..... 1hI � =:.�:t Wl "" ! __ "I!"-.-. P1IiiII � - -. _ _ _ _ _ _ :-- - _ JPoor Mary did not know that her female odour and her ignorance of Lysol were standing between her and Dave. For decades Lysol wasmarketed and used as a vaginal douche and a contraceptive. (photo credit 4.6) Unsavoury as their women might be, males werealso to blame for their own flabby failings: alcohol,tobacco, evil thoughts, drugs, masturbation, overlyspicy food. Husbands were bombarded with ads for
Therapion, Dr. McLaughlins Electric Belt, andWoods Phospho dine. Marie and Pierre Curiesdiscovery of radioactivity in 1 898 led enterprisingcharlatans such as William J.A. Bailey to market"radium therapy" for impotence and other medicalissues. Bailey, a Harvard dropout earlier fined forpromoting a strychnine pill as an aphrodisiac,changed directions and sold bottled radioactive wateras Radithor, a cure for impotence and decreasedsexual drive. But the company shut down aftermillionaire American amateur-golf champion, steelmanufacturer, and socialite Eben M. Byers died in1 932 of dissolved bones after guzzling gallons ofRadithor-"The Radium Water Worked Fine Until HisJaw Came Off, " the Wall Street Journal sniped in aheadline. Despite Radithors bad publicity, men (in theRoman poet Ovids felicitous phrase) "as limp asyesterdays lettuce" continued to seek out potions andsalves and penis splints, to no avail. (How muchsimpler and metaphoric earlier European folk cureshad been: a husband peeing through his wifeswedding ring or through a church keyhole.)Respectable physicians offered treatment as well butonly, warned Dr. Irvin S. Koll, after "the charlatan,faith healer, and Christian Scientist have also hadtheir fling at him. " Kolls magisterial Diseases of the Male UrethraIncluding Impotence and Sterility ( 1 9 1 8) is a grimreminder of what that treatment entailed. Koll urgedphysicians to recognize the urgency of restoring malepotency to make "barren marriages becom [e] fruitfuland lessen the many instances of marital infelicitywhich are so appallingly due to sexual incapacity onthe part of the afflicted male." Impotence was a "truepathology" that led to mental illness and evensuicide, and-how comforting this would have been
to cure-seekers-"patients should not be dismissedwith an exhortation to forget it, a so-calledaphrodisiac pill, which is valueless, or possibly thepassage of a urethral sound or a cold rectalirrigation. " Kolls recommendations echoed the Victorian erasregimen of cauterizing and injecting or probing theurethra. These "cures," rooted in the conviction thatimpotence was caused by masturbation, "the vicioushabit of indulging in coitus interruptus� " and othersexual excesses, pained and punished the sufferer.While one physician was masturbating the"hysterical" wife to orgasm, another was insertingendoscopes or syringes with caustic liquid into theimpotent husbands penis, massaging his prostatethrough his rectum, administering rectalsuppositories, and ordering hot sitz baths twice daily. War injuries wounded or castrated thousands ofmen and accounted for a majority of the casescategorized as impotence in military records. Inground campaigns where combat soldiers knelt, sat,or lay prone during battle, they were often woundedin the buttocks or genitals, and the kidney, bladder,prostate, urethra, penis, testes, and spermatic cordcould be perforated by bullets or bone fragments.Until the mid-nineteenth century, for example in theCrimean War, such injuries were more often fatal.But during the Civil War, American physicians beganto save a much greater number of them. One was a twenty-one-year-old private from the8th Ohio Infantry retrieved from the field after theBattle of Cold Harbor, June 3, 1 864: "Wounded by aball in the left of the scrotum, passing backward andwounding the testis, urethra, and rectum. . . . Righttestis gone; persistent urethral fistula; incontinence ofurine and severe pain on exercise; occasional
discharges of matter from urethra and rectum;disability total. "71 During the Civil War, when thousands of suchwounds were documented, sexual dysfunction afterpelvic injuries was both common and untreatable,and the National Archives Pension files are filled withrecords "of impotence and depression related to lossof sexual function." The continued suffering, sadness,and frustration must have darkened many marriagesas spouses attempted to cope with veterans sexualwreckage. It could not have helped that popular culture alsostuck it to impotent men with its assumptions thatimpotence meant infertility, and that the might of anerection was the measure of a man. As historianKevin J. Mumford writes, "advertising pitches forimpotence remedies suggest that a new standard ofmale sexuality-giant strength and power, enlargedorgans, and sexual power-was gradually emergingand becoming more and more central toconstructions of masculinity."72 SEXUALIZED MARRIAGEThe new century hastened the transformation ofmarriage. The suffragette movement, rooted innineteenth-century abolitionism, offered womendifferent visions and priorities and exposed theinequality of domestic sexual politics. The Angelstormed out of her house to picket governmentoffices and demand the right to vote. Wives andsingle women protested their political impotence. Newspapers and magazines featured photographsand cartoons of policemen hauling respectablemiddle-class women to prison, and of guards forcefeeding them during hunger strikes. Public outrage at
their mistreatment won the suffragettes muchsupport. By the early 1900s, the sentimental ideal ofseparate, complementary male and female sphereswas crumbling. World War I intensified the process ofgender integration as women took over jobs vacatedby servicemen and made their presence felt in theircommunities. Suffragettes, most middle class, oftenProtestant, and well educated, borrowed familiarrhetoric and shaped it to their goals, arguing thattheir moral superiority and motherly instincts wouldleaven the male political sphere just as they did thefamily. Giving women the vote, they declared, wouldstrengthen both family and society through childwelfare, education and farm reform, temperance,moral purity, and applied Christianity.
Miss G. Brytton costumed as a gentleman, Montreal, 1 895. Cross- dressing became popular as women responded to the suf fragettemovement, to the demand for more suitable garb for cycling, and to the introduction of (much-ridiculed) bloomers. Other women cross dressed so they could join the military or get jobs restricted to men. Dress reform movements reflected womens greatfrustration withrestrictive fashion. The social aspects of cross-dressing were stronger than its sexual connotations. (photo credit 4.7) By the second decade of the twentieth century,North American women began to win voting rights,Canadian women first in Manitoba, in 1 916, then
federally in 1 9 1 9 (though in 1 9 17 women with closerelatives in the military could vote on their behalD,and finally in Quebec, in 1 940. In the United States,Washington state granted voting rights in 1 9 1 0 andthe federal government in 1920, when the NineteenthAmendment was ratified. Sexual liberation was also in the air. In 1 9 1 6,Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic.The family planning it provided had been unavailableto her mother, a devout Roman Catholic whoendured eighteen pregnancies that produced elevenlive births. Sanger also wrote popular books, such asWhat Every Girl Should Know (191 6)-which dealtstraightforwardly with menstruation and adolescentsexuality-and What Every Mother Should Know(1917), and founded and edited the monthlyperiodical The Birth Control Review and Birth ControlNews. Sanger promoted birth control not as a means tofacilitate indiscriminate sex but as a way to empowerworking women otherwise crushed by too muchchild-bearing. Women were so desperate for birthcontrol information that, between 1 921 and 1 926,they bombarded Sanger with one million letters. The New Woman of the 1 900s had a morehedonistic interest in sex than Sanger did. This NewWoman spoke openly about sexual passion andsometimes indulged in it. She wore less confiningclothes than her mother had. After World War I, shedonned flapper garb, bobbed or shingled her shorthair, flattened her breasts with chest bands, woreshort skirts and bare legs and arms, reddened herlips, rouged her cheeks, smoked cigarettes. She"dated" boys and sometimes necked and petted. Shefinished high school and sometimes went on tocollege or university. She could aspire to aprofessional job, though obtaining it was less likely.
She valued self-realization and self-determinationover selfless, moral loftiness. "Here she comes,running, out of prison and off the pedestal; chains off,crown off, halo off, just a live woman," the writerCharlotte Perkins Gilman enthused. The New Woman criticized marriage as a bourgeoisinstitution corroded by male tyranny, but she marriedanyway, hoping and expecting to find happiness andlove. With birth control, she could control herfertility. If she were unhappy, she might divorce. Butdespite her rejection of Victorian gender segregation,the New Woman remained a wife dependent on herbreadwinner husband. In fact, writes legal scholarNancy Cott, "the economic bargain between ahusband-provider and a wife-dependent had becomethe most important public stake in marriage."73 Nonetheless, many people feared that theinstitution of marriage was decaying. As august aperson (and as ardent a lover) as Theodore Rooseveltwas shocked that lovelessness could break up amarriage. Love, erotic as well as romantic, hadbecome so integral to marriage that marriage wassinking under its weight. When Roosevelt lost his beloved Alice, thepassionate love they shared was increasingly commonbetween spouses. More and more people resistedsettling for pure convenience because, like JaneAusten, they believed that "anything is to bepreferred or endured rather than marrying withoutAffection." After millennia, the centrality of love inmarriage was strongly developing.
Chapter 5 Marriage from within Four Walls HOUSING AND HOUSEKEEPING"A very dangerous woman," Martha Coffin Wrightsneighbours deemed her, and to people opposed tofreedom for slaves and rights for women, she wasindeed a menacing presence. She attended andchaired anti-slavery meetings at a time when theyrequired armed defenders against pro-slavery mobs,and wrote reviews for political and abolitionistpublications such as The Liberator. She welcomedblack abolitionists into her home and hid fugitiveslaves northward-bound via the UndergroundRailway; later she developed a close friendship withAfrican-American slave rescuer Harriet Tubman. Withher older sister, Lucretia Mott, Martha helpedorganize the historic Seneca Falls Womens RightsConvention of 1 848, which she attended heavilypregnant with her seventh child. Despite her fervour for social justice, MarthaWright was also a Good Wife governed by hersocietys conventions about homemaking. Even withher heavy volunteer commitments, she had to raiseher four children (three others died), operate ahousehold, and earn money. "The only way is to grub& work, & sweep & dust, & wash & dress children, &make gingerbread, & patch and darn, " she wrote.Housework was endless. Unlike her husband at hisplace of work, the wife
amid incessant clamor, must renew the treadmill task of yesterday-must wash the same faces, make the same beds, sweep the same rooms; must settle disputes in the Kitchen, & quarrels among the . . . fallen little sons and daughters of her Adam: and amid all these occupations, must find occasional moments to "stitch-stitch-stitch" the innumerable garments needed in a family. Let her look to it . . . that she gets through this in time to clothe her harassed and worn visage in those "wreathed smiles" so indispensable toward maintaining the good humor of her liege lord. He too has had troubles to encounter . . . but not of that petty, harassing kind that are wearing away the spirits & the life of the partner he has chosen.The husband sleeps at night while his wife "risesweary & unrefreshed, again to go through the sameroutine. " 1 Martha was no malcontent; she was a much loved-and loving-wife: "I was not aware before of howmuch 1 loved you Dearest, but your absence leavessuch a blank in my existence, " David wrote her. (Herfirst husband, Peter Pelham, who died leaving her anineteen-year-old widowed mother, had been moreardent: "I have never loved, until I knew you. . . .beauty united with wit & taste.") But even in themost loving, companionate relationship, and likecountless other middle-class wives, Martha was "toobusy to live."2 Though a hired domestic relieved a small part ofher burden, Martha was perpetually exhausted,especially by her "vociferous and boisterous" childrenand by interminable, essential sewing. "There is onlyone day out of 7 that the baby sleeps long enough forme to take a needle in my fingers," she wrote toLucretia. Yet somehow, she had to make all herfamilys clothes, make purses, knit socks and hats,
and make most of the household linens. Shecommented about an acquaintance pregnant with herfifteenth child, "I should think she would commitsuicide. "3 When Martha visited Boston to help at the birth ofher fourteenth grandchild and instead contracted afatal case of typhoid pneumonia, her close friend andwomens rights colleague Susan B. Anthony grieved:"I could not believe it; clear-sighted, true andsteadfast almost beyond all other women ! "Throughout her lifetime, Martha railed againstsocietys expectations of the Good Wife, all the whilefulfilling them, and somehow managing to remain "avery dangerous woman" in pursuit of social justice. Martha Cof Wright and David Wright (photo credit 5 . 1 ) fin As bride and groom began to forge a life together,their housing and housekeeping arrangementsprofoundly affected their marriage. Europeans, whowould later remake North America in their ownimage, emphasized sociability over privacy. By theend of the late Middle Ages, city houses featuredliving quarters on upper floors with businessconducted downstairs at street level. The custom of
keeping livestock in adjacent outbuildings was dyingout. Wood, fireplaces, and chimneys were replacingearthen floors, open hearths, and the roof holes thatdrew out smoke. Two-storeyed houses were becomingcommon. Windows were glazed. After the Great Fireof London, in 1 666, those who could afford it builtwith brick and stone rather than wood. Medieval families included as secondary membersunrelated domestics and apprentices as well asboarders and "unfortunates"-orphans, old folk,invalids-placed in their care by local authorities. Inthe rare event that parents survived into old age, theytoo lived with their offspring. Apprentices andjourneymen, even the children of gentry and noblessent to other families to learn the dynamics of theworld they would inhabit, lived and slept cheek byjowl with their masters. As John Dod and Robert Cleaver taught in theirmuch-reprinted A Godly Fonn of HouseholdGovernment: For the Ordering of Private FamiliesJAccording to the Direction of Gods Word (1621),masters and mistresses were like fathers and mothersto their servants and apprentices, bound to providegood food, drink, and lodging; to comfort, relieve,and cherish them in sickness as in health; and to"correct" them when they erred. In return, servants and apprentices owed theirmasters cheerful compliance, courtesy, and moralbehaviour. They were to beg forgiveness if they spokein anger. They were not to run away. They were todo anything asked of them unless it were "unhonest,unlawful, wicked, unjust, or ungodly, then they mustin no wise obey it." Residents of these mixed households functioned onlevels of considerable intimacy. When nature called,they defecated and urinated in the chamber pots keptin most rooms, and breathed in each others bad
smells. They bathed infrequently, had unsavourypersonal hygiene, seldom changed their clothing and-rich and poor-were riddled with lice and fleas.They had few possessions or furniture, except fordining tables. In prosperous families, youngerchildren played in the kitchen and courtyard; olderones studied at the dining table. In large homes, the rooms were mUlti-purpose. Insmaller ones, one or two rooms accommodated allresidents and all activities, including cooking,working, and sleeping. Beds, often curtained, wereplaced wherever they fit; as some people slumbered,others continued their activities in the same room.Beds were also shared space, and couples lay side byside with their children, unrelated householdmembers, guests, or travellers. This lack of privacy made marital intimaciesdifficult or impossible. Co-residents heard each otherconverse and squabble, and sometimes intervened,for example when a wife was being abused. They sawwhat their housemates did and who visited them.They were privy to other peoples sexual encounters.Though some thinkers, for example the Puritantheologian William Perkins, had begun to teach that"the marriage-bed signifieth that solitarie and secretsocietie, that is betweene man and wife alone, "privacy was rare.4 Martin Luthers householdincluded not just his wife, Katharina, and their sixchildren but a constant supply of student boarders,his nephew Andraesel, and one of Katharinasnephews. In historian Philippe Ariess words, "Peoplelived on top of one another, masters and servants,children and adults, in houses open at all hours to theindiscretions of the callers. The density of society leftno room for the family. "5 Early European colonists transported this form ofhousehold to North America, where shared beds were
common, children learned about sex by observing it,and ones personal life was laid bare to all thehousehold members. When colonists travelled, theyshared beds in roadside inns with fellow travellers,strangers to them until they bedded down side byside for the night. British immigrant Mary OBrien was forced to shareher cramped Upper Canadian farmhouse with thedomestic workers she spent her days supervising.Reluctantly, and grumbling that they did not "knowtheir place, " she followed the North American customof having her "helps" take their meals at her familystable. By the nineteenth century, new ideals of privacyhad developed and, for those who could afford it,influenced home construction on both sides of theAtlantic. Large houses were now divided into fourzones: the servants quarters, the adult familysquarters, the childrens quarters, and the great publicrooms. Hallways, previously absent, allowed peopleto enter one room without first passing throughanother. A back staircase hid servants from familyand guests as they hauled wood and coal. Bathrooms,or water closets, made elimination a private affair.Bell wires enabled servants to respond night and dayeven from a distance, so they no longer had to hoverand sleep nearby. Adultery in bedrooms became lessrisky. As architect Robert Kerr observed in 1 840: "Thefamily constitutes a community; the servants another.Whatever may be their mutual regard as dwellersunder one roof, each class is entitled to shut its doorupon the other and be alone. What passes on eitherside of the boundary shall be invisible and inaudibleon the other. On both sides this privacy is highlyvalued. "6
This was a typical sight in urban North America, as neighbourhoodchildren and adults crowded together to work on piecework. In suchovercrowded surroundings, personal privacy was dif cult to imagine fi and seldom achieved. (photo credit 5.2)A male frog courting a female frog, who notices that a frog voyeur is peering in the window. By 1 876, cultural awareness ofpersonal
privacy was growing, and this humorous image implies that even in nature, privacy is important. (photo credit 5.3) But the great majority of North Americanhouseholds could not incorporate privacy into theirphysical or operational structure. Rural familiesshared their homes with the usually female helpwhose wages consisted of a few dollars a month androom and board. In Upper Canada, as in much ofrural North America, "when a girl arrived to take upher position, she immediately became an integralmember of her employers household," sharing theirwork, physical space, and living conditions. Therelationship between employer and help was sointimate that it mirrored aspects of kinship. Like the woman whose house they shared, the helpsaw themselves as homemakers who would one dayhave homes-and help-of their own. Thesehomemakers-in-training held their employers todemocratic North American standards; as Britishimmigrant Anne Langton noted, "We ladies are asbusy as the servants rubbing furniture . . . . you lose norespect in such exertions . . . here one of our domesticswould be surprised and perhaps consider herself alittle ill-used if, in any extra bustle, we should besitting in our drawing room. They are apt to think itquite right that we should be taking our due share."? Privacy had little presence in these shared lives,and neither employer nor employed could concealmuch of their lives, including the dynamics of theirmarriages, from each other. Spouses had no choicebut to conduct themselves as best they could withinthese communal conditions. In urban settings, a measure of privacy was easierto come by even though bourgeois homes usually haddomestic helpers. Those who lived in had their own
quarters to retire to when they were not on duty;those who worked in more modest homes lived out,returning at night to their own lodgings. Even ingrander homes, privacy was sacrificed to suchcustoms as paying trade or professional assistants inboard and lodging as well as training. Until well intothe nineteenth century, North Americans practised amodified form of European apprenticeship, withmaster artisans or craftsmen indenturing youngstersfor four or five years of training. In return, theapprentices lived with them and usually performedsome household chores as well. In the American South, slaveholders neither valuednor practised the new notion of privacy. Earlyplantation houses, often modelled on colonial NewEnglands traditional hall-and-parlour plan,incorporated a "lack of privacy [that] reflects in partthe relatively informal relationship between familymembers, servants, and slaves in the late eighteenthand early nineteenth centuries," explains architectand scholar Gerald L. Foster. 8 Until the Civil War,many larger and more elegant plantation houses stillretained this basic form. In the nineteenth century, Elizabeth and WilliamWirt had five slaves in their house in Norfolk,Virginia. Elizabeth "rallied her captive assistants"three women-to work alongside her spinning,weaving, and sewing, while two male slave coachmentended the animals and gardens.9 (Williams legalclerks also lived with them until they becamelawyers.) Southern plantation houses overflowed with slaves-"they are in the parlor & in your rooms & all over, "New Yorker Sarah Hicks Williams reported to herparents about North Carolina. Slaves lived and sleptthroughout the house, including on the floor of theirwhite masters and mistresses bedrooms so they
could be instantly at hand to fetch a glass of water,open or shut a window, swat a mosquito. One or twoalso had free access to the white familys bedrooms,which they entered to light the morning fire and doother chores without disturbing the inhabitants. Thewhites seldom bothered to censor what they said ordid in their slaves presence, their race and status asproperty rendering them invisible and unheeded. 1o This lack of privacy had a sexual dimension. Likeother North Americans, privileged white Southernfamilies grounded their marriages in the conjugaldomesticity that was replacing older marriagemodels. They were dotingly child-centred and stroveto prepare their children for success, sending a highproportion of sons to college and many daughters toschools for young women. Yet the bonds betweenhusband and wife, and their self-image as a nuclearfamily, were constantly tested by the husbandsinfidelities committed on the bodies of black women. "Like the patriarchs of old, our men live all in onehouse with their wives and their concubines; and themulattoes one sees in every family partly resembledthe white children," South Carolina planters wifeMary Boykin Chesnut wrote. "Any lady is ready totell you who is the father of all the mulatto childrenin everybodys household but her own. Those, sheseems to think, drop from the clouds. " 1 1 The dailypresence of those children and their mothers was oneof the most galling consequences of racism-honedsexual mores, and of the pervasive lack of privacy inSouthern homes. This enforced sociability extended to the quarters,the nearby hamlet of shanties where most slaveslived. The architecture of those squalid cabins,juxtaposed against a looming Great House, offeredvery different meanings of the nature of marriage andthe purpose of children and family. The slave houses,
puny and insignificant, were usually one room intowhich whites stuffed as many people as they could."They wamt particular about how many they put ina room, " former slave John Van Hook recalled.Another added that unrelated families were crammed"in the same cabin, just as many as could get in, menand women all together." 12 Slave spouses, whethertheir marriages had been voluntary or imposed, hadto accommodate themselves to this utter lack ofprivacy. THE CULT OF DOMESTICITYIn nineteenth-century North Americas middle-classhomes, notions of privacy were taking root and werereflected in new models of residential houses. Thesetypically featured front porches, entrances and frontparlour or drawing rooms to receive guests, who hadto be kept away from the kitchen or any other"service" area, and bedrooms, usually upstairs. Largerhomes might also have a nursery; a library, oftenwith its own side entrance, for the husband; and asitting room for the wife. Instead of the older notionof common bedrooms, children were provided withpleasant individual rooms to prevent them fromseeking "pleasure and excitements neither sowholesome or refining as a fond parent wouldwish. "13 The expansion of North American cities and theconcomitant scarcity of land prompted theconstruction of housing even denser than the narrowtownhouses that were popular in Philadelphia, NewYork, Montreal, and Toronto: apartments for thecomfortable classes, tenements for the poorer. By thesecond half of the nineteenth century, even upperclass North Americans were living in European-
influenced apartment buildings. Spacious andelegant, they maximized land use and providedgardens, storage, ground-floor commerce, the latestin plumbing and heating, and concierges to monitorthe buildings comings and goings. As in thetownhouse, apartment dwellers embraced thegendered breadwinner-homemaker marriage model,and their housing reflected this with at least oneroom designed for the exclusive use of the stay-athome wife ("non-working" but hard at work sewing,embroidering, and so on) and another for herhusband. The changing functions of society-schools thattook over the education once provided in the home,factories and businesses that replaced the home asworkplaces, and asylums and correctional institutesthat handled social welfare-greatly influenced whatwent on inside North American homes. NorthAmerican architecture, reflecting these changes,helped to shape the marriage model of malebreadwinner and female homemaker, each withspecific responsibilities. Women were expected tocreate a refuge for work-weary husbands and adelightful cocoon for children who might otherwiseyearn for more exciting horizons. The meaning ofinterior, observed a French historian, "referred not somuch to the heart of man as to the heart of thehousehold, and it was there that one experiencedhappiness; similarly, well-being was now conditionedon comfort. "14 These homes reflected as well the fundamentalchange away from sociability and toward intra-familyprivacy and gender segregation. Husbands and wivesoften had separate spheres. Family membersrespected each others privacy by knocking on doorsbefore entering. Fewer middle-class homes took inpaying boarders, a time-honoured way for wives to
supplement their familys income while confined tothe domestic sphere. Upper-class American writerEdith Wharton valued privacy as "one of the firstrequisites of civilized life. "15 Countless homes, however, were too small orwrongly divided to accommodate much privacy.Harriet Beecher Stowe was tormented by its lack andcomplained to her husband, "If I came into the parlorwhere you were, I felt as if I were interrupting you,and you know you thought so toO. " 16 Noise, too,limited privacy: Stowes brood of children studied,played, practised piano, and were generallyunderfoot; if she tried to take a few minutes respite,one of them would rattle the latch of her closed door.Stowe craved privacy and continually sought it, butas in so many other homes, reality fell far short of theideal. In this ideal, the new inward-looking home wasalso a wifes workshop, where she "she is to live, tolove, but where she is to care and labor, " as acontemporary noted. "Her hours, days, weeks,months and years are spent within its bounds, untilshe becomes an enthroned fixture, moreindispensable than the house itself. " I ? Wifedom hadbecome house-, husband-, and child-centred, and wasconducted in the familiar comfort of domesticprivacy. This new cult of domesticity recast middle-classwives as custodians of their homes, chaste andaccomplished in the arts of homemaking and childcare, Good Wives ruling their clean, cheerful, andsegregated roosts. But though they did not go out towork to offices, factories, or fields to earn money,even privileged Good Wives worked at home, and"going into housekeeping" or setting up a householdincluded earning as well as saving cash. In Virginia,for example, Elizabeth Wirt worked as her lawyer
husbands clerical assistant on top of supervising ahighly organized domestic assembly line thatproduced a wide range of preserved and freshfoodstuffs, linens, and clothing. Southerner LouiseWinifred "Loula" Kendall forgot her third weddinganniversary because she was "busy doing up lard, andmaking sausage meat all day. . . . Farewell sentiment,poetry, beauty and flowers ! " the once romanceobsessed belle added ruefully. 1 8 Good Wives who did not manufacture their owncotton or linen or spin their own wool still sewedtheir familys clothes. An Upper Canadian dry-goodsmerchant remarked that he did not stock clothing asthe women made it all themselves. Upper CanadianEliza Hoyle, whose husband was often absent onbusiness, was expected to "collect his debts, overseehis workmen at the mill, supervise the care of thelivestock, see to it that the horses were properlywatered and that the fences were kept in good repair,and [in times of anticipated scarcity] buy oats orhay. " 1 9 Slaveholding women supervised or pitched into dip candles, stuff sausages, sew mattresses, makesoap, churn butter, and grow, harvest, and can fruitsand vegetables. Some women earned money in other ways, notablyby writing. Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose anti-slaverynovel Uncle Toms Cabin prompted president AbrahamLincoln to call her "the little woman who wrote thebook that made this great [Civil] war, " was one ofthese scribbling sisters. She once explained to a fan,"As I married into poverty and without a dowry, andas my husband had only a large library of books anda great deal of learning . . . when a new carpet ormattress was going to be needed, or when myaccounts, like poor Doras, wouldnt add up, then Iused to say . . . Ill write a piece, and then well be outof the scrape. So I became an author." 2o
Good Wives also contributed to their familyswelfare and raised its standard of living throughclever shopping, cooking, sewing, and cleaning.Historian Jeanne Boydston calculates that based onthe weekly family food budget estimated by the NewYork Tribune in 1 851 at $4.26, a thrifty wife whobought in bulk and dried and salted extra food couldsave from 40 cents to over $2 a week, 1 0 to 50percent of her familys food budget. For example,keeping kitchen gardens or chickens and producingtheir own cheese saved 25 cents a week, the price ofa bushel of potatoes. 21 Good Wives were also targeted as important-andvalued-consumers who wanted and needed thefruits of the new technological advances that hadearlier revolutionized society with factories and thatnow produced stoves, vacuum cleaners, and a host ofother labour-saving devices. But these labour-savingdevices generated new demands and ever-higherstandards, which, accompanied by the exodus ofservants, made more work for Mother. Womens diaries and memoirs testify to the factthat housekeeping had never been easy, as Boydstondocuments in Home and Work. Wives washed clotheson scrub boards, ironed with heavy flatirons,chopped firewood, baked bread, cooked meals,picked and preserved fruits and vegetables, spunwool, sewed and mended clothes, scoured floors andwalls, shovelled coal, carried pails of water, emptiedslop buckets, doctored and cared for children, taughtmorals, and recorded flashes of their life in letters ordiaries. New labour-saving devices eased or, in the case oftoilets, eliminated some of these burdens. But exceptfor the wealthiest women, all the nineteenth-centuryAngels in the House had to master standards ofhomemaking that would daunt Martha Stewart. "I am
but a mere drudge, " Harriet Beecher Stowe confidedto a friend. 22 In author Louisa May Alcotts succinctwords: "Housework aint no joke ! " The new economic structure, with wage earnersworking in factories and offices and shops rather thanat home, made midday dinner obsolete for mostpeople. Men began to eat in restaurants that boastedquick and cheap meals and were near their places ofwork. In the evening, when family members gatheredtogether, their dinner was the most important andelaborate meal of the day and included several dishesand dessert. (The exception was Sunday, whenmidday dinner followed church services.) These complicated dinner menus arose in responseto the view that women with stoves should no longerconfine their offerings to the traditional one-potstews and soups suitable to hearths. But thewondrous cast-iron coal- or wood-fired stove wasextremely difficult to use. To get it going, thehousewife had to clean out the ashes from theprevious cooking session, replace them with kindlingand paper, get going a new fire, and adjust thedampers and flues. Because the stove had nothermostat, she had to monitor its heat output,fiddling with the flues or adding fuel, responding toits capriciousness. The stoves appetite was voracious:about fifty pounds of coal or wood a day. On average,housewives devoted four hours a day to itsmaintenance, including rubbing it with the thickblack wax that kept it from rusting, and emptying theash box. Martha Wrights stove was typical: "Whack! wentthe stove equal to a cannon & now both windows areopen to let out the smoke," she grumbled to hersister. "Bang! Goes the blamed stove again I had gotall the smoke out & closed the windows, and thenraised the door to get the stove hot again-before it
was too hot. I shut it nearly down & it chosed topuff. 23 Harriet Beecher Stowe observed wryly thatthe new airtight stove "has saved people from allfurther human wants, and put an end forever to anyneeds short of the six feet of narrow earth which aremans only inalienable property. "24 Food preparation was also onerous; until the end ofthe nineteenth century, most food was unprocessed.The Campbell Soup Company, for example, inventedcondensed soup only in 1 897. The housewife(working alongside her help if the family could affordany) had to slaughter, pluck, and gut chickens; scalefish; roast and grind coffee beans; pound loaves ofsugar; sift flour and pick out insect larvae, twigs, andother impurities; shell nuts; and seed raisins. She hadto plan, prepare, cook, and serve the meals her familyexpected from her, then dispose of kitchen slops. Thiscould entail transporting them to a public collectionarea, throwing them to domestic pigs, or packingthem for collection by a delivery service. Inevitably, there were failures. Danish immigrantjournalist Jacob Riis described his beloved wifeElisabeths first attempt at roasting a chicken. "Icannot to this day imagine what was the matter withthat strange bird . . . . The skin was all drawn tight overthe bones like the covering on an umbrella frame,and there was no end of fat in the pan that we didntknow what to do with. But our supper of bread andcheese that night was a meal fit for a king." When acarefully prepared fruitcake refused to rise, Elisabeth"smuggled it out of the house; only to behold, with amortification that endures to this day, the neighborwoman . . . examining it carefully in the ash-barrelnext morning. " 25 Ruining food was one worry among many. Thesmoke from burning coal or wood fuel and from gasand kerosene lamps permeated the air and coated
carpets, curtains, walls, and furniture in black soot.Though rich, dark-coloured wall paint concealed theworst of the omnipresent dirt, lamp globes needed tobe wiped, wicks to be trimmed, and fuel to be added.Floors had to be washed, carpets beaten, andwindows washed. In homes outside the cities, womenhad to fetch the water to cook and clean from wellsor springs. In 1 886, in North Carolina, for example, atypical housewife had to do this eight to ten timesevery day. This translated to 1 48 miles annually,carrying over 36 tons of water. But as arduous as cleaning, cooking, watercarrying, and other household chores could be,nineteenth-century women particularly dreaded "theHerculean task" of laundry, which Nevada housewifeRachel Haskell described as "the great domesticdread of the household."26 Laundry involvedovernight soaking, scrubbing on a washboard,soaping with stinging lye, stirring in a vat of boilingwater, rinsing, bluing, wringing out, and finallyhanging out to dry. Some clothes were then ironed,and collars and crinolines starched. Houseworkexpert Catharine Beecher advised: " Tuesday isdevoted to washing, and Wednesday to ironing. OnThursday, the ironing is finished off, the clothesfolded and put away, and all articles which needmending put in the mending basket, and attendedto."27 And this assumed that soap and starch werealready made. (Beechers hard soap recipe took fourhours of frequent stirring, and further refinement theday after. Starch began with soaking unground wheatfor several days, stirring and straining it, and dryingit for several days in the sun.) A Norwegian immigrant noted with astonishmentthat the North American housewife "must do all thework that the cook, the maid and the housekeeperwould do in an upper class family at home.
Moreover, she must do her work as well as thesethree together do it in Norway. "28 ExpatriateEuropean writer and educator Francis Grund, visitingthe United States, believed that American wivesgenerally suffered ill health because of "the greatassiduity with which American ladies discharge theirduties as mothers. No sooner are they married thanthey begin to lead a life of comparative seclusion;and once mothers, they are actually buried to theworld. "29 Writer, abolitionist, and reformer LydiaMaria Child tallied a years activities: 360 dinners,362 breakfasts, sitting room and kitchen swept anddusted 350 times, lamps filled 362 times, and thechamber and stairs swept and dusted 40 times. 3o This housework was integral to the housewifesmarital duties and assumed great importance asadvice books, cookbooks, newspaper and magazinecolumnists, and house-pattern books defined anddescribed, literally, the correct way to manage ahousehold. Though unmarried (her fiance died in ashipwreck), Catharine Beecher produced, during the"manual mania" of 1 840 to 1 860, eleven manuals.Her masterpiece, the 1 841 Treatise on DomesticEconomy, was adopted by Massachusetts publicschools, often reprinted, and informed generations ofwomen about their duties as housewives.
"Do we look cheerful? Washing clothes is pretty hard work generally,but if you use Kirkmans Borax Soap according to directions, its really wonder how it lightens labor, and, besides, it makes the clothes as ful sweet as a rose and as white as snow. Laundry was notoriously JJ onerous work. This 1891 ad used pretty young women and promisesof relieffrom the thankless toil to pitch its product. (photo credit 5.4) As more women protested their subordinate status and demanded change, cartoons mocked the New Woman and her emasculatedhusband. Laundry, the most dreaded chore, was often depicted. In this
1 901 image, the womans sense of entitlement is underscored by the feminist wall picture and magazine. (photo credit 5.5) Beechers Treatise incorporated housekeepinginstructions, terrifyingly comprehensive andrelentlessly detailed, with a sweeping discourse onwomens responsibilities as wives and mothers.Beecher dismissed discussions about male and femaleintellectual equality as frivolous and useless, but shechallenged as "pernicious and mistaken" thewidespread view that housework was a mindlesspursuit. "No statesman, at the head of a nationsaffairs, had more frequent calls for wisdom, firmness,tact, discrimination, produce, and a versatility oftalent than a woman in charge of a large household, "she wrote.31 She also noted that women had to geartheir housekeeping to their circumstances: a poorerwoman with a large family could be forgiven forneglecting other aspects of housework, for she had todevote more effort to feeding and clothing her brood"than would be right were she in affluence and witha small family."32 Beecher considered the physical plan of houses soimportant to proper living that she included in herbook a section "On the Construction of Houses" andin 1 869 wrote American Womans Home with hersister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, the consummate wifeand mother who had written Uncle Toms Cabin withone hand and baked beans and gingerbread with theother as children clung to her skirts and dogs ranunderfoot. A too-large house meant excessive workfor the housewife. To save her from traipsing up anddown stairs, Beecher proposed eliminating theservants staircase and the basement kitchen infavour of locating parlour, kitchen, and nursery onone floor. To observe the dictates of privacy, she
urged women to forgo domestic help as much aspossible by doing the work themselves and enlistingtheir children to help them. The Angels in the House who became metaphorsfor the cult of domesticity that idealized them set thestandard for women throughout North America. Aswell as being a sanctuary for their husbands andchildren, their perfectly run homes were a centralfeature of national prosperity and defined middleclass identity. The Angels husbands, charged withthe responsibility of providing for and protectingtheir families, felt empowered by how the cult ofdomesticity assigned them authority over theirhouseholds. This reciprocal arrangement inspiredwives to strive for domestic perfection as a way ofmaintaining the husbandly love and respect that wastheir principal protection in a still-unequal world.
Alexander McGibbon poses in 1869 with his wife, Harriet, and five of their ten children (They went on to have three more.) This Notmanstudio portrait (the dog is a stuffed prop) was commissioned to affirmAlexanders success as a grocer and Harrietts as a wife and mother. In other images, Alex posed in his grocery store wearing an apron and looking much more relaxed. (photo credit 5.6) Wives in the cheaper and more spacious suburbsthat proliferated in the late nineteenth century asrailroads allowed people to commute from the cityalso tried to live up to the ideals of the cult ofdomesticity. Indeed, historian Margaret Marshbelieves the cult was "centered firmly in the suburbs,represented family and community togetherness inthe face of an urban society that promised individual
achievement, anonymity, and excitement. "33 Asubtext to the growth of suburbia was uneasinessabout the immigrants and African Americans movinginto the cities. Though they felt safe, suburban wivessuffered more from loneliness and isolation than theircity sisters. But their husbands, often alienated bytheir working environment, took comfort in thehomes and garden plots that seemed like miniversions of the rugged agricultural past. By makingthem lords of these small manors, the cult ofdomesticity helped redefine the meaning ofmanliness. Thomas E. Askew, Atlanta s first African-American photographer,created a richness ofportraits, including successful African-American families posing outside their fine homes. Here an unnamed lawyer presides over his family, his wedding ring testifying to his married status. Such portraits represent what W.E.B. Du Bois called "the Talented Tenth, " successful role models and leaders. (photo credit 5.7)
It was much harder for rural middle-class womento hew to the Angel model. North Dakotan EmilieSchumacher, a typical rural stay-at-home Victorianera North American wife, had to cook, bake, clean,wash, iron, mend, tend garden, preserve vegetablesand fruits for winter, and entertain. She also had togather and sell eggs, tend chickens and pigs, milkcows, separate cream, churn butter, render lard, andmanage a large household. 34 After his mother died,Hamlin Garland of Iowa recalled "the cheerfulheroism of her daily treadmill . . . Visioning the longyears of her drudgery, I recalled her early rising, andsuffered with her the never-ending round ofdishwashing, churning, sewing, and cooking,realizing more fully than ever before that in all ofthis slavery she was but one of a million martyrs. Allour neighbors wives walked the same round."35 Many farm women, and almost all their children,assisted with field and farm work. Children rose at orbefore dawn to light fires, empty chamber pots, cleanboots, muck out stables, fetch wood and water, andweed the garden. These chores took precedence overeverything else, even for children as young as five."After the last bundle was threshed, and the lastfurrow turned, they could go to school, if they sodesired," writes historian Elizabeth Hampsten inSettlers Children. 36 Family life on the North American farm wasshaped by the relentlessness of hard work and thespectre or thrall of poverty. Garland, for example,wrote, "I cannot recall a single beautiful thing aboutour house, not one." His mother, overwhelmed by thestruggle to feed and clothe her children, "neverexpressed her deeper feelings. She seldom kissed herchildren. "37 Others showed more tenderness thanGarland but, "work-weary" like her, spent most of
their time working and supervlSlng rather thanplaying with or indulging the children. One womanrecalled that children "were special" only on theirbirthdays. 38 Too often, the Angel in the House wasplumb tuckered out. CHALLENGING THE CULT OF DOMESTICITYCharlotte Perkins Gilman wrote about womens workfrom an irreverent perspective quite different fromher aunt Catharine Beechers. Far from venerating theGood Wifes self-sacrifice, Gilman indicted it as "aprimitive standard of domestic ethics" that corruptedmarriage relations. Unpaid wives slyly rifled theirhusbands pockets and stole from them because theyhad to, and though "the home has patience, chastity,industry, love . . . . here is less justice, less honour, lesscourage, less truth. "39 Gilman envisioned "a pure, lasting, monogamoussex-union . . . without bribe or purchase, without themanacles of economic dependence" as a solution tothe economic dependency of wives trapped athome.4o To end "this Cupid-in-the-kitchenarrangement" that forced dependent women toprovide home-cooking, she proposed urbanresidential apartments with communal dining roomsand without kitchens in individual units. "Is it nottime that the way to a mans heart through hisstomach should be relinquished for some higheravenue? . . . The heart should be approached throughhigher channels. " Except for the rare case of "naturalborn cooks," cooking should be left to trainedexperts. The kitchenless apartments would be cleanedby professional cleaners, sparing "woman, the dainty,the beautiful, the beloved wife and reveredmother . . . all that is basest and foulest . . . Grease,
ashes, dust, foul linen, and sooty ironware." Childrenwould be cared for by professional nurses andteachers. Wives as well as husbands would daily sallyforth to earn their livings and pursue their interests.They would live comfortably, in privacy, andmarriage would evolve as a union in which womanstood "beside man as the comrade of his soul, not theservant of his body." Most women would choosework compatible with motherhood; few would persistin "being acrobats, horse-breakers, or sailors beforethe mast. "4 1 A prominent social activist and a leading feminist,Gilman brought clarity and biting wit to her analysesof marriage and the family culture that was, by thelate nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, wellestablished throughout North America. There was nostampede to build kitchenless apartments and houses.But Gilman attracted a wide readership and provokedpeople to rethink much of what seemed immutableabout marriages and family life. And there were some middle-class couples who,from expediency or conviction, chose arrangementsthat in certain ways resembled Gilmans ideals; theyboarded in residential "hotels" that includedcommunal meals at set hours in the dining room.Mary and Amedee Papineau, for example, beganmarried life in Montreals Donegani Hotel, in a threeroom suite that they furnished. They ate the hotelsmeals sent up to their suite but found them sounappetizing that Amedees mother often suppliedfiner fare. Before a year was up, the young couplehad moved into their own house. In these hotel-households, only husbands went outto work, while wives usually stayed in their rooms,washing, ironing, and sewing clothes. "I alwaysobserved that the ladies who boarded wore moreelaborately worked collars and petticoats than any
one else, " remarked novelist and reformer FrancesTrollope. Their husbands, however, seemedimpervious to their wives finery and spent little timein their room or in the common sitting room. Instead,Trollope observed, they found excuses to go out inthe evening "on business" while their neglected wiveswere consigned to roles of "lamentableinsignificance. "42 WORKING-CLASS MARRIAGESBecause wages were generally too low to support afamily, the working-class version of the cult ofdomesticity did not centre on the malebreadwinner/female homemaker model. It wasgeared instead to making the family financiallysecure, keeping it intact, and, where possible,improving the childrens conditions and futures. This translated into doing whatever work wasrequired-by whomever had the opportunity to do it.Scavenging-a rag rug fetched 50 cents, an old coatseveral dollars, flour scooped from a broken barrel atthe docks close to a dollar-could net $50 a year.Women took in paying boarders-Martha Wrightsfirst love and husband was her widowed mothersboarder Peter Pelham-to net about $ 1 30 a year.They accepted home-based piecework; aneedlewoman might earn about $2 weekly. Whenfactory and sweatshop owners started recruitingwomen, albeit at lower wages than men earned,many of these women trooped out to work. Children had to pitch in. Mothers trained them toassist with piecework and to care for youngersiblings. They were sent out to toil in factories,sweatshops, mills, and mines and as domestics-andat home handed over their wages; when social
reformers fought to raise the legal age ofemployment, parents were the strongest opponents.Education seemed a remote gamble, but waged work,however miserably remunerated, put cash into thefamilys coffers. Working-class living quarters had to be multifunctional. By day, dining tables functioned as workstations; at night the family cleared them off and atearound them. "Bedrooms" were anywhere: hallways,kitchens, living rooms; beds, for family and boarders,were stowed away by day, hauled out for use atnight. Tenements were the direst kind of housing. In hisinvestigative expose of tenements in New York City,How the Other Half Lives (1 890), Jacob Riis describedthem as "the hot-beds of the epidemics that carrydeath to rich and poor alike; the nurseries ofpauperism and crime that fill our jails and policecourts; that throw off a scum of forty thousandhuman wrecks to the island asylums and workhousesyear by year; that turned out . . . [a] half millionbeggars . . . that maintain a standing army of tenthousand tramps." Tenements "touch the family lifewith deadly moral contagion, " Riis concluded. "Thisis their worst crime, inseparable from the system. " The first tenements were carved out of the largehouses of middle-class homeowners who had movedaway to leafy suburbs. Their "large rooms werepartitioned into several smaller ones, without regardto light or ventilation" and, along with garrets andcellars, were rented out to immigrants desperate forlodging. Landlords gouged their tenants withrelatively high rents in what the Society for theImprovement of the Condition of the Poor describedas "crazy old buildings, crowded rear tenements infilthy yards, dark, damp [rat-infested] basements,leaking garrets, shops, outhouses, and stables
converted into dwellings . . . scarcely fit to shelterbrutes."43 These slums were so profitable that landlordsadded storeys, built over gardens, convertedproperties into ever-smaller units, and packed intenants in ever-greater concentrations: ten familiesnow lived where two once had. Riis visited one 1 2-by-1 9-foot room furnished only with two beds andshared by five families totalling twenty persons ofboth sexes. By the turn of the twentieth century, NewYork Citys tenements made it the worlds mostdensely populated district: 290,000 people to thesquare mile. Pigs roamed the streets where loads oftheir manure accumulated. Children died of airpollution; at least one child suffocated to death "inthe foul air of an unventilated apartment. "44 Nine-year-old Jennie Rizzandi stayed home from school to help hermother and father Jinish piecework in their dilapidated New York City tenement. They earned about $2 a week. Mr. Rizzandi sometimes found work outside the home. (photo credit 5.8)
Elsewhere in American and Canadian cities,tenements shaped the marriages and family lives oftheir residences. Social reformer Margaret Byingtondescribed life in a two-room tenement in Pittsburgh: The kitchen, perhaps 15 by 12 feet, was steaming with vapor from a big washtub set on a chair in the middle of the room. The mother was trying to wash and at the same time keep the older of her two babies from tumbling into the tub full of scalding water that was standing on the floor. On one side of the room was a huge puf bed, with one feather tick to sleep fy on and another for covering; near the window stood a sewing machine; in the comer, an organ-all these besides the inevitable cook stove upon which in the place of honor was simmering the evenings soup. Upstairs in the second room were one boarder and the man of the house asleep. Two more boarders were at work, but at night would be home to sleep in the bed from which the others would get up. 45Photographer Lewis Wickes Hine noted that many fathers refused toparticipate in their familys piecework. His note about this image of a New York tenement family: "5:1 5 P.M. Father hanging around the home while family works on feathers. Said, 1 not work. Got some
sickness. Dunno what. " His wife and children, aged sixteen to jive,all worked, the older ones until 9 or 10 p.m. Together they earned upto $6 a week. Hine added: "Dirty floor. Vermin abounded. Garbage standing uncovered near the work. " (photo credit 5.9) Thanks to boarders, neighbours, thin walls, andshared toilets, tenement life was notoriouslyunprivate and startlingly similar to medieval livingconditions. But unlike the fundamentally unprivateMiddle Ages, tenement dwellers had at least inklingsof ideals of privacy against which to measure theirutter lack of it. And if they did not, middle-classpublic opinion did, in outraged complaints about theindecency and immodesty that resulted from familiessharing rooms with unrelated lodgers. This egregiouslack of privacy "breaks down the barriers of selfrespect, and prepares the way for direct profligacy, "reported the New York Association for Improving theCondition of the Poor. 4 6 During working-class divorcetrials, for example, witnesses easily provided intimateaccounts of behaviour that unhappily marriedmiddle-class spouses could keep under wraps.
The Amao family, pictured here in 1 910, are berry pickers. Theycame from Philadelphia to work in this Delaware berry field, and aremoving on to New Jersey. The youngest child is three. (photo credit 5.10) Despite-perhaps oblivious to-the immenselydifficult circumstances of the working class,reformers tried to impress upon them the values ofthe cult of domesticity and its associated values ofefficiency, order, and self-discipline. They alsopromoted home ownership, a common dream ofimmigrants despite the obstacles to achieving it. A1 909 textbook English for Foreigners described theideal American home: "This is the family, in thesitting-room. The family is made up of the father, themother, and the children. That is the father who isreading. The father is the husband. That is themother who is sewing. The mother is the wife. The
father and the mother are the parents . . . . The familymakes the home. "47 The unknown photographer noted only that this image included allmembers of an African-American family. They are standing in front oftheir house-former slave quarters in Savannah, Georgia-and likely worked together at farming and other activities. (photo credit 5 . 1 1 ) By the end of the nineteenth century, wages formale workers rose with the demand for skilledindustrial workers and the development of unions,and more working-class women remained at home.Their own wages (primarily in clerical and retailjobs) remained low, and many calculated that, afterpaying for child care, they made little profit. Asincreasing numbers of older children attended schoolor went (or were sent) to work themselves, they wereunavailable to mind younger siblings. By shoppingcarefully and cooking and baking from scratch, ahomemaker could provide her family with a higher
standard of living, especially a more nutritious andtastier diet, without spending more money. If shefeared or suffered marital violence, she could hope,as many women did, that a more comfortable homewould reduce the likelihood of it. By becoming ahomemaker, she could aspire to raise her husbandsand familys status in society; having a parlour topreside over was a tangible symbol of success. There were risks and dangers. The homemaker wasdependent on her husbands wages and at the mercyof his temper, especially if he drank. In difficulteconomic times, she had no wages to supplement his.But with homemaking regarded as a worthy vocation,and her services difficult to replace, she had someinfluence and bargaining power in the marriagerelationship. Among the working class as in the moreadvantaged, the cult of domesticity had taken rootand was spreading.
Chapter 6 Go Forth and Multiply: Children at the Heart of Marriage MARRIAGE AS PROCREATIVE UNIONAt dinnertime on November 30, 1809, the EmperorNapoleon Bonaparte informed his Empress that hehad decided to divorce her. He had tolerated, evenforgiven, her infidelities, her lies, her fakedpregnancy, and her extravagances. But much as heloved his Josephine, he wanted a wife who could givehim children, and years earlier, Josephine hadbecome barren. As she heard the dread news shecried out in shock, and then fainted. At their divorce ceremony, Napoleon reiterated hislove for his soon-to-be ex-Empress: "Far from everfinding cause for complaint, I can to the contraryonly congratulate myself on the devotion andtenderness of my beloved wife. She has adornedthirteen years of my life; the memory will alwaysremain engraved on my heart. " Josephine responded that because she could notgive her "august and dear husband . . . children whowould fulfill the needs of his policies and theinterests of France, I am pleased to offer him thegreatest proof of attachment and devotion everoffered on this earth." Josephine, the widowed mother of a son and adaughter, had for years concealed from Napoleonthat she had become barren, blaming him for her
failure to conceive and feigning pregnancy andmiscarriage. But the recent birth of Napoleons sonCharles, Count Leon, with his teenaged mistressEleonore Denuelle was unanswerable proof thatJosephine had lied. 1 The Emperor Napoleon, in the Tuileries Palace, has just infonned Josephine that he will divorce her, and Josephine faints at the devastating news. This image by French painter Bosselman, andengraved by Chasselat, is one of several portraying the major events of Napoleons life. (photo credit 6.1) Her predicament was classic. Like countless others,she was victimized by the fact that having childrenwas regarded as integral to marriage. Under FrancesNapoleonic law, barrenness was not grounds fordivorce. From Napoleons perspective, however, itwas a compelling reason, so much so that as soon ashe divorced Josephine, he married the ArchduchessMarie Louise of Austria, eighteen years old and, asshe was soon to prove, fertile.Most cultures and religions assume that marriageshould result in procreation. Judaism, Christianity,
and Islam are rich with praise for the blessing ofchildren: Genesis 22: 1 7 promises patriarchs that theirwives "will multiply your descendants as the stars ofheaven and as the sand which is upon the seashore, "and Deuteronomy 7: 1 2-14 that "you shall be blessedabove all peoples; there shall not be a male or femalebarren among you." The Prophet described "worthyoffspring" as "a bunch of sweet-smelling flowerswhich God has distributed amongst his servants." Children are begotten through sexual intercourse,which, most religions teach, should be preceded bymarriage. Christianitys many sex-phobic theologiansgo further, declaring that spouses should indulge insexual intercourse only for the purpose ofprocreation, and never to satisfy mere lust. As in theRoman Catholic Church it had broken away from, forexample, the sixteenth-century Church of Englandlisted procreation as the primary purpose ofmarriage, followed by restraint and remedy of sin,and last, companionship. The Orthodox Church, onthe other hand, taught that the first purpose ofmarriage was reciprocal love and assistance, withsexual restraint and reproducing the human racesecondary. In Saint John Chrysostoms words:"Marriage does not necessarily include[reproduction] . . . the proof is to be found in themany marriages for which having children is notpossible. This is why the primary reason for marriageis to regulate the sexual life, especially now that thehuman race has already populated the whole world. " The Puritans, whose theology and way of life sostrongly influenced North America, also put mutualsociety, help, and comfort well before procreation. InMatrimoniall Honour: orJ the Mutuall Crowne andComfort of GodlYJ LoyallJ and Chaste Marriage (1 642),clergyman Daniel Rogers wrote: "Husbands and wivesshould be as two sweet friends, bred under one
constellation, tempered by an influence from heavenwhereof neither can give any reason, save mercy andprovidence first made them so, and then made theirmatch; saying, see, God hath determined us out ofthis vast world for each other."2 CHILDBIRTHBy no means all spouses wanted children, and manywanted fewer than they conceived. Part of the reasonwas the experience of childbirth. As a French proverbwarned, "A pregnant woman has one foot in thegrave." Childbirth could be the straightforwarddelivery of a healthy infant. But until midwives andphysicians grasped the implications of Louis Pasteurs1 881 discovery that microbes caused infection, theyhandled their labouring patients with unscrubbedhands in filthy conditions, and so giving birth wasoften the death knell for mother, baby, or both.Seventeenth-century Englishwoman ElizabethJoceline, typical of so many pregnant women,anticipated that childbirth would kill her andcomposed a letter-from-the-grave to her unborn child.Nine days after her daughters birth, Joceline died. Inthe eighteenth century, the complications ofchildbirth killed one in five women aged twenty-fiveto thirty-four. In mid-nineteenth-century America, atleast 4 percent of deceased Southern and 2 percent ofNorthern women had died in childbirth.3 The elite were not spared. In 1 8 1 7, to the shock ofEnglish women, twenty-one-year-old PrincessCharlotte, the only child of King George IV, died justfive hours after delivering a stillborn son. The nationmourned, and three months later, Sir Richard Croft,her attending physician, shot himself.
Womens very real fear of death in childbirthreinforced the desire of many privileged Southerngirls to postpone marriage for as long as they could.Laura Wirt, whose own mother had suffered greatlyduring her many pregnancies, was horrified by afriends death soon after childbirth. "How fearfullyshe was changed by disease and death ! " Laura wrote.Young women kept track of mutual acquaintances,categorizing them as married or deceased. "Havethought much of Death," wrote mother-to-be CarlineBrooks Lilly in 1839. "The grave banished otherthoughts from my mind & while leaning on myaffectionate husbands breast, the inquiry arose wherewill they bury me?"4 In the North, Mary Westcott Papineaus mother haddied after giving birth, and Mary, who had moved toLower Canada, was ailing when she delivered herfirst child. The birth was so difficult that theattending physician warned that he would have todestroy and remove the infant to save Marys lifethe same procedure once endured by her mother.When the physician finally announced the good newsthat Mary and her newborn daughter were alive andwell, Amedee and Marys father were too relieved todo anything but weep. Besides infections, poor, badly fed nursing motherswho became pregnant lost calcium and sufferedthrough the agony of childbirth with pelvisesdeformed by rickets; this was especially true after theIndustrial Revolution sent so many into factories andcreated new eating habits. Workers with long hoursand short breaks relied on cheap, sugary tea-withbread meals that briefly energized them but lackedessential nutrients and ultimately eroded their health.Obstetrical interventions could also be dangerous ordeadly. Caesarian sections, first successfullyperformed in 1793, saved some bone-deficient
women but destroyed others; Sir Richard Croft didnot perform one on Princess Charlotte because hebelieved it would kill her. Childbirth was so riskythat many women were given Holy Communion atthe onset of labour. Childbirth was often a public event, as neighbours,midwives or physicians, friends, and relativescrowded around the labouring woman. Husbandswere supposed to be nearby and ready to help, but inEngland, though much less so in North America, theirpresence at the actual birth was considered unluckyand unseemly. Queen Victoria, on the other hand,seemed to suggest they should witness their wivessuffering: "Oh! If those selfish men-who are thecause of all ones misery, only knew what their poorslaves go through ! " she wrote.5 Occasionally husbands did assist. In June 1 739,William Gossip kept his beloved Anne company asshe struggled, helped by Mr. Dawes, a physician,through forty-nine and a half hours of "a mostpainfull tedious & dangerous Labour" during whichMr. Dawes used his "Instrument [to] tear ye child inpieces & bring it away in [that] manner." It was a tedious & terrible operation in which the surgeon was sooner tired with af flicting her than she with Suffering . . . such torments as it is swprising how hwnan Nature could subsist under it He . . . broke into the abdomen of ye Child with his Instruments, & thence extracted the bowels & other viscera & broke of part of ye ribs, this evacuation made room in ye Uterus for him to insinuate his hands between the belly of ye child & the sides of the collapsed womb, by which means he got hold of ye feet of ye child . . . [and] extracted the remains of his mangled Carcass, except the arm . . . which had been cut of as soon as the Childs Death was perceived. Its shattered remains were buried near ye rest of my Children. 6
Edmund Peel, a half-pay naval officer stationed inSherbrooke, Lower Canada, not only attended hiswife Lucys long and agonizing delivery but was fordays after, Lucy exclaimed, " [my] father, mother,brother, sister, nurse and husband." Edmund haddone what he believed was a husbands duty, andconsidered it "nothing less than false delicacy whichwould make a man absent himself at a time when hispresence and support are most required, it is a fearfulthing to see a woman in her pain."7 Happily, childbirth could also be an uneventful orjoyous event; new father William Ramsden, forexample, reported cheerily that "the Baggage"-hiswife, Bessy-"looks sleek and saucy; the Brat fat andhealthy. "8 Postpartum depression took its toll as well.Nineteenth-century Englishwoman Ellen Stocks"great depression of spirits" delayed her recoveryfrom childbirth, and other women struggled formonths to regain emotional equilibrium. "Even forseasoned matrons," writes Amanda Vickery, "theaftermath of birth remained hard to predict."9 In herbackwoods cabin in Upper Canada, Susanna Moodiesuffered excruciating breast pain and "lay like acrushed snake on my back unable to move or even tobe raised forward without the most piteous cries." l OWhen a doctor finally arrived, he lanced her breast,and infected matter gushed out. Impacted andinfected breasts were among several commonpostpartum conditions that plagued women until wellinto the twentieth century. Until the twentieth century, burying babies was afamiliar experience for parents. Though influentialhistorians such as Philippe Aries, Lloyd deMause, andLawrence Stone have claimed that parents respondedwith indifference or muted grief, a new generation of
scholars argues that the high infant mortality rate didnot blunt parents grief. American Elizabeth Prentisswas inconsolable after losing both her infant andthree-year-old son. "Empty hands, empty hands, aworn-out exhausted body, and unutterable longingsto flee from a world that has had for me so manysharp experiences. God help me, my baby, my baby!God help me, my little lost Eddy ! "l l Mary Papineausfirst-born son died and, she wrote, the "shock was soterrible so sudden and overwhelming that I cannotyet fully realize it . . . & my poor heart more & moredesolate. " 12 Husbands shared their wives grief. After his eightmonth-old daughter Elizabeth died, Martin Lutherwrote that he "was exquisitely sick, my heartrendered soft and weak; never had I thought that afathers heart could be so broken for his childrenssake. "13 Over a decade later, when thirteen-year-oldMagdalena lay dying, he knelt at her bedside weepingbitterly and praying that God would reprieve heruntil she died in his arms. But he also found solace inthe knowledge that she was going to God, and toldhis dying child, "Dear daughter, you have anotherFather in heaven, and to Him you will gO. "14 Likemillions of other mourning parents who took comfortfrom sermons counselling resignation at Godsunknowable ways, Martin Luther sought to acceptMagdalenas death as Gods merciful will. After their sixteen-year-old daughter Agness death,William and Elizabeth Wirt, who lost several otherchildren, focused on the hope of reunion in heaven:"to that world she is gone-and thither my affectionshave followed her. This was Heavens design-I seeand feel it as distinctly as if an Angel had revealed it-as if my Angel daughter had been permitted toreveal it," William wrote to a friend. IS As
photography developed in the nineteenth century,parents also found solace in the ritual display ofphotographs of their dead children. CONTRACEPTION AND ABORTIONThere were countless reasons to restrict family size.An infant born to an impoverished family couldcompromise the survival of older children. Too manydaughters could crush a family with the financialburden of providing them with dowries. In eras ofhigh infant mortality, parents could not endureanother death. Women (and sympathetic husbands)dreaded the possibility of fatal postpartum infection.Many women hated multiple pregnancies. QueenVictoria, privileged and healthy, was "furious" thatthe first two years of her married life had been"utterly spoilt" by the pregnancies she likened to"being like a cow or a dog. " 16
This infants grieving parents preserved his memory with this image of their lifeless child in a little coffin. (photo credit 6.2) Unlike the famously prolific queen, the wealthiestclasses-or at least their male members-tended towelcome the arrival of large numbers of children. Themiddle and working classes, however, preferredfewer and tried as best they could to circumventconception. Certain convenient customs were notcalled birth control but effectively controlled births.Encouraging women to delay their first marriageuntil about a decade after menstruation, andsimultaneously frowning on premarital sex, reduced awomans child-bearing years by a third. A culturaltaboo against sex with a breastfeeding woman helped
space out pregnancies. (Lactation itself had acontraceptive effect for six to twelve months.) Coitus interruptus, much more effective, waswidely practised-though, as one frustratedseventeenth-century English wife complained, herhusband "did not deal with her in bed as befitted amarried man . . . what seed should be sowen in theright ground he spent about the outward part of herbody and withal threatened if she were with child hewould slit the gut out of her belly."l? Anal sex was socommon that it provoked the ire of theologians, whocondemned it as sex for pleasure rather thanprocreation. Contraceptive devices were used, though mostwere unreliable and awkward. Grotesque pessariessuch as "the root of iris put into the womb orfumigated underneath,"18 and the sometimeseffective vaginal sponge were designed as barriers toconception. (In the 1 860s, Northern women had toimprovise or find alternative methods of birth controlafter the Civil War cut off their supply of spongesfrom Florida.) Until the nineteenth century, most contraceptivebarriers were unreliable, usually associated withprostitution, and intended to prevent venereal diseaserather than conception. One of the first was aneighteenth-century English device described byFrench writer Jean Astruc as "a little bag, made of athin bladder, which they call a condum"-namedafter its putative inventor, Colonel Cundum. 1 9 Closedwith ribbons, the condom was as expensive as it wasuncomfortable. Charles Goodyear and ThomasHancock invented vulcanized rubber in 1 843, but itwas only in 1876, at the Philadelphia WorldExposition, that rubber condoms were popularized. The general failure of contraception inspired awide range of abortifacients that were supposed to
terminate unwanted pregnancies. Herbal concoctionsin the form of drinks, tablets, suppositories, douches,and amulets prepared from recipes in books orfolklore were popular. An English remedy, "A pieceof the Pod or husk [of Guinny Pepper] , either greenor dry . . . put into the Mother after delivery," wouldmake her permanently barren. 2o Ergot, known inGerman as kindesmord-infants death-was used inclose to lethal dosages to stimulate the uterus toabort. 21 A Southern abortifacient was cottonroot,supposedly popular with slaves and later with whitewomen, especially after the Civil War. Dilating thecervix-with goosequills or Chamberlains UteroVaginal Syringe-were other, dangerous options.Slower and safer was the "enlarging bougie, a pencillike cylinder of dried seaweed . . . inserted into thecervix and left overnight," gradually swelling anddilating the cervix as it absorbed moisture. 22 Suctiondevices, an electrically charged "galvanic bougie, "and various other electric contraptions wereexcruciating and used without anaesthesia. Contemporaries called abortion the bane ofseduced or betrayed spinsters or widows whodespaired at the prospect of life as unmarriedmothers. But analyses of diaries and correspondencereveals that married men and women, who couldmore easily feign a miscarriage, also resorted toaborting fetuses, with either abortifacients or surgicalabortion. Husbands often colluded, telling "finestories of the diseases of the Wives," and helped toprocure from cooperative apothecaries abortifacientconcoctions or "female pills" that brought onmenstruation. The biographer of seventeenth-centuryEnglish clergyman Ralph Josselin suspects that JaneJosselins many "miscarriages" were actuallyabortions and that Ralph was complicit in them.Another English husband, Edward Stanley, applauded
his wife, Henrietta, mother of nine, for inducing amiscarriage by means of "a hot bath, a tremendouswalk & a great dose. "2 3 Some American husbands were just as obliging.When his twenty-three-year-old wife, FannySheppard, mother of his two young sons, wrote thatshe was once again pregnant, Confederate GeneralDorsey Pender invoked "Gods will" but also solicitedpills from his companys doctor to "relieve" her. 24(Either the pills didnt work or Fanny refused to takethem; Stephen Lee Pender was born several monthsafter his fathers death in 1863.) In North Americaand also in Europe, couples hoping to controlconception relied as well on a rhythm method basedon the erroneous assumption that ovulation occursjust before or during menstruation, as it does in dogsand other mammals. (This misconception was laid torest in 1 920.) Other strategies supposedly dislodgedsemen to prevent conception: wives straddled theirhusbands during intercourse or, post-coitally, sneezedlustily. Overall, birth control was unreliable, andunwanted pregnancies were common. In any case,most birth control devices-sneezing being anobvious exception-required a husbandscooperation, which many husbands refused. ThoughElizabeth Wirt was too often pregnant for her ownfragile health and William worried that she might notsurvive another day, he impregnated her againalmost immediately after she gave birth. Elizabethsopinion that frequent pregnancies were a "cursewhich alighted upon poor Eve [and terrified] usmiserable Females" failed to move William, and heallowed her "no prospect of escape" or any choice inthe matter. 25 A huge industry targeted pregnant women directlythrough extensive advertising in newspapers and
womens magazines. A British Medical Journal writerdiscovered that in Britain, more than half ofnewspaper ads purporting to relieve temporaryfemale indisposition, regulate menses, or removeimpurities and other conditions were really sellingabortifacients and abortion services. In NorthAmerica, such products were hawked relentlessly,often with supposedly French or Europeanprovenance, which was presumed to make themsuperior. Madame Drunettes Lunar Pills, Dr. PetersFrench Renovating Pills, Dr. Monroes FrenchPeriodical Pills (advertised as popular among Frenchnobles), Dr. Melveaus Portuguese Female Pills, andOld Doctor Gordons Pearls of Health (manufacturedin Montreal) were all pitched to pregnant women bywarning them not to use them-"a blessing tomothers . . . pregnant females should not use them, asthey invariably produce a miscarriage," one solemnlyadvised.26 Some potions failed to produce miscarriages; otherswere dangerously effective. Ely van der Warkle, anineteenth-century American obstetrician, found thatproducts containing savin, a species of juniper,caused, among other symptoms, "violent pain in theabdomen, vomiting, powerful catharsis, tenesmus[agonizing urges to defecate] , stranguary [painful,drop by drop urination] , heat and burning in thebowels, rectum and anus, intoxication, severeheadache, flushed face. "2 7 Abortifacients were sodangerous that the first American abortion laws wereassociated with poison control. The difficulty of inducing miscarriage led to"surgical" abortion, perhaps the principal form ofbirth control. Abortion was an open secret thatevoked raging debate about the point at which a fetus"quickened" into a living being. Doctors and writersinclined toward the moment of conception. Women,
however, generally assumed that life took severalweeks to take root. Because of health concerns andfamily and financial issues, writes historian ofsexuality Angus McLaren, "abortion played a farmore important role in the regulation of fertility thanhas usually been believed . . . . Women were not passivein relation to their fertility; they wanted to control itand were willing to go to considerable lengths to doSO."28 Between 1 840 and 1 870, for example, the rateof abortions among American women rose from onein every thirty live births to one in every five. 29 Dr.Edwin M. Hale of Chicago reported in 1 866 that atleast 1 ° percent of married women had aborted afetus and that abortions terminated as many as aquarter of all pregnancies; many other physicians andmedical societies corroborated these statistics inindependent studies. Though women risked theirhealth and not infrequently lost their lives, theypersevered. One consequence, writes historian ColinHeywood, is that "breeding at levels close to what isbiologically possible has been the exception ratherthan the rule in the West."30 Abortionists could be expensive, ranging from 1 °to 50 guineas (US$15 to #x0024;75) in England,equivalent to at least 5 percent of a lower-middleclass familys annual income. The range was similarlyvast in North America. One old male abortionistcharged $ 1 0, payable in instalments. In Syracuse, vander Warkle reported in 1 870, female abortionistsusing water had "achieved the difficult feat of autocatheterism of the uterus cavity, " and the fees couldbe so low that "the lUxury of an abortionist is nowwithin the reach of the serving girl. "31 In 1 854, onthe other hand, Ann Caroline Lohman, aka MadameRestell, one of the most successful abortionists,charged a hefty $50.
Lohman was a married English immigrant to theUnited States who began her career by offeringabortifacients and abortions in New York City. Shelater advertised herself as the French-soundingMadame Restell, "female physician," and in the1 840s opened branches in Boston and Philadelphia.32Unlike her rivals, who referred euphemistically to "amedical procedure, " her ads presented abortion as asolution for poor men and women "toiling to live,living but to toil," and for destitute widowed mothersof too many children. "Is it desirable, then, is it moralfor parents to increase their families, regardless ofconsequences to themselves, or the wellbeing of theiroffspring, when a simple, easy, healthy, and certainremedy is within our control?" Restell askedrhetorically. (She also arranged adoptions ofunwanted children after unwed mothers boardedwith her until they gave birth.) Women, especially the elite and privileged, flockedto her. She grew wealthy-her worth was at one timeestimated at $800,000-and indulged her socialaspirations by buying a mansion and fashionableclothes and aping her clients lifestyle. She wasuntrained but skilled and intelligent, and if herpotions failed, she aborted surgically. She maintainedgood standards of cleanliness, and no record exists ofa client dying at her hands, though some must have;a modern study concludes that "her abortions wereprobably a little safer than childbirth," at least for theliving mother. Restell, often indicted, was charged in1 847 with performing an abortion on Marie Bodine,the mistress of a factory agent. After a sensationaltrial and conflicting medical testimony, she wasconvicted of a lesser misdemeanour charge. Sheserved a year in Blackwells Island prison, where thewarden catered to her so generously that he was
fired. After her release, she resumed her work andbuilt up her estate. But though abortion flourished, it had many critics.Some feared that because white, Protestant, middleand upper-class married women used abortion todelay, space, and limit their child-bearing, Americawould be swamped by Catholic foreigners and poorerpeople, "the ignorant, the low lived and the alien, "who aborted much less frequently. Others worriedthat women freed of the consequences of sexualintercourse would become unmanageable and evenpromiscuous. The newly formed American MedicalAssociation vigorously opposed untrainedabortionists performing a medical procedure and,supported by the Roman Catholic and manyProtestant churches, began to lobby to declareabortion illegal. Feminists condemned abortion asanother assault on womens bodies, whereas the rightof refusal to have sex would eliminate mostunwanted births. Nonetheless, until the 1 870s, Restellwas largely untouchable. For one thing, prosecutorsdared not risk arresting her and having their ownwives and daughters identified as her clients. Everything changed with the transformation ofsocial values following the Civil War, when AnthonyComstock, the dour and obsessively puritanical headof the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice,made it his mission to rid the United States of the"filth" of birth control literature, and to prosecuteabortionists, in particular Madame Restell. "I have, "Comstock boasted, "convicted persons enough to filla passenger train of sixty-one coaches, sixtycontaining sixty passengers each, and the sixty firstalmost full. "33 Largely through his efforts, the federalgovernment passed the Comstock Act of 1 873,declaring birth control devices obscene.
This nuanced newspaper portrayal of abortionist Madame Restells arrest by Anthony Comstock, head of the New York Society for theSuppression of Vice, reflects readers fascination with the subject and, in the weeping woman, predicts the grief Restell s arrest would cause many would-be clients. (photo credit 6.3) In 1 878, Comstock targeted Restell with a stingoperation, buying contraceptives from her, thenreturning to her house with police and newspaper
reporters as witnesses. Restell, lonely and inmourning for her second husband, understood thatshe was doomed. On April 1 , hours before she was toappear in court, she slit her throat. Restells suicide marked the end of relativelyaccessible abortion. (By then, the American MedicalAssociation was defining abortion as "The work ofdestruction; The wholesale destruction of unborninfants."34 Afterward, the abortion rate plunged, asComstock and the anti-abortion movementprosecuted and shut down abortionists and continuedproselytizing until public opinion, once tepid aboutabortion, turned sharply against it. Desperate womenstill aborted, but they were forced to settle forwhatever abortion services they could find; they alsotried to scrape, hook, tear, or corrode the fetus ontheir own, or with the help of friends. Middle-classwomen who had patronized Madame Restelldelivered children they would have preferred todiscard. There was a last-ditch method of dealing with anunwanted infant: infanticide. Widespread well intothe nineteenth century, infanticide includedabandonment in rural ditches or urban gutters, or"overlaying" (smothering) to death. Infanticide wasgenerally considered a sin rather than a crime,though unwed mothers were sometimes executed forit. In jurisdictions where it became a capital offence,the trend was for courts to avoid convicting theaccused because of the harshness of the penalty. We know what experts and critics said aboutcontraceptive methods and abortion, and fromfragments in diaries and personal correspondence, weknow how individual men and women approachedthe issue of controlling birth. But we know little ofthe way contraception and abortion affected thedynamics of the relationship between husband and
wife. We can only guess at the fear and despairunwanted pregnancies generated, the husheddiscussions and quarrels, the stealthy planning. FEEDING BABIESThough searing or muted grief were commonexperiences, a majority of babies survived and had tobe fed and nurtured, most suckled by their mothers.(A common cause of infant mortality was thetraditional belief that colostrum was toxic rather thannourishing.) Guidelines for weaning varied greatlyfrom era to era and between social classes. Theprimary duty of elite mothers was to nurture theirinfants, even if this meant neglecting their husbandsand other children, and many of these womensuckled their children several times a day, andsometimes as often as every two hours, for two orthree years. Poorer mothers, on the other hand, oftenhad to deal with severe time constraints. Those whotoiled long hours in fields, mills, or factories suckledless frequently, before and after work. To quiet theirlittle ones during the long intervals between feedings,they relied on laudanum and other opiates, andherbal concoctions, though this kind of child careresulted in a very high mortality rate. But some women were too ill or weakened bychildbirth to produce enough milk. Others wererepelled by the thought of breastfeeding or had nointerest in subjecting their bodies to its demands.Farm women whose families needed their labour andfactory women whose families needed their earningssacrificed extended breastfeeding and weaned earlyso they could work without interruption. The tabooagainst sex during lactation also prompted husbandsto discourage their wives from suckling, and wives
who hoped to prevent sex-deprived husbands fromstraying welcomed alternatives to mothers milk. One such alternative was pap-a gruel of crushedbreadcrumbs soaked in milk, water, or broth-givenin a feeding vessel. Cows or goats milk was alsoused, sucked from a feeding vessel or directly from acows or nanny goats teats. But until well into theeighteenth century, when better pap and feedingvessels were available and artificial feeding becamemore acceptable, many infants died of bacteriacaused diarrhea. As survival rates improved, morefathers took a keen interest in the feeding process. Wet nurses-lactating mothers who nursedsomeone elses child-were much better alternatives,because they offered their clients child the greatestchance for survival. Except for emergency cases,when a friend or neighbour voluntarily nursed a babywhose mother could not, the wet nurse was a hirelingwhose child had either died or whose needs weresacrificed to those of a paying clients baby. (Wetnurses with wealthy clients hired other wet nurses tosuckle their own children.) Infants were sent to live with their wet nurse for atleast six months and usually longer-the infant JaneAusten, for example, was sent to live at the home ofElizabeth Littlewood, who nursed and cared for herfor about eighteen months. Unlike Cassandra Austen,some mothers could not bear a childs absence, and indefiance of medical "expertise," started weaningyounger than generally recommended, often as earlyas seven months. Wealthier parents who visited thewet nurse sometimes discovered horrendousconditions. One distraught nineteenth-century motherreported: "when he cried she used to shake him,when she washed him she used to stuff the sponge inhis little mouth-push her finger (beast !) into hisdear little throat-say she hated the child, wished he
were dead-used to let him lie on the floorscreaming. "35 The profession was dogged by stories about abused,underfed, neglected, or even switched babies.Breastfeeding advocates promoted breastfeedingones own baby as natural and superior to wetnursing. Yet throughout the eighteenth and into thenineteenth centuries, when more people turned toartificial feeding and more fathers took a keeninterest in the weaning process, the practice of wetnursing persisted. Wet-nursing was less widespread in North Americathan in Europe. Puritans, for example, frowned on it;they believed that breast milk was permeated withmoral qualities, so that children whose wet nurseshad unsuspected character flaws were doomed. About20 percent of elite American women used wet nurses.Even in the South, with its huge pool of black slaveswho could be pressed into suckling duty, the greatmaj ority of white mothers nursed their own infants.Perpetually pregnant Elizabeth Wirt, for example,turned to slave nurses only when she was too sick tobreastfeed. Otherwise, she endured "very sorenipples, and . . . other pains. . . . And hope to make agood Nurse for our little Babe: who, subsistsaltogether on my milk. "36 Slave mothers also nursed, but most were forced toreturn to work three weeks after giving birth, and forthe first eight months were permitted only three dailybreastfeedings, afterward reduced to twice daily. Onmany slaveholdings, the policy was to wean blackchildren as quickly as possible and put them ontopap, though this often led to loss of appetite andmalnutrition. Occasionally, when a slave childs lifehung in the balance because his mother had died ordid not have enough milk, his white mistress suckledhim instead.
By the beginning of the nineteenth century, whenNorth Americans were influenced by an idealizedvision of motherhood that included nursing ondemand for at least one year, wet nurses wereemployed only in cases of maternal death, illness, ordifficulty with lactation, and had to take up residenceunder their employers roof. They were usuallyyoung, poor, and unmarried, and were forced to sendtheir own infants to foundling hospitals because, inthe words of historian Janet Golden, "wet nursingoften involved trading the life of a poor baby for thatof a rich one. "37 Though wives were primarilyresponsible for child care and feeding, husbandsparticipated in the decision to hire a wet nurse, anddiaries and letters are filled with their observationsabout their childrens wet nurses and associatedproblems. In the South, whites embraced the ideal of childcentred families. Many white children were fed ondemand before being weaned at the age of two yearsor older. One mother boasted that her nursing sonwas "large enough to talk of horse-racing, can make afire, and feed calves." When, however, white motherswould not or could not breastfeed, the black motherselected as wet nurse had to leave her own infant inthe care of an old slave "nurse" who, too decrepit todo other work, was charged with babysitting."Sometimes youd hear as many as five or six cryinon one time. Granny wud give dem some kind uf teato make dem shut up, " one former slave recalled. 38 By the early twentieth century, pasteurization andrefrigeration transformed the bottling industry.Bottled milk, no longer filthy, germ-riddled, andadulterated, eliminated the need for the wet nurse. Inthe same era, infant "formulas" based on cows milkwere developed and artificial feeding grew inpopularity. Promoted by enthusiastic physicians to
responsive mothers, formula, with its pseudoscientific moniker and ease of use, soared inpopularity. Formula freed women from theconstraints of breastfeeding. It also allowed fathers tofeed their infants, though decades passed beforecultural attitudes changed enough to encourage this. RAISING CHILDRENScholars agree that child-rearing has always beencentral to marriage, but they are in profounddisagreement about the nature of historicalchildhood. The controversy revolves around the issueof continuity versus change. Philippe Aries (Centuriesof Childhood), Lloyd deMause (The History ofChildhood), and Lawrence Stone (The FamilYJ Sex andMarriage in England 1 500-1800) have describedhistorical childhood as abusive, brutal, and loveless;it was, in deMauses words, "a nightmare from whichwe have only recently begun to awaken. The furtherback in history one goes, the lower the level of childcare, and the more likely children are to be killed,abandoned, beaten, terrorized, and sexuallyabused. "39 Aries believed that the Middle Ages hadno concept of childhood and that later, children weremore harshly disciplined because they were seen asdifferent. He and Stone wrote that even parents wholoved their children did not treat them lovingly, asindividuals. Mothers lacked a "maternal instinct, "were indifferent to infant mortality, and harshlydisciplined survivors. Relief came only in theeighteenth centurys enlightened notions ofchildhood, which portrayed little ones as innocentindividuals. Only then did parents begin to lavishthem with love, and parent-child relations developedto create a happier and more permissive family life.
More recent scholarship challenges thisperspective. Linda Pollock (Forgotten Children: ParentChild Relations from 1 500 to 1 900 and A LastingRelationship: Parents and Children Over Three Centuries)and Amanda Vickery (The Gentleman s Daughter) areamong those who find in contemporary diaries,journals, autobiographies, and other records evidencethat parents have always loved their children andtreated them with loving care. Consider earlynineteenth-century mother Ellen Weeton Stocksdelight in Mary, her toddler: "She has a thousandlittle engaging actions. Her hair is very light, andcurls all over the head like a little mop; and she is allover so fat and so soft. I have many a kiss in thecourse of the day, and many a laugh at her little drollways; her father would be quite lost without her, andI am sure, so should I. I wish I had another . . . buthush! Dont tell. "40 "In general, life for infants in the past, at least fromthe sixteenth century, was relatively pleasant, "Pollock writes . "This finding is in direct opposition tothe argument of most historians that, prior to theeighteenth century, infants were unwelcome, ignoredand neglected by their parents. "41 Vickery adds,"Unsurprisingly . . . the story proved at its weakest inthe presentation of unremitting misery and severityin the seventeenth-century family-a picture whichwas laughably easy to disprove using letters, diariesand depositions, which revealed widespreademotional investment in children. "42 This does not imply that the child born to parentsconsumed by the demands of earning a living andsurviving another day enj oyed the same level of careas a privileged baby. Social class, poverty, financialcrises, illegitimacy, ethnicity, disabilities, and myriadother factors shaped childrens lives: the dying infantof the desperate wet nurse, the slave child sold away
from her enslaved parents, the illegitimate childshunned by society, the child of poor but prolificparents (the latter immortalized in Thomas HardysJude the Obscure as Little Father Time, who hangedhis two siblings and himself "because we are toomenny"). But there was no cultural bias against deepemotional attachment to children, or againstaffording them as much care as possible. For centuries, parents swaddled their little ones tokeep them warm and safe. Wrapping them in layersof cloth, supporting their heads, and binding theirlimbs straight down was thought to make their bonesstrong and their posture straight. The urine and fecesthat soiled them was not considered unhealthy. Manymothers preferred to dry rather than wash wetdiapers to preserve the healing power of urine.Furthermore, swaddled babies could not crawl andwander away. They were protected from domesticand farm animals, especially biting pigs. Theirparents were free to concentrate on other tasks. Until the eighteenth centurys barrage of rationalistand medical literature, folk and female lore served aschild-rearing guides. Afterward, as physicianspontificated about and medicalized child care,mothers were held to such different and confusingstandards that many became guilt-ridden, frustrated,and fearful. As knowledge of the human bodyincreased, they abandoned some traditional kinds ofchild care, including swaddling. Fathers as well as mothers were concerned abouttheir childrens teething, which usually meantsleepless nights for everyone and could make babiessick. "His Mother and 1 were in great uneasinessabout him," one husband wrote.43 Sleep-deprivedBritish artist James Cobden-Sanderson temporized: "Ithought of the innumerable babies all the world overcrying at the same moment, of the babies who up to
now had cried, and of the hosts of generations yetdestined to do so. And I thought it was indeed absurdto be irritated."44 Parents were intensely interested in their childrensdevelopment, and recorded their toddlers first steps,first words, inoculations and illnesses-the latterterrifying in an era of high child mortality. "Theemotional cost of illness was dear to both parents, thefathers panic was as conspicuous as the mothersanguish when the lives of beloved babies hung in thebalance, " writes Vickery.4S "Most willingly woud Imake a pilgrimage barefoot as far as my legs wouldcarry me, to get the poor little Fellow cured," wroteone distraught eighteenth-century father.46 WilliamWirt sat up with his sick daughter Laura "for severalnigh ts passed. "47 Playtime also figured in parents personal records,though a few fathers disapproved of it as a distractionfrom the more important business of learning. Mostdescribed indulgently how their children rambled inthe woods, held make-believe weddings, threwsnowballs, played sports, fished, staged mockfunerals, played house and dolls, boxed, collectedshells, and pretended to be soldiers, lamplighters,gardeners, coalmen, organ grinders, and railwayengineers. Education was of far greater concern to bothmothers and fathers. Sons and daughters were usuallytaught different subjects, though both studiedreligion. Common offerings for girls wereembroidery, drawing, sewing, painting, sketching,singing, dancing, geography, history, arithmetic,English, and sometimes French. Good character,meaning obedience and docility, was emphasized; sowas good posture. Privileged girls might also beintroduced to such skills as reverse painting on glass,
wax and shell work, and making artificial flowers.Boys studied the three Rs and often progressed togeometry, Latin, and Greek. They might also learnthe classics, modern geography and history,philosophy and rhetoric, and even mechanics andfencing. Before the seventeenth century, most children wereschooled at home, often by tutors. By the eighteenthcentury, some were sent to school; there again girlsand boys studied different subjects. Many diaristsrecorded their frustration at their childrensinattentiveness, restlessness, levity, and indifferenceto the subject matter. A luckier few rejoiced at theirprecocity and mastery of the material. Both mothers and fathers disciplined and punishedtheir children. Diaries and autobiographies of adultsand children portray a far greater number of lenientparents than strict or harsh disciplinarians. Physicalpunishment was usually a last resort, after reason,cajoling, and small punishments-no dessert, beingsent to bed without supper-had failed. In the mideighteenth century, Fanny Glanville Boscawen, anoted bluestocking English intellectual, describedhow she dealt with her four-year-old Billys refusal toeat his breakfast: "How perverse and saucy we are,and how much we deal in the words wont, cant,shant, etc . . . . but the rod and I went to breakfast withhim, and though we did not come into action, noranything like it, yet the bottom of the porringer wasvery fairly revealed. "48 Some parents tried to break their childrens wills,even slapping babies, but they were far outnumberedby those who relied on "humouring andcockering" (indulging) their little ones, in thedisapproving words of unmarried, childlessphilosopher John Locke.49 Punishments werephysically harsher in the first half of the nineteenth
century than in the previous two centuries andsoftened again in the second half. Husbands and wives argued intensely about childdiscipline and commiserated with each other overtheir childrens obstinacy and bad behaviour. W. Byrdwas "out of humour with my wife for forcing Evie"their nearly three-year-old daughter-"to eat againsther will." Another father was "at times muchdepressed" at his inability to relate to and empathizewith his children. 50 Some despaired of theirchildrens characters and believed they weredepraved. Most emphasized the importance ofreligious instruction and the joys of righteous living.By the nineteenth century, they sought ways to makesuch teaching agreeable. One boy, for example,aimed to read the entire Bible for his mothers rewardof a knife, a wallet, and a coat and his fathers of adollar. In colonial North America as in Europe, until boyswere six or seven they wore dresses, roomy and looseenough for growth and efficient toilet training, andshorter than baby gowns, the ancestor of todayschristening gown, designed for babies before theycould walk. Until boys wore pants, gender could beso difficult to distinguish that portrait paintersincluded visual clues: leaping dogs, guns, daggers,hats, drums, horse whips, and other items associatedwith maleness. Boys also tended to have bangs andside-parted hair, and wore darker colours than girls.Breeching-dressing a boy in breeches or in trousers-was an important ritual passage; it ended "infancy"and corresponded to the age of reason as mostsocieties understood it. For working-class childrennot already employed, breeching meant entry intothe workplace as domestics, farm helpers, or factoryworkers.
Montreal brothers Henry Lawrence and Frederick Gordon Belcher in 1 891 . Toddler Henry is still in a gown while Frederick has been breeched. His sailors suit was a typical boys outfit. (photo credit 6.4) After breeching, wealthier fathers assumed morecontrol over their sons education or training,arranging for schools or tutors or personallyinstructing them. Fathers assigned and reviewedhomework. Through encouragement, hectoring, anddiscipline, they tried to inculcate the value of aproper education. Boys learned Latin, Greek,arithmetic, and the social graces, including dancing,
and many proceeded to university or trained for aprofession. As photography developed in thenineteenth century, newly breeched boys were oftenphotographed with their fathers. For girls, puberty was the true rite of passage. Asgirls matured, both parents expected them to learnwomanly skills, notably the future management of ahousehold. Privileged girls began serious training forwomanhood, which included handiwork, music, andFrench; other girls prepared for the work-paid andat home-they were destined for. On specialoccasions, girls brushed their braids into moreformal, upswept hairstyles to signal impendingadulthood. NORTH AMERICAN CHILDHOODThrough emigrants, literature, and social ideals,European child-rearing strongly influenced NorthAmericas. But North Americans adapted theEuropean model to their different circumstances andto their regional needs and perspectives. ThePuritans, whose influence still resonates, weredisproportionately influential. As elsewhere in theWestern world, the Puritan patriarchal structuremade fathers responsible for religious teaching anddiscipline. Both were considered so important that in1 646 the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Connecticutpassed laws obliging parents to teach-and theirchildren to learn-Puritan teachings, on pain ofdeath. Puritan societys severe laws also reflected theirconcerns about childrens misbehaviour. Childrenover sixteen who struck or cursed either parent facedthe death penalty unless they could prove parentalneglect in educating them or prove that they had
been beaten to the point of mutilation or fear ofdeath. Stubborn or rebellious sons faced the samefate. In reality, Puritan laws barked but seldom bit, andnot even the most egregiously rebellious child washanged. John Porter, a thirty-one-year-old Salembachelor, cursed his father as a "liar and a simpleApe, shit-tabed, " and his (smelly) mother as"Shithouse" and "Pisshouse," stabbed a servant,threatened to kill his brother, and tried to burn downhis parents house and to slaughter their cattle. Butinstead of swinging on the gallows, this miscreantwas sentenced to stand on them for an hour, with arope around his neck, wearing a placard inscribedwith his crimes.5 1 Puritan parents disciplined their younger childrenharshly but not brutally. Only one child, eleven-yearold Elizabeth Emerson, laid a charge of parentalcruelty under the New England laws, after her fatherkicked her and beat her with a grain-threshingimplement. He was convicted of excessive and cruelbeating, and fined. Puritan society tolerated physicalpunishment of children so long as it broke no bones,drew no blood, or lacerated no flesh. Parents resortedto it more frequently on smaller children, and muchmore on boys than on girls. (In this era, wives werelegally, if not actually, exempted from being beaten;between 1 640 and 1 680, the Massachusetts Bay andPlymouth colonies were the first in the Westernworld to pass laws protecting "marryedwoemen . . . from bodilie correction or stripes fromher husband. ") While the Puritans established themselves in NewEngland, the French were creating a Roman Catholicpatriarchal society in New France. In the eighteenthcentury, the French Canadians high birth rate offsettheir high child mortality rate. Adults often died
young as well, so that about half the adolescents inany family lost at least one parent. Widowedhusbands and wives remarried, and the blendedfamilies they created were a common feature ofFrench-Canadian society. In that rural society, most children lived on farmsand were valued family members who helped withagricultural and domestic chores. If they had anyeducation, it was thanks to Catholic religious ordersthat provided educational opportunities otherwiseunavailable. There was a shortage of teachers forboys, but girls benefited from well-organized femaleteaching orders and tended to be better educatedthan their brothers. The nuns taught them religion,reading, writing, sewing, and other skills suited fortheir futures as wives or-the only other alternative-as nuns. Unlike girls, some boys undertook a secondaryeducation with Latin, rhetoric, philosophy, andtheology. Most boys worked under their fatherssupervision on the family farm or apprenticed to atradesman. Poor or orphaned children under twelve,however, were seldom accepted as apprentices. Theywere put straight to work, often in domestic service,and paid only their room and board. In the disease-riddled, turbulent, and tobacco-richChesapeake colonies of Virginia and Maryland, childrearing was quite different. Farmers, labourers, andlandless younger sons came in high numbers fromEngland, all seduced by propaganda that promisedthem the chance of fertile land. But the noxiousenvironment of their low-lying tidewater, with itsstagnating water contaminated with human waste,fostered mosquitoes and disease. Until the mid- 1 660s,half of the regions English indentured servants, themajority of the population, died of malaria, typhus,or dysentery within three years of arriving.
This vastly disproportionate male immigrationskewed the gender ratio and increased the risk ofrape and bridal pregnancy; it also put pressure onteenaged girls to marry, usually to men much olderthan they were. The consequence of "frequentsickness, early death, and a shortage of women thatcurtailed marital opportunity for men warpedChesapeake society, making it a parody of thetraditional English World the immigrants had leftbehind," concludes historian Lorena S. Walsh.52 The male mortality rate was higher than thefemale, so that there was an excellent chance that awife would be widowed. The result was frequentremarriage and an abundance of orphans. In oneVirginia county, nearly three-quarters of children upto twenty-one years old had suffered the death of atleast one parent, and a third had lost both. Childrenwere equally vulnerable to disease, and unlike inNew England and New France, in an average familyonly two or three survived to maturity. Second andthird marriages that produced large and complexhouseholds were exceptional. Deadly disease usuallystruck so relentlessly that even these families seldomhad more than three or four children. Colonial officials dealt with many of the orphansby arranging apprenticeships for them, which alsoincreased the supply of skilled tradesmen. Anotherconsequence of early parental death was that moreyoung men than in other colonies gained autonomyand matured without the constraints and influence ofa patriarch. A substantial minority of these men didnot, however, inherit their fathers estate until muchlater. Knowing that they would likely leave youngerwidows, husbands often specified in their wills thattheir sons (and sometimes daughters) could touchtheir inheritance only after the widow no longerneeded it to support herself and the family.
Family life on this regions plantations wasdifferent still. Isolated from their peers, the sons anddaughters of planting families grew very close to eachother. But the gender divide was sharp. Older sonsinherited the most valuable property, younger sonsthe less valuable. Daughters often inherited slavesand cash but seldom real estate; they were expectedto rely on their future husbands for support. AsThomas Jefferson advised his daughter, Martha, "Thehappiness of your life now depends on continuing toplease a single person. "53 Money or love was seldoma choice for women who had to manipulate themarriage market to obtain a mate who was alreadyprosperous or at least had prospects; men, on theother hand, had more leeway to indulge theirpersonal inclinations. Much was permitted young white males: drinking,cockfighting, horse racing, and sexualexperimentation with black women they owned,employed, or bullied and, despite the myth of whitefemale purity, with the white women they had tomarry. (In the mid-eighteenth century in one Virginiacounty, for example, between one-quarter and onethird of brides were pregnant.) Their upbringingprepared these white males for their adult roles asself-indulgent and authoritarian husbands andfathers. ENSLAYED CHILDHOODSlaves had diametrically different childhoods thantheir white owners. Their family structure was underconstant attack. Few planting families showed anyinterest in respecting the connection and needs of theblack families under their legal control. They activelyinterfered in their most intimate relationships,
forcing a male slave to take two wives to increasefertility, replacing a spouse on another property witha resident one, encouraging a woman with a barrenhusband to find another man by hiring her out to afar-off employer. A slave owners wife who called"darkey" marriages "comical, mirthful and hilarious"was likely expressing a typical attitude toward slaveunions.54 Fully half of slave children were raised in singleparent homes, usually headed by mothers. Ownersended roughly two out of five slave marriages,usually by selling slaves or by giving them away aswedding gifts or as bequests in their wills. A NorthCarolina study of planters wills found that only eightout of ninety-two directed their executors to keepslave families intact. Thomas Jefferson justifiedselling an older slave away from his family, sayingthat he was "always willing to indulge connectionsseriously formed by those people" but only where "itcould be done reasonably." Planters feeling burdenedby too-prolific slave mothers called these excess slavechildren a "botheration" and gave them away.Mothers and fathers were torn away from theirchildren, and from each other; one of the saddestspirituals slaves sang as they worked was, "Mother, isMaster going to sell us tomorrow?!Yes, yes, yes !/O,watch and pray." To white masters, slave children were quantifiablechattel, either encumbrances or, much morefrequently, future assets. In 1 858, the SouthernCultivator published this article from an unidentifiedauthor: I own a woman who cost me $400 when a girl in 1 827. Admit she made me nothing-only worth her victuals and clothing. She now has three children, worth over $3000 and have been field hands say three years in that time making enough to pay
their expenses before they were half hands, and then I have the profit of all half hands. She has only three boys and a girl [surviving] out of a dozen; yet, with all her bad management, she has paid me ten per cent interest, for her work was to be an average good, and I would not this night touch $700 for her. Her oldest boy is worth $ 1 250 cash, and I can get it. 55 At every stage in a slave childs life, parentalcontrol was sabotaged by whites. In the many casesof "abroad" marriages, when husbands and wives hadto live apart on their different owners properties,mothers were the primary parent, fathers infrequentvisitors. But those mothers were at their ownersdisposal, and many struggled to snatch time awayfrom work to care for their children. Before long,children were inducted into the world of work."Work, work, work, was scarcely more the order ofthe day than of the night," recalled former slaveFrederick Douglass. "Us chillen start to work soonsus could toddle," recalled another.56 Slave parents, always mindful of the loomingpresence of whites, often thrashed their children tostamp out behaviour that might enrage white owners."Learn them to be Smart and Deadent [sic] and allowthem to Sauce no person, " an absent father instructedhis wife.57 But whites consistently usurped parentsauthority and punished black children themselves,and the children quickly learned that their enslavedparents were powerless to help them. Slave JacobStroyer tried hard to force his parents to intervenewhen an overseer repeatedly whipped him. "Fathervery coolly said to me, Go back to your work and bea good boy, for I cannot do anything for you. " Whenhis mother attempted to intercede, the overseerwhipped both her and her son. Then Stroyerexperienced the sad epiphany shared by millions ofother enslaved children: "The idea first came to me
that . . . father and mother could not save me frompunishment, as they themselves had to submit to thesame treatment. "58 A former slave remembered how his father weptafter a beating and sang: "Im troubled, Im troubled,Im troubled in mind./lf Jesus dont help me I surelywill die./O Jesus my Savior, on thee Illdepend./When trouble are near me, youll be my truefriend. "59 The mortality rate for infant and adolescent slaveswas very high-the 1 850 census revealed that slavenewborns died at twice the rate of white newbornsthe consequence of inadequate supervIsIOn,malnutrition (including fetal), convulsions, teething,tetanus, lockj aw, and worms, all linked to too-earlyweaning; diseases such as tuberculosis, cholera, andinfluenza; and overwork. The skeletons of slavesreveal unhealed bones broken by beatings andhauling excessive burdens. Their childrens fate oftenembittered the relationship between slave mothersand fathers, and underscored their impotence asmature adults. RURAL AND URBAN DIFFERENCESThroughout rural North America, childhood was farfrom childs play. In nineteenth-century rural UpperCanada, families averaged five to six children. Untilthey were five to seven years old, boys were allowedto play and watch their elders. Then they were put towork gathering firewood and water, feeding chickensand collecting eggs and other household tasks thatfreed their parents for harder, more skilled tasks.Boys assisted with their familys workload or were"put out" as apprentices or farmhands. As theirphysiques developed, they assumed more adult jobs.
By the age of fourteen, most boys were doing thesame jobs as adult men. Young girls had less leisure and, even as toddlers,helped their mothers and learned basic domesticskills. At six, most could spin, knit, sew, and mindyounger siblings. A few years later, they swept,washed dishes, mended, cooked, gardened, and caredfor domestic animals. Throughout non-slave regionsof North America, girls as young as eleven were hiredout to other families to learn and practise domesticskills. By sixteen, most girls were doing the work ofgrown women. By the latter half of the nineteenth century,middle-class urban parents increasingly consideredplay an important part of a childs experience. Mostother North Americans, however, could not afford thelUxury of unemployed children. In Settlers Children:Growing U on the Great Plains, Elizabeth Hampsten ptells the poignant story of rural childhood during thehomesteading rush, as recorded in diaries, letters,manuscript collections, and oral histories. Theseyoungsters worked long, hard hours on the farm atthe expense of their schooling. Their parents,especially fathers, could be stern disciplinarians. Boyswere valued so much more than girls that somewomen had to apologize for producing daughters. 6o Yet a stream of visiting Europeans expressed shockat the independence, indiscipline, and insolence ofNorth American children: the pipes-moking, brandyswilling French-Canadian boys who disrespectedwomen by keeping their hats on indoors; the youngwomen who dressed up in styles usually reserved forEuropean gentlewomen-in general, "pert,impertinent, disrespectful, arrogant brats."61 On both farms and in cities, especially amongpoorer people, dependence on their childrenseconomic contributions diluted parents authority. So
did (usually paternal) abuse, or overwork at home,on the farm or in waged jobs, all of which inspiredchildren, usually boys, to run away. In his article"Runaway Boys," New York police inspector ThomasEvans singled out adventure and abusive fathers asthe main reasons boys ran away. The promise offeredby the vastness of the land and the bustle of the citiescould fill an unhappy or restless young person withresolve to escape parental authority in favour ofindependence, no matter how difficult. MIDDLE-CLASS CHILDHOODThe springboard for the phenomenon of thedeveloping concept of childhood was the drasticdecline in the birth rate that began in the nineteenthcentury, as North Americans resorted to whateverforms of birth control they could, includingabstinence and abortion. Between 1 850 and 1 900 inthe United States, the birth rate plunged from five tothree children per family. In Canada, too, fertilitydeclined, with the notable exception of FrenchCanadians, whose birth rate remained high. 62 By the nineteenth century, urban dwellers who hadachieved middle-class economic status presided overthe birth of what we now consider modernchildhood. "Overall, childhood dependency wasprolonged, childrearing became a more intensive andself-conscious activity, and schooling was extended, "historian Steven Mintz writes. 63 Mothers weredirectly responsible for child care, and even wealthywomen with nursemaids and domestic help orientedtheir lives around their children or faced severecriticism for neglecting their duties. Fathers worried,advised, and sometimes assisted their wives, pitchingin to calm a crying baby or to nurse a sick one. But
they knew that their primary duty was to provide forand protect their family, and that their wifes was toraise their children and to manage the household.Fatherhood added to husbands maritalresponsibilities, but motherhood transformed wives.It consumed their time and energy, dictated theirpriorities, and, in Vickerys words, "all but obliteratedtheir past selves and public profile. "64 The new ideal of childhood was conceptualized asa series of stages in which devoted parents mouldedtheir childs character because, in WilliamWordsworths words, "the child is father of the man."As children stayed longer in school and lived in thefamily home until their late teens or early twentiesrather than leaving for a job elsewhere, their Angel inthe House mother protected them from the outsideworld. These not so young children became an evenmore important feature of their parents marriage. This extended childhood was designed to shapechildren to be successful, girls as (Angelic)homemakers and mothers, boys as wage-earninghusbands and fathers. Mothers were expected toencourage their daughters to nurture girlish qualities,their sons to nurture boyish ones. Girls cuddled, fed,cleaned, dressed, nursed, prayed for, and carriedtheir dolls, often alone; they also helped theirmothers cook and clean house and sew and knit. Boysplayed ball, used little construction tool sets, pulledtoy horses, shot marbles, rode wagons, and learnedmanly skills and qualities-courage, toughness,strength, and dominance-usually as part of a team. Mothers were responsible for providing theirchildren with suitable toys, like those in theAmerican exhibit at the Universal Exhibition inVienna during the 1 890s that, an expert observerwrote, directed "the mind and habits of the child tohome economy and husbandry and mechanical
labour."65 Toys also introduced children toconsumerism, the drive to acquire new things, in thiscase a burgeoning array of items designed to stokebut never satisfy the lust to buy. (One board game,introduced in the 1 880s, was The Little ShoppersGame.) Mothers were responsible as well for identifyingand meeting their childrens non-toy needs, whichduring the Victorian era expanded to includefashionable clothing, sporting equipment, specialnursery and childrens furniture, educational games,and interesting magazines and books, to say nothingof the good food and the new medicines promoted ashealthful for children in an era of high childmortality.
The Outdoor Handy Book (1 91 0) explained the goal of such gamesas marbles: "What we want for a playmate is a fair and square fellow,who will stand by a friend through thick and thin, and, without being quarrelsome, defend his rights and never weaken. . . . His manliness will cause him to treat his companion and the girls with courtesy. . . . He will not cheat. (photo credit 6.5) " As consumer items proliferated, gender roleshardened, sharpening how girlhood and boyhoodwere delineated. Girls were in training to be caringwives and mothers, boys to be benevolentlyauthoritative providers and protectors. Girls (and to alesser extent boys) had to remain chaste and, ifpossible, sexually ignorant. Yet before they married,young women often studied and worked. This gavethem a taste of freedom from total dependence ontheir fathers. Often, though, it also fuelled resentmentat the knowledge that as soon as they married, theywould be expected to revert back into dependence ontheir husbands. "In America," mused French visitor Alexis deTocqueville, "the independence of woman isirrevocably lost in the bonds of matrimony . . . anunmarried woman . . . makes her fathers house anabode of freedom and of pleasure; the [wife] lives inthe home of her husband as if it were a cloister. . . .She has been taught beforehand what i s expected ofher. . . . the conjugal tie [is] very strict. "66 As boys matured into young men, their parentsencouraged them to look outside the home and tojoin clubs, societies, and organizations of all stripes:social, vocational, political, recreational. Middle-classboys gravitated toward Bible and reformorganizations that promoted temperance or abolitionof slavery. Their working-class counterparts joined
volunteer fire and military groups, and urban streetgangs. WORKING-CLASS CHILDHOODThe new childhood spread from the middle to theworking class, at least as an ideal, but the processwas slow. While middle-class parents ensured thattheir youngsters studied and trained for their futures,poorer parents still had to set their children to workso they could contribute to the familys financialsurvival. The expansion of industry and the marketeconomy, the commercialization of agriculture, andmassive immigration served to deepen the chasmbetween middle-class children and those from theworking classes, who manned factories, fields, shops,and houses, and usually had a different kind ofrelationship with their parents. Unlike more prosperous women, working-classwives were often pushed by their husbands lowwages and often cyclical employment into theworkforce. Factories encouraged this, relentlesslyrecruiting women and children, whom they paid evenless. North America modelled its factory system onEnglands, where in 1 830 in Lancashire alone, 560cotton mills employed over 1 1 0,000 workers,including 35,000 children, some as young as six. Inthe House of Commons, reformer William Cobbetttestified that 300,000 little girls were responsible forEnglands manufacturing superiority. "It wasasserted, " he declared, "that if these little girlsworked two hours less per day, our manufacturingsuperiority would depart from US."67 In the last quarter of the nineteenth century,women and children formed 42 percent of Montrealsindustrial workforce and 33 percent of Torontos. By
the end of the nineteenth century, the overall ratio ofmen to women and children working in factoriesthroughout North America was about one to four.Some of the consequences were male under- andunemployment, and the transformation of the natureof childhood, marriage, and families. North American child-labour reforms mimickedEnglands. In 1 832, the New England Association ofFarmers, Mechanics, and Other Workingmenresolved: "Children should not be allowed to labor inthe factories from morning till night, without anytime for healthy recreation and mental culture . . . [forthat] endangers their . . . well-being and health. " In1 8 1 3, a Connecticut law required working children tohave some schooling. In 1 836, Massachusetts enacteda law requiring factory workers under the age offifteen to attend school at least three months a year.By 1 899, twenty-eight states had passed lawsinconsistently enforced-regulating child labour. Itwas only in 1 938 that Congress passed the Fair LaborStandards Act that established sixteen as theminimum age for work during school hours, fourteenfor certain jobs after school, and eighteen for workconsidered dangerous. Canadian child-labour laws paralleled those in theStates. In Ontario, school was not compulsory until1871, when all children between seven and twelvewere to attend school at least four months a year. Inthe early twentieth century, provincial laws-notalways enforceable-required children to stay inschool until the age of sixteen.
In a New York tenement, the Romana family sews dresses for the Campbell Kid dolls. Mrs. Romana and her oldest son alternate using the sewing machine. The Campbell Kids, cheery and chubby, were introduced in 1 91 0 and are still made today. (photo credit 6.6) Photographer Lewis Wickes Hine was so struck by the wretched conditions in which poor parents and their children made CampbellKid dolls that he sought out some of the privileged children who played with and treasured them. (photo credit 6.7)
Lincolnton, N. C., mill workers, 1 908: John Erwin (left), who worked nights, claimed he was eleven. Dan Biggerstaff (right), ten, hadworked three years in the mill but was now attending school. (photo credit 6.8) The dynamics between working children and theirparents were very different from the middle-classmodel, which cast motherhood as a wifes primaryvocation. As thousands of photographs and reportstestify, children, some as young as three, participatedin their familys piecework assignments. Workingchildren seldom played or exercised, and most weredeprived of sunlight and fresh air. They often atepoorly and, as investigative commissions throughoutNorth America discovered, were sometimes just tootired to eat. They suffered ill health but, like theirparents, had to keep working. When educationbecame mandatory, they were often truant. Most immigrant children worked, in or outside thehome. A 1 9 1 1 American study of Polish immigrants,for example, found that children of skilled andunskilled workers earned 35 and 46 percent
respectively of their families incomes. As thesechildren became fluent in English and acculturated,their relations with their parents reflected culturalchasms, frustration, and resentment. For girls, thesetensions were heightened in battles with parents,especially fathers, who tried to impose strictpatriarchal values. Some girls used their wages torebel in various ways, such as to pressure theirreluctant fathers to let them get at least someeducation. In Bessemer City, N. C., Sanders Spinning Mill worker Edmund Newson, eleven, lost two fingers and had his hand crushed in aspinning machine. His father was fighting for the compensation money Edmund was supposed to receive; his mother was bitter he could nolonger work. His aunt told the photograper, "Now hes jes got to wherehe could be of some help to his ma an then this happens and he cantnever work no more like he oughter. " Edmunds ten-year-old brother continued to work at the mill. (photo credit 6.9) Underprivileged children, understanding theirparents inability to provide for them, were often
enterprising. In Toronto, the World newspapers"Police Blotters" described how six little boys"presented themselves at PoliceHeadquarters . . . asking for three years in thereformatory so they could learn to read and master atrade." Rebuffed because they had committed nocrime, they returned with a sleigh they claimed tohave stolen and pleaded gUilty to theft. (The Worlddeemed their chances of being sent to thereformatory very slim. )68Addie Card, twelve, a spinner at North Pownall Cotton Mill, Vennont, in 1 91 0. She started work during the summer vacation and intended to keep her job and not return to school. (photo credit 6. 10)
John Gannon, fourteen, was too frail and undersized to qualify for anemployment certificate. Here, likely wearing his dead fathers coat, he beams because he has just been awarded a scholarship. The familywas lodging with friends in a New York tenement. Two siblings were in the orphan asylum, and his mother was struggling hard to find cleaning jobs so she could a f f ord her own apartment and reclaim them. (photo credit 6. 1 1 ) Some working-class parents, unable to feed theirfamilies, surrendered them to orphanages. Unlikedesperate European parents who abandoned theirchildren (as happened in the early nineteenth centuryto about one-fifth of babies born in Paris and to evenmore in St. Petersburg and Milan), they tried to placethem as safely as possible. Between 1 860 and 1 889,poor or ailing working-class parents placed more than1 ,000 girls in Montreals Saint Alexis orphanage,
which provided food and lodging, education, andother training opportunities unavailable to poorerfamilies. In 1 895, Montreals Protestant InfantsHome identified "maternal illness" as the chief causefor leaving children there. When times were better orthe children were old enough to work, their parentsoften reclaimed them. Some stayed only one month;by 1 865, the majority stayed less than a year butoften returned for another session. Widows andwidowers also surrendered their children; widowers,more likely than widows to remarry, usuallyreclaimed them once they had a new wife to take onthe child-rearing. In the 1 880s, Saint Alexisdemanded small monthly payments, which pushedthe poorest families to keep their daughters at home. CHILD ABUSEThere is a chasm between the way thinkers or publicintellectuals and parents have understood the natureof childhood. In seventeenth-century literature,children were often portrayed as depraved, in theeighteenth century as innocent, and in the nineteenthcentury as a synthesized blend of innocent anddepraved. But no matter what their centurysphilosophical bent, in their correspondence and theirmemoirs, most parents have spoken of their childrenas deeply loved individuals with praiseworthyqualities alongside their flaws. Yet the assumption of endemic child abusesuggested by philosophical writings has influencedhistorical narratives. Modern scholars reject thisinterpretation. After reading all The Timess articlesfor the years 1 785 to 1860 that reported childcruelty, historian Linda Pollock found only 385charges of child neglect or sexual abuse, including 1 9
for incest. Though many more must have goneunreported, there is little evidence that abuse wasrampant. Furthermore, in both tone and content TheTimess reports roundly condemned child abuse. In1 8 1 0, for example, a woman on trial for "barbarouslybeating and ill-treating" her four-year-old daughterbarely escaped the "fury" of female attendees. 69 Atother trials, magistrates, witnesses, and the generalpublic expressed their horror. This is not to deny that the standards of childdiscipline were harsher than todays, though memoirsand letters suggest a more nuanced reality: centuriesof mild discipline interspersed with whippings (theterm used for anything from a perfunctory spankingto a severe beating) and various severe punishments.Persistent reports of widespread parental crueltyamong the working classes also had some basis inreality, though it seemed to stem from desperationrather than intent. Examples of how working-class parents coped withchild-rearing illustrate how, to middle-class eyes,desperate measures could seem abusive. There werethe working parents who, unable to afford child care,dosed their children with laudanum or alcohol tokeep them quiet and unmoving during their longhours alone, or who left them without adultsupervision, to be watched-or to watch-otherchildren. This was the case described in theIntroduction, when Elizabeth C. Watson, whoinvestigated the conditions of New York tenementbuildings, came across four shivering childrenhuddled together in a hallway. Their mother hadlocked them out while she carried piecework to herboss; otherwise, they might set the apartment on fire,which was worse than being locked out. What elsecould she do? she demanded of Watson. Whatindeed?
Parents neglected their children to keep them alive,to keep a roof over their heads, and to put food onthe table. The press of time-to say nothing offinancial constraints-often meant inferior food.Mothers with outside j obs or piecework assignmentsbought fast food from pushcarts or delegated the taskof cooking to their children. They also stretched theirfamilys food resources by reserving the best food fortheir husbands, whom they believed needed thenourishment to earn their indispensable wages. Inother respects as well, a working husbands healthneeds were put before childrens or womens, withconsequences that could be interpreted as abusive. Working children, even small ones, were harder tocontrol than those entirely dependent on theirparents. Boys who worked in the mines alongsidetheir fathers are a case in point. When mine ownerssaved money by hiring two boys for every man, theycreated serious intergenerational tensions. In Boys inthe Pits, his study of the eight-to-fifteen-year-old boyswho toiled in Canadian mines, historian RobertMcIntosh quotes a nineteenth-century adult miner:"There are no children working in the mine. Theymay be children when they go in . . . but a fortnight orso thoroughly works that out of them. They thenbecome old fashioned boys. They get inured to allsorts of danger and hardship."7o A fathers inability toearn a sufficient living undermined his authority, andsome fathers used excessive force to try to controltheir resentful and rebellious children. The relations between fathers and mothers andtheir working children could be strained in ways theywere not in middle-class homes, and had not beenwhen children had worked on farms or in homeindustries under the fathers supervision. Manyresented being sent into factories, mills, and otherworkplaces, and, after gruelling and thankless days of
toil, balked at having to hand over the small wagesthey yearned to spend on themselves. They alsoresented their parents neediness. Children were also traumatized by abusive workingconditions. Official investigations into the treatmentof child workers confirmed that Canadian andAmerican children were beaten, strapped, and lockedinto their workplaces so they could not escape. SomeCanadian cigar factories imprisoned miscreants-forexample children who played during working hours-in dungeon-like "black-holes ." A Massachusettsglass manufacturer fenced his factory with barbedwire to keep boys younger than twelve, who workedat night carrying loads of hot glass, from escaping. Employers defended these practices, claiming thatthey were in loco parentis and that parents supportedthem. Montreal cigar factory foreman AlexanderMcGregor swore that parents had instructed him to"remove any part of the boys clothing and chastisethem, as I would my own children." A foreman atanother cigar factory in Montreal, testifying beforethe Royal Commission on the Relations of Labour andCapital (1 889), declared that "it would not hurt [amisbehaving child] to be hit on the backside with [ametal mould] as much as with the hand." Nor did hesee anything indecent in a foreman whacking aneighteen-year-old girls backside. "When she is verydisobedient and there are about fifty or sixty othergirls there, I think it is only right that she should betaught a lesson when she deserves it. " Children were physically maimed by dangerousmachinery and woefully inadequate training. AnOntario agricultural woodworker, John Davidson,testified about the frequent accidents to boysoperating the planer, ripsaw, crosscut saw, and sandpapering machines. "Their fingers are cut off. "71
Entire generations of working children had to cometo terms with the harsh conditions of theiremployment as well as with their anger at theirparents for requiring them to work, for failing toprotect them, and for subjecting them to homes thatlacked most creature comforts. Some, in adultmemoirs, mentioned a mothers lack of tenderness.Others understood that their parents had beenhelpless to do anything differently or better. A fewrecalled their parents seeking legal redress againstemployers who abused them. Reformer Elizabeth Watson grasped the absurdity,or at least the impossibility, of judging the world ofimpoverished families by the standards of middleand upper-class privilege. She asked how the"hallowed" and "beneficent influences of home"applied to "these miserable homework factories withtheir inmates working . . . from early morn to latenight in order to earn enough to keep body and soultogether." She summed it up with one of thechildrens "Sorrowful Rhymes": "Jack Sprat had littlework,IHis wife could get much more./She and thechildren worked all dayITo keep the wolf from thedoor."72 The Empress Josephines marriage ended becauseshe could give Napoleon no children, while HenriettaStanley, mother of nine, earned her husbands praiseafter she "succeeded" in miscarrying a tenth. AnnCaroline Lohman, aka Madame Restell, earned afortune as the abortionist to wealthy women, butPrincess Charlottes obstetrician shot himself after shedied following childbirth. Poor Montreal parentsplaced daughters in orphanages that could feed andeducate them. An Italian immigrant mother whosehusband was away looking for work locked hershivering and whimpering youngsters out of their
tenement while she delivered piecework to her boss,earning money to feed them. The ideals of the nineteenth centurys NewChildhood model were promoted as universal, butthey were rooted in the lifestyles and experiences ofthe middle and upper classes. Over time, the workingand poorer classes absorbed and accepted thesevalues, but because of the very differentinfrastructure of their lives, they practised a muchmodified version. Central to the dichotomy was theneed for women and children to work. This chaptersvignettes of the infinitely complicated nature ofchildhood and of child-rearing allow glimpses of theinternal workings of marriage as motherhoodtransformed wives and profoundly altered thedynamics of their relationships with their husbands.
Chapter 7 When Things Went Wrong FOR BEITER AND FOR WORSEIn England in 1 805, a wretched wife-lets call herAlice Teush-petitioned Parliament to divorce hernasty and unfaithful husband, who lived openly withhis mistress and their children. Mrs. Teushs seemedto be an open-and-shut case, and Lord Eldon, theHigh Chancellor, declared her the most meritoriouswoman he had ever heard testify. Nonetheless,Parliament ruled against her. Eldons colleague, theBishop of Saint Asaph, explained why: "Howeverhard the rule [governing divorce] might press upon afew individuals, it would on the whole, be better ifno bill of this kind were passed." l Adultery might bea bad thing, but surely worse was allowing a wife todivorce an adulterous husband. In 1 832, another abandoned and betrayed wifelets call her Babs Moffatt-walked in Alice Teushsshoes. Though Mr. Moffatt had had his firstextramarital fling on their wedding night andsubsequently impregnated one of their domestics,Parliaments collective judgment was that Babsshould forgive him. At the same time, that augustbody added, had she cheated on him, he could nothave been expected to forgive her. A few years later, another unhappy wife took upthe cudgels for a womans right to divorce and to wincustody of children. Caroline Norton was the
beautiful, brilliant, and battered wife of theHonourable Caroline Norton was brilliant, accomplished, industrious, generous, and lwninously beautiful; she was also a battered wife and motherwho devoted much of her life to lobbying to free women from abusive marriages. (photo credit 7.1) George Norton, a neer-do-well, non-practisingbarrister whose abuse escalated until Caroline,pregnant with their fourth child, miscarried. In 1 836,George banned her from their house and kept all thecontents, including her clothes and personaldocuments, for himself. He also denied her the rightto visit the children, whom he sent to his (perhapskissing) cousin Margaret Vaughan.
George was within his legal rights. Like all marriedwomen, Caroline had no legal identity apart from herhusbands. (The first names of Mrs. Teush and Mrs.Moffatt were so unimportant that their divorceproceedings failed to mention them.) With Teush,Moffatt, and other women as precedents, Carolineslawyers advised her against seeking a divorce. Shecould not contest her husbands custody of thechildren. She could not refuse to comply with hisdemand to reveal all her income and earnings or hissubpoena of her servants, publishers, and bankers.She could not even attend the trial at which George(unsuccessfully) sued the prime minister for sleepingwith her. Until the passage of the Matrimonial Causes Act of1 857, which set up a special court to hear divorcecases, only wives with the most egregious-andprovable-grievances could appeal to the law formarital relief, and between 1 801 and 1 857, only fourwomen succeeded in their divorce petitions.2 Eventhen, the 1 857 act that granted husbands the right todivorce adulterous wives still required wives to provethat their adulterous husbands had also committedincest, bigamy, cruelty, or desertion. (The enshrineddouble standard ended only in 1 923, when womenno longer had to prove their husbands aggravatedadultery, just adultery.) Not all women welcomed this new legislation, and600,000 petitioned to Queen Victoria against it.Many feared that the act increased their vulnerabilityto divorce-minded husbands, a dreadful fate. It didnot help that the act perpetuated the double standardthat granted men and women unequal rights. Otherobjectors, men as well as women, raged against theintroduction of divorce and the loss of the"indissoluble marriage to which we have adheredsince England was England."3 Nonetheless, the act
prompted a rush to divorce: fifty times moreEnglishmen and -women divorced each other thanthey had before 1857. Before Christianity conquered and convertedEurope, divorce existed as a remedy for failedmarriages. Ancient Greece permitted divorce andremarriage. Jewish law gave husbands the right torepudiate their wives. Roman law included divorceand granted paterfamilias-male family heads-theright to force their offspring to divorce, to marry, orto remarry. Germanic laws in the declining RomanEmpire included a wifes failure to produce a child,female adultery, and male homosexuality as groundsfor divorce. In Christian Europe, the Orthodox Church frownedon divorce but reluctantly allowed it when the"internal symphony" vital to marital unity wasdestroyed. In Saint John Chrysostoms words, "Betterto break the covenant than to lose ones soul." Andthe churchs reading of Matthew 1 9:9-"1 tell youthat anyone who divorces his wife, except for maritalunfaithfulness, and marries another woman commitsadultery"-justified remarriage. (Remarriage waspermitted only to a point: a fourth marriage wasstrictly forbidden.) The Great Schism of 1 054 divided the GreekOrthodox Eastern and Roman Western churches, andby the thirteenth century, the Catholic doctrine thatChristian marriages ended only with the death of oneof the spouses had become firmly entrenchedthroughout western Europe. There were exceptions:Christians abandoned by non-Christian spouses couldremarry, and spouses in unconsummated marriagescould enter a religious order without the othersconsent. Under certain circumstances, marriagescould be annulled, though this rarely happened.Occasionally church courts granted separations to
unhappy spouses who could not be reconciled-asthey did in 1 442, for example, after John andMargaret Colwell swore "they would prefer death inprison to living together. "4 In 1563, the Council of Trent made theindissolubility of marriage canon law. The churcheven frowned on (though it did not forbid) widowsremarrying, though it condoned the marriages ofwidowers to never-married women. The ban onremarriage after divorce stemmed from theologicalreadings of divorce, adultery, and remarriage, andunderstood in the context of Judeo-Christianprinciples, "part of the eternal attempt of Christiansto negotiate between the Bible and their culture."5 REFORMING MARRIAGEThe Protestant Reformation challenged bothCatholicisms reverence for celibacy and its banagainst divorce. Martin Luther, the former monkhappily married to a former nun, accepted sexualityas God-given and natural but also cautioned that,because of Eves sin in the Garden of Eden, all womendeserved their eternal punishment of suffering theagonies of childbirth. Protestant John Calvin arguedthat the Catholic Churchs "unrestrained rhapsodicpraises of virginity" had debased the dignity andholiness of marriage. 6 These reformers did not easily embrace divorce,but their insights into the nature of marital unionsconvinced them to tolerate it under extremeconditions. Luther, whose doctrines influencedsixteenth-century Scandinavian and German divorcelaws, believed that a wifes adultery, refusal toengage in sex, or desertion broke the bonds ofmarriage, and if forgiveness and reconciliation failed,
the marriage should be dissolved and the "innocent"spouse permitted to remarry. Calvin, whose teachings shaped the divorcelegislation in much of the rest of Europe andprofoundly influenced North America, despisedadultery. "A man may hold the primacy in otherthings, but in bed he and his wife are equal," hewrote, "for he is not the lord of his body. Therefore ifhe commits adultery he has defected from marriageand his wife is given freedom. "? In Calvins view, anunbelievers desertion of a Protestant spouse was alsogrounds for divorce. However, he denied that cruelty,impotence, disease (such as leprosy), or just plainloathing justified ending a marriage, and heresponded unsympathetically to a husband miserablymarried to a "harsh and dreadful wife": "Here are thefruits of original sin and also the corruption that is in[yourself] ."8 In 1541, officials invited Calvin to implement hisdoctrine, which he had articulated in The Institutes ofthe Christian Religion, in their newly ProtestantFrench-speaking city of Geneva. Under his leadership,Geneva developed into Europes most vital Protestantcentre; Scottish Protestant reformer John Knoxdescribed it as "the most perfect school of Christ." In Adultery and Divorce in Calvins Geneva, historianRobert M. Kingdon examines specific divorce cases.One was brought by the well-connected PierreAmeaux against his wife, Benoite, the wealthy widowhe had likely married because of her large estate.Benoite held the blasphemous view that because allChristians were members of the single body of Christ,she had the right to sleep with any Christian manbut she denied that she had done so. Convicted andjailed for this heresy, Benoite recanted and begged tobe pardoned. Her wish was granted on condition thatshe apologize publicly to God and the court. She and
Pierre were ordered to "live honestly in the holyestate of marriage." Reluctantly, Pierre took Benoite back under hisroof, but he made her life so hellish that she fled toher brothers house. Pierre launched a second divorcesuit that resulted in another forced reconciliation.Months later, he succeeded in a third attempt atdivorcing her as an adulteress. Benoites punishmentwas lifetime imprisonment, in iron chains-unless sherepented. With Benoite shackled away, Pierre got hisdivorce and, several months later, requested andreceived permission "to remarry with anotherwoman, seeing that his wife was a fornicator andheld false opinions and was condemned to perpetualprison. " A month later, Benoites family secured herrelease after promising to confine her to her bedroom"so as not to give scandal to others. " Pierre, nowremarried, continued to manage Benoites childrensproperty.9 Calvin was directly involved in his younger brotherAntoines attempt to divorce his wife, Anne Le Fert,for infidelity. Despite Calvins powerful testimonyagainst Anne, the case ended in a forcedreconciliation that endured for years. After Calvinsbeloved wife, Idelette de Bure, died in 1 549, Annemanaged the brothers joint household, bore Antoinetwo more children, and helped care for Idelettes twochildren from her first marriage, whom Calvin hadpledged to raise. But the bitterness remained, and in1 557, both brothers filed formal complaints thatAnne had taken a lover, a hunchbacked formeremployee. Anne denied the charges; witnessesvacillated. The Calvins produced more evidence, andAnne was repeatedly interrogated, at least twiceunder torture. The stakes were high: capital punishment if shewas found gUilty. Under torture-the first time, iron
grilles fastened to the hands and wrists werepainfully manipulated; the second torture sessionrepeated or intensified this procedure-Annesteadfastly denied committing adultery. Finally, thecourt granted Antoine his divorce with permission toremarry, banished Anne from Geneva, and gaveAntoine her dowry as child support. Both Antoineand Anne remarried, he to the widow of a Calvinistminister, she to a young patrician who went intoexile with her. These divorces offer glimpses into howReformation authorities dealt with severe marriagebreakdown. Courts scrutinized the most intimatedetails of private life, often hearing eyewitnessaccounts from resident domestic servants. Theyincorporated torture into their interrogations, andoften forced warring spouses to reconcile. Theypunished adultery with banishment and whipping or,in outlying villages, nine days imprisonment onbread and water and payment of a fine. Sometimesconvicted adulteresses were publicly drowned andadulterers decapitated, though it was only in 1 566,two years after John Calvins death, that Genevapassed a law making adultery a capital offenceexcept when a husband cheated with an unmarriedwoman. Under Calvin, Geneva permitted divorce, usuallyfor adultery or wilful desertion, with the right toremarry. But it was so difficult to obtain that, duringhis ministry (1541 to 1564), only twenty-six divorceswere granted on the grounds of adultery and a fewmore on other grounds. In other Protestantjurisdictions, divorce was similarly infrequent andgranted only as a last resort. The Anglican Church was the ironic exception tothe rule that divorce was possible. England hadbroken with the Roman Catholic Church over Henry
VIIIs desire to annul his marriage to Catherine ofAragon. The childrens refrain "Divorced, Beheaded,Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived" handilysummarizes Henrys marriage-ending strategies as hedivested himself of wives Catherine, Anne Boleyn,Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, and CatherineHoward. (Fortunately for his last wife, CatherineParr, he died.) But the church established becauseHenry wanted his marriage annulled remained sohostile to divorce that, until the Matrimonial CausesAct of 1 857, England was all but divorce-free.Between 1 670 and 1 857, only 325 divorces weregranted, almost all initiated by husbands. Divorcelaws were so skewed against wives that fewattempted to obtain them.Catherine Hayes could not divorce and so, with accomplices, disposed of her husband by cutting o f his head. (photo credit 7.2) f Caroline Norton was the best-known casualty ofEnglands anti-divorce stance, rooted as it was in a
patriarchal double standard and laws that deprivedmarried women of their property and even their ownwages. Caroline Sheridan, grand-daughter ofdramatist Richard Brinsley Sheridan, was nineteenwhen she married the incompetent, lazy, andphysically abusive George Norton. To earn householdmoney for her growing family, Caroline wrote articlesand books. "Out of our stormy quarrels I roseundiscouraged, and worked again to help him andforward the interests of my children, " she recalled. "Ihave sat up all night,-even at times when I have hada young infant to nurse,-to finish tasks for somepublisher. I made in one year a sum of 1 ,400 f by mypen; and . . . provided, without grudging, money thatwas to be spent on his pleasures." l O Denied access to her home and her children, andpublicly humiliated by Georges accusation that herfriend and political associate Lord Melbourne, theprime minister of England, had had "criminalconversation" (the euphemism for adulterous sex)with her, Caroline devoted herself to campaigning forthe right of mothers to appeal for custody of childrenunder seven. Thanks to her efforts, the Infant CustodyBill of 1839 became law. Ironically, it did not helpher. George Norton simply spirited their childrenaway to Scotland, where the English law did notapply. He relented and allowed her to see thechildren only after one of their sons died in a ridingaccident. With characteristic wit, passion, and clarity,Caroline also lobbied hard on behalf of English wives.In a letter to the new young queen, Victoria, sheoutlined her argument. I am, as regards my husband, in a worse position than if I had been divorced. In that case, Englishmen are so generous, that some chivalrous-hearted man might perhaps have married and
trusted me, in spite of the unjust cloud on my name. I am not divorced, and I cannot divorce my husband; yet I can establish no legal claim upon him, nor upon any living human being! My reputation, my property, my happiness, are irrevocably in the power of this slanderer on false grounds; this rapacious defender of his right to evade written bonds. I cannot release myself I exist and I suffer; but the law denies my existence. 1 1 The law denied her existence because of couverture,the legal notion that a wifes being was merged withher husbands. Without her own identity, a womanhad no right to her own property, wages, or body,and the notion of marital rape was inconceivable.Divorce did more than terminate failed marriages orfree spouses to remarry. It freed wives fromcouverture. Without a divorce, an abandoned orseparated woman like Caroline had no legalexistence. Her comment "I do not consider this as MYcause, though . . . (unfortunately for me) I am anillustration. It is the cause of all the women" was asad statement of fact. When the Matrimonial CausesAct finally passed in 1857, several sections reflectedCarolines personal experiences. 12 NORTH AMERICAColonial Canada, like the other colonies in Britainsempire, was supposed to conform to divorce laws inthe mother country, and only the Atlantic colonies,economically linked to the more liberal northernAmerican colonies, passed divorce laws: Nova Scotia(1761), with adultery and cruelty as grounds, NewBrunswick (1791) and Prince Edward Island (1 837),with adultery. Elsewhere, the only legislativerecourse open to bitterly married or desertedcolonists was to seek divorce through private
members bills, which required royal assent.Overwhelmingly Catholic Lower Canada dissolvedmarriages by statute, thereby avoiding thelegalization of divorce. (A wife who proved herhusbands extreme mismanagement of her propertycould be granted judicial relief in the form ofseparation of goods; if she could prove extremeabuse, she could request separation of bed andboard.) Upper Canada withdrew an 1 833 bill tolegalize divorce on the basis of official advice thatEngland would disallow such legislation, making itspassage futile. Upper Canadas first divorce ended John Stuartsmarriage to Elizabeth Van Rensselaer Powell, withwhom he had children, after she became LieutenantJohn Grogans lover. Stuart sued Grogan for damagesand won more than £600 plus costs. (Grogan paidhim by selling his military commission.) Then, havinglegally established Elizabeths adultery, Stuartinitiated divorce proceedings. In February 1840, justbefore she gave birth to Grogans child, the UpperCanadian legislature passed the divorce. As soon asroyal assent was granted in 1841, Elizabeth andGrogan married and tried to reintegrate intoKingstons disapproving high society. Some of the colonies to the south felt ratherdifferently about divorce. In the United States as inFrance, "where revolution was the handmaid ofdivorce, " writes historian Norma Basch in FramingAmerican Divorce, "the transformations of family andpolity were closely connected. These connectionsinflected thinking about divorce for years to come. " 1 3The rationale for breaking the bonds of empireseemed equally applicable to the bonds of badmarriages. Even before the Revolution, divorce existed. Thenortheastern colonies had the most liberal divorce
laws: Connecticuts were unrestricted enough toprocess almost one thousand divorces between 1 670and 1 799. New York was the exception, with adulterythe only grounds for divorce; even then, few divorceswere granted. In 1 8 1 3, however, battered womencould obtain legal separations . In 1 824, husbands,too, could separate. After the Revolution, most Southern states madeprovisions for divorce by legislative statute. Marylandled the way in 1790, and by 1 860 all the Confederatestates recognized adultery, desertion, cruelty, andother grounds for divorce. Arkansas detailed abusivebehaviour, which included rudeness, vulgarity,contempt, incivility, unkindness, "and every otherplain manifestation of settled hate, alienation andestrangement, both of word and action."14 OnlySouth Carolina lagged behind its Confederateneighbours, legalizing divorce in 1 872, repealing it in1 878, and legalizing it again only in 1 949-50. The newer states, less constrained by tradition,enacted more liberal divorce laws almost as soon asthey achieved statehood. By 1 852 Ohio specified tengrounds for divorce. Indiana, even more generous,included the catch-all of "any other cause for whichthe court shall deem it proper that the divorce shallbe granted."15 Other western states crafted similarlegislation with omnibus clauses that freed them fromrefining divorce provisions. One of the most significant aspects of these divorcelaws was the residency requirement, which rangedfrom one year to, in Utah, the mere desire to becomea resident. Elsewhere, easy residency requirementsseemed to circumvent the intention of other statesand countries-which had more stringent divorcelaws. A notorious example was the miserably marriedglobe-trotting, vastly wealthy European entrepreneur-
turned-archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, whoseRussian wife, Ekaterina, refused to j oin him in theUnited States. "I could sooner die than live with youin a foreign country," she wrote in 1 869. Schliemannreturned to the United States where, in Indiana, hebought a house, invested in a business, and acquiredwitnesses to testify that he intended to settle there.Then, as a state "resident," he divorced Ekatarina. Schliemanns ploy prompted a public outcry.Frustrated opponents of divorce, or at least of "easy"divorce, attacked states such as Indiana forcontributing to degeneracy, immorality, and socialdestruction. Horace Greeley, editor of the New YorkTribune, charged that lax divorce laws doomed thesestates to fall as Rome had, "rotted away and perished,-blasted by the mildew of unchaste mothers anddissolute homes ." 16 "Marriage indissoluble may be animperfect test of honorable and pure affection, "Greeley argued, "as all things human are imperfect,but it is the best the State can devise; and itsoverthrow would result in a general profligacy andcorruption such as this country has never known andfew of our people can adequately imagine. We areinflexibly opposed, therefore, to any extension of theprivileges of divorce now accorded by our laws. "I? POLITICAL IDEOLOGY OF DIVORCEMany people saw divorce, like marriage, as abellwether of society. In antebellum America,"divorce served as a lightning rod for deep-seatedtensions over the positive and negative implicationsof freedom," Basch writes. 18 In the slaveholdingSouth, with the lowest divorce rate of any region, thestate was rooted in the patriarchal household whosewhite male head held authority over all women,
children, and slaves within it. Power relations in theSouth devolved from its racial, gender, and economicsystems, all grounded in white supremacy and whatAmerican historian Jacquelyn Dowd Hall calls "theweb of connections among racism, attitudes towardwomen, and sexual ideologies. " 1 9 Specifically, the infrastructure of Southern slaverywas rooted in the subordination of both slaves andwomen, so that the liberation of one implied theliberation of the other. The (il)logic of slavery alsoelevated the white family to such heights that divorcebecame a destructive social force rather than a legalmechanism for separating unhappy spouses. SouthCarolina, for example, forbade divorce on anygrounds. At the same time, a few Southern stateswere sensitive to the plight of individual women andpassed laws known as "divorce from bed and board"that, because they included alimony, permitted whitewomen to live apart from their husbands whileremaining legally married. Tennessee and NorthCarolina went further and passed divorce laws, in1 799 and 1 8 1 4 respectively. Tellingly, white wives whose husbands effectivelysupplanted them with black women and also abusedthem often won divorces. Virginian Jonah Dobyns,for example, battered his teenaged wife Sophia, acolonels daughter, forcing her to flee back to herparents on several occasions. When she returnedhome, Dobyns beat and threatened to kill her. Avisitor to the plantation testified hearing Dobynsboast that "in her absence he had taken one of hisown Negroe Women into her bed and that he woulddo it again whenever it Suited him." Sophias fatherhad recently died, leaving her enough slaves tosupport herself and her children. Sophia was grantedher divorce.
Jonah Dobynss treatment of his wife was notuncommon, as a perusal of divorce petitions attests.The wretched Virginian Evelina Gregory Roane,whose husband forced her to trade roles with hisslave mistress, won not just a divorce but also theright to remarry. Seven months after the birth of theirfirst child, several witnesses testified, Newman Roanebeat the again-pregnant Evelina so savagely that shemiscarried. Besides battering her, denying her accessto her family and church, and threatening to kill her,he established Biney, his mistress, as the head of thehousehold, and had forced Evelina to work as a slaveunder her. On the other hand, the white male petitioner, towin his divorce, usually had only to prove that hiswife had had sexual relations with a black lover-andthat he had not condoned her behaviour. Petitionafter petition describes the errant wifes delivery of amulatto child, supposedly incontrovertible proof ofher dual transgressions: adultery and crossing racialboundaries. (Much worse would have been to ascribeAfrican blood to one of the spouses.) The "darkness"and "unusual appearance" of Peggy Joness daughterbetrayed her black paternity, which neighbourshelpfully corroborated, and Richard Jones got hisdivorce. To Dabney Pettuss "great astonishment &inexpressible mortification," his wife, ElizabethMorris, was "deliverd of a Mulatto Child . . . begottenby a negro man slave in the Neighborhood." In 1 803,Pettus was granted his divorce. Ayres Tathams wife,Tabitha, produced a mulatto child, and he wasgranted a divorce; so was Daniel Rose, whose wife,Henrietta White, bore a mulatto child after eightmonths of marriage, and blamed Bob, one of hergrandfathers slaves, for coercing her into it with thethreat that if she refused, he would, in unspecifiedways, upset or ruin her marriage.
These divorces stemmed from a collective horror ofhow supplanting white women with black violatedwhite integrity, and how women who sullied theirwhiteness and their marriage beds flouted theirsocietys core values, both by giving their bodies toblack males and by producing mulattoes.(Meanwhile, white men could impregnate blackwomen and create mixed-race children withimpunity.) The rigour required of petitioners even inthese cases proved that even the notion of divorcestruck terror into many prominent Southerners. "Theintegers out of which the State is constituted are notindividuals, but families represented in their parentalheads," warned theologian Robert Lewis Dabney. 20 Inother words, divorce weakened patriarchy patriarchby patriarch, and threatened the very fabric ofSouthern society. "The indissolubility of the marriage tie, thepermanence of the family bond, the domestic orderthat the sentiment of its indissoluble charactercreated, are fast leaving us," warned the SouthernQuarterly Review in 1 854. A few years later, De BowsReview warned: "The danger to the South in the Unionfrom the force of Northern example . . . is imminentand cannot be exaggerated. Already, theSouth . . . have adopted to a fearful extent, Northernideas on the subj ects of divorce and theindependency of married women, through separateestates and exclusive revenues. "21 Northerners criticized divorce for different reasons.In 1 8 1 6, Yale University president Timothy Dwightwarned that "the progress of divorce, thoughdifferent in different countries, will in all be dreadfulbeyond conception . . . . a virtuous man, if such an onebe found, will search in vain to find a virtuous wife.Wherever he wanders, nothing will meet his eye, butstalking, bare-faced pollution. The realm around him
has become one vast Brothel; one great province inthe world of Perdition. "22 Strong words, widelyshared. But for the battered wife or abandoned husband,for the wife whose children starved because her"breadwinner" husband owed his wages to the tavernkeeper or the card shark, for the husband whose wifeflaunted lovers and neglected the children, marriagewas pollution and divorce salvation. Loveless,indifferent, or hating couples judged theirrelationships according to the ideals of loving,companionate marriage and yearned to escape. (Atone extreme, the revolutionary writer Tom Paine,separated from his wife, believed that almost nomarriage was loving and happy, and that divorce wasthe only way to end the misery.) But in most states,the primacy of monogamy outweighed the exigenciesof lovelessness. DIVORCE AND DRUNKENNESSA large part of the divorce question concerneddefining the grounds for it. A wifes adultery wasuniversally accepted as sufficient to put asunderthose whom God had j oined together. Often, so werea husbands adultery or desertion, especially if thelatter was long-term and unambiguous. Other sorts ofbad behaviour, notably habitual drunkenness,cruelty, and insanity, were more contentious andevoked issues of class, ethnicity, and gender.Although law, custom, and religion granted husbandsauthority over their wives, who had little recourseagainst submitting, even to corporal "correction, "legislators, most of them members of the privilegedclasses, agreed that upper-class women shouldusually not be expected to endure physical abuse.
They did not, however, see fit to extend this sameprotection to all women and, instead, discouragedlower-class women from seeking divorces becausetheir husbands abused them. This was largely because they associated abusewith drunkenness, which they considered a primarilylower-class or immigrant trait ruinous to the familieswhose men frequented the dens of iniquity known astaverns. The better solution was temperance ratherthan divorce. By offering protection to women andchildren, and by reforming family life, temperancewould drastically reduce the number of abusivemarriages, and hence the need for divorce. This societal interpretation of intemperance and itsdirect impact on individuals was in keeping withreformist platforms that focused on the nature ofmarriage and the family. The anti-slavery abolitionistplea for the ideal of the moral and upright family asan instrument of reform is a notable example. "Theright of chastity in the woman, the unblemishedhousehold love, the right of parents in their children-on these three elements stands the whole weight ofsociety," preached influential Congregationalistpastor Henry Ward Beecher, Harriet and Catherinesbrother. The equally fervent (and mostly middle-classProtestant) temperance movement aimed at restoringwholesome marriage by stamping out alcohol abuse,usually the husbands. By 1 830 in liquor-guzzlingNorth America, where beer was a dietary staple andwhiskey and other spirits traditionally accompaniedmeals, consumption exceeded seven gallons ofalcohol per adult per year, and addiction to readilyavailable opium and cocaine was triple todays rate.Countless drunken husbands (and some wives) spenttheir wages on liquor instead of on their familys rentand food, often in taverns where gambling and
prostitution were other lures. Afterward, temperanceliterature reported, they staggered home to beat theirwives, children, and dogs. Some critics of divorce questioned whetheralcoholism was permanent and irrevocable.Furthermore, as a popular Methodist publication putit, didnt wives have a moral and family duty toreform or at least tolerate their alcoholic husbands?Shouldnt a good woman "love on and hope on, tothe end, [so that] when God puts his seal on theirforeheads, we know what heroism their livescontained."2 3 The solution was not to divorce drunkhusbands but to endure or, better yet, convert themfrom their evil ways. There was, however, generalsympathy for men wishing to divorce alcoholic wives,denounced as slatterns who shamed their husbands,neglected their children, and were likely responsiblefor serious birth defects. Furthermore, a growing misogynistic subtext intracts and moralistic fiction blamed the wives ofdrunkards for their predicament. These women caredfor fashion more than civil duty, served wine in theirhomes, forced liquor on determinedly abstinent men,and tempted them with brandied peaches. Like the"fretful, moody, unhappy" Margaret Nichols in T.S.Arthurs A Story for Wives, they drove men to drink.By the mid-nineteenth century, womens role in theirhusbands alcoholism had become an urgent theme. Ifa wife was not patient and forbearing, and her homea cheery refuge, what else could she expect?Certainly not the relief of divorce. Sometimes women whose drunken husbands weredangerously violent yet still able to earn money weregranted legal separation and alimony. A SouthCarolina judge estimated that between 1 8 1 4 and1 829, two-thirds of his alimony cases "may be fairlyattributed to Intemperance."24 Quite often these
drunkards had to be jailed to safeguard their wivesand children, who might otherwise be killed.Temperance literature, in which homicidal husbandsbludgeoned, stabbed, axed, decapitated, anddismembered their wives, highlighted these fears. By the late nineteenth century, family violencesmashed its way into public attention and, in theUnited States, prompted philanthropists to found 494child-protection and anti-cruelty societies. Theassociation of violent husbands with alcohol was sostrong that several states passed laws granting wivesthe right to sue tavern keepers for damages if theirhusbands injured them while under the influence. InMaryland, Delaware, and Oregon, husbands who beattheir wives could be whipped at the whipping post. Yet despite this new sensibility, a great number ofthose who supported divorce as a final remedy forunstoppable alcoholic brutality still expected theaggrieved wife to endure almost unendurablesuffering before calling it quits. Had she respondedwith sweet understanding to his rages? Had sheprovided a nice home? Was she the sort of woman aman would want to go home to? If the answer wasno, she must look within to remedy her own failingsrather than seeking to escape her marriage. DIVORCE AND GENDERNot everyone recommended such sacrifice and thedivorce issue divided the womens rights movement.Amelia Bloomer, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B.Anthony, and other leaders believed that theknowledge that his (good, virtuous) wife could leaveand divorce him, exercise property rights, and obtainalimony was the most effective way to sober a manup, and they argued for easier access to divorce and
child custody on the grounds of drunkenness orabuse. "It is a sin against nature, the family, the statefor man or woman to live together in the marriagerelation in continual antagonism, indifference,disgust,"25 Stanton argued. She viewed divorce as avehicle to strengthen marriages, as the threat of itencouraged husbands and wives to live up to ideals,and she challenged the cultural values that madedivorce shameful for women. Like drunkenness, divorce was a gender-weightyissue that elicited strong responses. The fundamentalinequality between husband and wife, and theubiquitous double standard, made it difficult toevaluate its benefits or drawbacks. Apart from issuesof fault and blame, divorce involved property andcustody rights, and the status of women vis-a.-vismales in general and their husbands in particular.Based on these realities, American feministsAntoinette Brown and Elizabeth Oakes Smith opposeddivorce in favour of controlling husbands bystrengthening marriage. Most compellingly of all,Elizabeth Packard argued against divorce as a remedyto marital strife because, she said, divorce strippedwomen of marriages prestige and respectability."What we want," wrote the grievously wrongedPackard, "is protection in the union, not . . . a divorcefrom it. "26 Elizabeth and Theophilus Packard, fifteen years hersenior, had a pleasant but passionless marriage thathad lasted twenty-one years and produced sixchildren. "In our mental states we simply grew apart,instead of together, " Elizabeth recalled. "He wasdwindling, dying-I was living, growing, expanding."Elizabeth was handsome, well educated, energetic,and passionate. When Theophilus invited her to spiceup his lacklustre six-man Bible class, she acceptedeagerly. Influenced by the ideas and energy of the
womens movement, she spoke out in class, her j oy inher own spiritual grace giving her the certainty thather voice mattered and should be heard. Specifically,Elizabeth proclaimed the falseness of the doctrine oforiginal sin and the inferiority of women. Beforelong, her stirring sentiments and provocativecomments attracted forty more students to the class. Theophilus responded to his wifes publicchallenges with dismay and anger, which Elizabethinterpreted as a "morbid feeling of jealousy [provoked by] this natural development ofintellectual power in me . . . lest I outshine him." Thepower struggle between them began after she refusedto give up the Bible-class discussions. "You shall go into an asylum," Theophilus warned.In a "confidential" letter to relatives and close friendshe spelled it out: "I have sad reason to fear my wifesmind is getting out of order; she is becoming insaneon the subject of womans rights." He told Elizabeththat putting her into an insane asylum wouldconvince people that she was insane and not worthlistening to. "I must protect the cause of Christ ! " hedeclared. Illinois law was on Theophiluss side; it gavehusbands the right to commit their wives if thesuperintendent of the state hospital for the insanejudged them "insane or distracted . . . without theevidence of insanity required in other cases." In theearly hours of June 18, 1860, as Elizabeth gotdressed, a sheriff and two physicians fromTheophiluss congregation barged into her bedroomand pronounced her insane because her pulse wasracing. Elizabeth declared that she would not enterthe asylum voluntarily, without a trial. Theophilusset her straight about her "rights. " "You are not acitizen, while a married woman, you are a legalnonentity, without even a soul in law. In short, you
are dead as to any legal existence, while a marriedwoman, and therefore have no legal protection as amarried woman." He added, "It is for your good I amdoing this; I want to save your soul ! You dontbelieve in total depravity [original sin] , and I want tomake you right." Elizabeth recalled years later, "Thus I learned myfirst lesson in that chapter of common law, whichdenies to married women a legal right to her ownidentity or individuality. " Incarceration in an asylumalso deprived her of her six children, aged two toeighteen, who continued to live with Theophilus.From then on, Elizabeth Packard had a mission thatechoed the earlier one of Caroline Norton: to changewomens legal status, and to grant women the rightto child custody in a system that almost universallygranted it to fathers. This famous illustration from Elizabeth Packards Modern Persecution (1873) is captioned with quotations from the book: "Isthere no man in this crowd to protect this woman!" and "I will get my
dear Mamma out ofprison! My Mamma shant be locked up in a prison!" (photo credit 7.3) After years of enduring such practices as chokinginmates until "their faces were black and theirtongues hung out of their mouths, " and immobilizingthem in straitjackets before beating them, Elizabethconvinced the asylums trustees that she was sane. In1 863, with the Civil War raging, she was releasedand fled to her sisters house. After four months ofyearning for her children, she returned home. Theophilus was unforgiving. He locked her into thechildrens nursery and nailed shut the windows,imprisoning her while he made arrangements tocommit her to another asylum. To save herself,Elizabeth tossed a note through a slit in the windowto a passerby, who delivered it into the hands ofJudge Charles Starr. After witnesses testified thatTheophilus "cruelly abuses and misuses said wife, "even depriving her of winter clothing, Starr issued awrit of habeas corpus and ordered a trial todetermine whether or not Elizabeth was sane. Packard v. Packard was short and sensational.Stephen Moore, one of Elizabeths attorneys,described his charismatic and good-looking client as"an original, vigorous, masculine thinker, and were itnot for her superior judgment, combined with nativemodesty, she would rank as a strong-mindedwoman. As it is, her conduct comports strictly withthe sphere usually occupied by woman. " Theophilus,on the other hand, was "cold, selfish, and illiberal inhis views, possessed of but little talent, and aphysiognomy innocent of expression. He has largeself-will, and his stubbornness is only exceeded by hisbigotry. " The jury deliberated for just seven minutes
before reaching their verdict: Elizabeth Packard wassane. But she was also a woman separated from herhusband, and he had custody of their children.Elizabeths plans for her new, solitary future did notinclude divorce, likely because she believed thatadultery alone was legitimate grounds and, whateverelse he had done, Theophilus had not committedadultery. She borrowed ten dollars from friends andwent to Chicago, where she earned a living writingbooks and pamphlets. But, like Caroline Norton, shereminded readers that her husband could at any timelay legal claim to her house and all her earnings. To save herself and other women from thisinjustice, she devoted herself to lobbying for thepassage of her bill "To equalize the rights andresponsibilities of the husband and wife, " whichfocused on improving womens property and childcustody rights. On March 24, 1 869, a modifiedversion passed into law, entitling a married woman"to receive, use and possess her own earnings, andsue for the same in her own name, free from theinterference of her husband. " Elizabeth rejoiced: "I,in common with other married women in Illinois, amnow protected by law in my rights to my home,bought with my own earnings." Elizabeth also advocated for women to gaincustody of children in a system that almostuniversally granted that right to fathers. (Herchildren were now aged eleven to twenty-seven, andthe three eldest already lived with her in Chicago.)When she sued for custody of her three minorchildren, her witnesses included her two oldest sons.When the youngest, Arthur, said that he would preferto live with the father who had raised him since hewas two, Elizabeth acquiesced. But she rejoiced when
the two others chose to join her and the olderchildren in Chicago. In 1871, her son Samuel, by then a practisinglawyer, helped her draft the "Bill to equalize therights and responsibilities of husband and wife" thatalso, in modified form, passed in the Illinoislegislature. Afterward there was a wave of resistanceand mourning for mens lost rights, and lawmakersresponded to judicial interpretations, changingideology, and public opinion to enact more nuancedmarriage laws. But the 1 869 and 1871 acts weresteps along the path to womens equality in marriage,and they made Elizabeth Packard and her sistersmuch safer. Elizabeths prolific writings influenced the passageof legislation still known as the Packard Laws, whichprohibit a husband from institutionalizing his wifewithout a jury trial and a court order, as Theophilushad done. Elizabeth also developed a new vision ofmarriage, a co-partnership in which husband andwife would each exercise their God-given roles, sheas homemaker, mother, and nurturer, he as protectorand provider. But they would consult with and listento each other, and neither would force his or her willon the other. The power dynamic of this arrangementwas interdependency, with equal rights to property,earnings (should the wife need to work), and childcustody and guardianship. Yet the wife remained ajunior partner who could not vote, while the breadwinning husband was a senior manager who could.Elizabeths proposed union was fundamentallyunequal, her way of reconciling her traditionalistconvictions with her progressive ones.
CELEBRITY DIVORCESLike Caroline Norton in England, Elizabeth Packardfuelled the nineteenth-century phenomenon of thecelebrity divorce or failed marriage. The publicappetite for the (often salacious, always intimate)details was voracious. Magazines and other printmedia happily satisfied it, framing divorce as aspectacle, a voyeuristic j ourney through someoneelses travails. ("I looked through the keyhole, andsaw her lying on the sofa-her clothes above herknees. He was doing something to his pants-I cantsay what," a domestic servant testified.) 27 Divorcewas for cause, and hungry readers wanted to wallowin the gUilty partys gUilt. Newspaper reports of divorce cases usuallyportrayed women sympathetically. The New YorkTimes, for example, described plaintiff Mary Bennet,who accused her physician husband, George, oftrying to force her to have an abortion andoverdosing one of their children with laudanum, as"very pretty . . . small in stature, lively inexpression . . . [with] a silvery voice, brilliant darkeyes, very dark hair, delicate hands, and regularfeatures." George, on the other hand, was "a littleman, with j et black hair standing up all over hishead, a heavy black beard and a moustache, a restlesssmall black eye." He spoke as if he had "a sponge inhis throat. "28 But courts and public opinion vilified womensuspected of adultery, as happened to Abby Sage, anactor/writer who had recently divorced her drunkenand abusive husband, the fifty-year-old lawyer DanielMcFarland, in Indiana, where divorce was easier thanin rigid New York. In December 1 869, McFarlandambushed his ex-wife Abbys lover, thirty-six-year-oldAlbert Dean Richardson, a seasoned Tribune reporter
who had covered the Civil War, and shot him in thestomach. Shortly thereafter, Abbys friend theReverend Henry Ward Beecher presided over herwedding to the dying man. The wedding-and theattack that precipitated it-dominated New Yorksnewspapers. Sixty hours after he married her,Richardson died in Abbys arms, and McFarland wasindicted for murder. The trial was sensational. Two and a half yearsearlier, McFarland had shot and slightly woundedRichardson as he accompanied Abby home from thetheatre. Nonetheless, his lawyers defended him as "aman overtaken by sorrow and calamity brought on bythe unholy, reckless, and lawless passion of a bold,bad libertine, a wife-seducer and child-robber." Intheir version, McFarland did not murder Richardson,he "sent [him] into eternity. " The lawyers alsoarranged for McFarlands ten-year-old son to run upto his father in the courtroom and sit at his sideduring the trial. The twelve-man jury, all husbandsand fathers, deliberated for just short of two hoursbefore declaring McFarland not gUilty. DIVORCE, AMERICAN-STYLEElizabeth Cady Stanton called McFarlands acquittalan indictment of American womanhood. Othersconsidered it an indictment of divorce, and ReverendBeecher was severely attacked in the press for havingmarried the divorced Abby Sage to her dying beau.Beechers vilification, writes Norma Basch, "suggestsfirst that the shock waves of divorce reached farbeyond the doctrinal concerns of institutionalizedChristianity to grip the attention of the public atlarge; second, that the growing recognition of thegendered dimensions of each and every divorce
suit"-Abby had initiated divorce proceedings-"raised the debate to an entirely new register; andthird, that . . . a quasi-fundamentalist Christianityanimated the opposition to divorce. "29 This was especially true as the fractured Americannation recuperated from its Civil War in whichhundreds of thousands had died to stave off politicaldivorce. Elizabeth Packard had been clear about this:divorce was rooted in a "secession principle . . . [that]saps the very foundation of our social and civilobligations."3o Another strong argument against divorce was thatit permitted remarriage, which even many feministsabhorred as the embodiment of sexual impurity andtherefore the violation of lifelong monogamy. Manyin the womens movement rejected divorce andfocused instead on winning the vote as a way ofensuring family stability. Some women opposed eventhis and, like Catherine Beecher, worried thatwomens suffrage would strip away "all the sacredprotection of religion, all the generous promptings ofchivalry, all the poetry of romantic gallantry" thatwere defenceless womens main weapons againsttheir subordinate status. 31 But whatever their viewson divorce, most women supported the need toseparate warring spouses. Celibate separation, withadequate provision for property division, support,and child custody, was a generally acceptablesolution. In practice, the financial disposition of property indivorces was seldom equitable . "I remain aghast atthe paucity of support provisions in nineteenthcentury divorces," Norma Basch notes.32 (She usesthis to warn contemporary feminists against makingcommon cause with conservatives to roll back nofault divorce.) Enforcing support payments was also
very difficult. Women with independent fortuneslarge or small, or with their own trades, businesses,or property, tended to fare better. In some states,such as New York, so did women who obtainedseparations rather than divorces. In the post-Civil War South, divorce lawsperpetuated the double standard, exemplified by aNorth Carolina high courts pronouncement thatthere was "a difference between adultery committedby a husband and adultery committed by a wife-thedifference being in favor of the husband." A husbandwho ignored his wifes adultery would be"disgraced," but a wife who ignored her husbandswould only be "pitied. "33 Manifested as paternalist chivalry, that samedouble standard persuaded Southern legislators toguarantee married womens property rights.Republican J.H. Allen, a South Carolina lawmakeroriginally from the North, captured the toneperfectly: "I appeal to you who have lived here allyour lives, and seen women suffering from the handsof fortune hunters; the plausible villains, who, aftersecuring the property of their wives, have squanderedit in gambling and drinking; a class of men who arestill going about the country boasting that theyintend to marry a plantation, and take the woman asan incumbrance. "34 The growing conviction that women were morallysuperior to men and naturally loving and tenderresulted in a change in custody rights, with judgesincreasingly disposed to grant divorcing or separatingwives custody of children, especially girls or theyoung-the "tender years" doctrine. The perceptionthat losing custody should be a punishment for thebad behaviour that had caused the marriage breakupalso aided women, who were the overwhelminginitiators of divorce proceedings. An Alabama
Supreme Court justice explained: "The law, equallywith nature, clothes the husband with the highestand most ample authority to protect the wife . . . . Butwhen the husbands love no longer exists, then thewifes protection becomes uncertain. When . . . thewife is evidently imperiled and made unhappy tosuch a degree as to effect her health, and interferewith the discharge of her duties as mother, then thecourts will interpose for her protection."35 That protection did not, however, extend toguaranteeing wives adequate financial support. Forone thing, in the difficult years of Reconstruction,Southern states were mindful of the need to minimizepublic spending. The mothers most likely to gaincustody were those able to show they could supporttheir children. Although anti-divorce sentiment intensified afterthe Civil War, so did divorce. Nationally, from 1 861to 1 865, there was an annual average of 6,51 0divorces, separations, and annulments. This increased60 percent in the two years after the conflict. YaleUniversity president Theodore Woolsey, like hispredecessor Timothy Dwight, publicly deplored themoral decay he saw running rampant in postbellumsociety. Official studies were ordered to determinewhy the Republic was succumbing to the fate ofancient Rome and other decadent societies. But this was the wrong question to ask, because, ashistorians now recognize, marriage breakdown is acommon consequence of war. As men joined militaryunits and left wives and families at home, often forextended periods, their relationships changed. Assoldiers, they were changed by the horrors,banalities, and brief j oys-camaraderie, self-worthof war. Back at home, their wives shouldered newburdens and, except for the wealthiest, seldom ornever saw their warrior husbands. Their marriages,
rooted in another way of life, foundered in theloneliness that could feel like abandonment, alongwith financial pressure, sexual tensions, anduncertainty about the future. Many soldiers were wounded. "If you was . . . [here]& See the number of Sick & Disabled Soldiers itwould make your Heart Ache. they are Dieing EveryDay, " a Union soldier wrote to the young woman helater married.36 A list of successful claims by Unionarmy soldiers for war-related disabilities shows atotal of 406,702 between 1 862 and 1 888. Of these,gunshot and shell wounds accounted for 1 1 7,947;chronic diarrhea 55, 1 25; incised and contusedwounds and other injuries 41 ,049; rheumatism40,790; heart disease, 25,994; lung disease 23,471;rectal disease 22, 5 1 7; amputations 9 , 1 59; partialdeafness 8,267; and total deafness 1 , 420.37 Armyadjudicators, often amputees, rejected at a muchhigher rate claimants with "invisible" conditions-forexample the post-traumatic stress syndrome that wasaccepted as a legitimate mental disorder only afterthe Vietnam War.
When Union soldier John F. Claghom was wounded in the Civil War,a military doctor removed his severely damaged humerus. Claghomsempty arm was then sewed up and dangled like that of a rag doLL Hisinjury no doubt changed his marriage prospects or, if he was already married, changed the dynamics of his marriage. (photo credit 7.4) Alcoholism and opiate addiction were other waracquired afflictions that wreaked havoc on marriages."We have lost more valuable lives at the hands ofwhiskey sellers than by the balls of our enemies,"lamented Confederate General Braxton Bragg.Though its purchase was prohibited, soldiers boughtor manufactured liquor-Union soldiers concocted abrew of bark juice, tar-water, turpentine, brown
sugar, lamp oil, and alcohol-and consumed itimmoderately. So many soldiers in both camps used drugsmorphine, opium, or cocaine-that drug addictionwas referred to as "the soldiers disease" or "the armydisease." As horrendous injuries decimated thetroops, army doctors relieved their pain withinjections of morphine. Addiction, easy to fuel in anera of unrestricted availability, often followed.Worse, well-intentioned attempts to cure morphineaddiction by substituting cocaine created a newdependency. At wars end, countless veteransreturned home alcoholic, drug addicted, or both. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers, unattachedbachelors but also unfaithful husbands, contractedvenereal disease, the scourge of the nineteenthcentury, from the camp-following prostitutes knownas "horizontal refreshments," or from brothels innearby towns and cities. By 1 862, for example, bothWashington, D.C., and Richmond, Virginia, boasted7,500 full-time prostitutes. Charles Haydon of the2nd Michigan Infantry noted in his diary that severalfellow soldiers were "injured . . . [while] storming amasked battery"-meaning female genitals. If onlythey would hunt down "rebels as eagerly as theypursue the whores."38 In the Union army, 73,382soldiers were treated for syphilis, 1 09,397 withgonorrhea. 39 (The number of men diseased butuntreated would likely double these figures.)Confederates, with less money and hence lessopportunity, had fewer infections but still so manythat in March 1 864, a new hospital opened inKingston, Georgia, to treat them. Venereal diseases were chronic and incurable untilthe advent of penicillin decades later. The symptomsincluded swollen, throbbing testicles and glans,suppurating genital sores, painful and difficult
urination, and debilitating fever. Symptoms weresoothed with genital baths of chlorate of potash orzinc or with mercury vapour. Hourly injectionsthrough the urethra for twelve hours wereexcruciating, as were other standard treatments.Worse, they failed to cure, and so infected veteransreturned home and infected their women, whodeveloped inflammatory diseases of the pelvis thatled to infertility or tubal pregnancies. Over time, symptoms intensified to includeincontinence, bone and j oint degeneration, sexualimpotence, loss of reflexes, blisters, rashes andtumours, paralysis, insanity, and finally "a lingeringand revolting death. . . . No one knows how manyUnion and Confederate wives and widows went totheir graves, rotted and ravaged by the pox that theirmen brought home, or how many veterans childrenwere blinded by gonorrhea or stunted by syphilis,"writes Civil War medical historian Thomas Lowry.40 Demobilized men often returned to a muchdifferent home life from the one they had left. Manyhad grown closer to their wives or the girlfriendsthey expected to marry through letters in which theydescribed their experiences, including their fears,hopes, and emotional responses. "If Permited to livethen I exspect to Return Home & See the People &Eat Peaches" was Iowa Infantryman Newton Scottsmodest dream.41 But many others had difficulty reconnecting withspouses alienated by years of separation andhardship. ("While you all was Haveing Such goodtimes . . . on the 4th, we was Shooting Rebels,"Newton Scott wrote.42 In a letter found on abattlefield, one young woman filled three pagesdescribing her new bonnet and comparing it to herrivals.43) Some women had had extramarital sex.
Others, expecting their husbands to die in combat,entered new relationships. Some sold themselves tosurvive: "I am not astonished to hear of GeneralSherman saying he could buy the chastity of anySouthern woman for a few pounds of coffee, " aMississippi woman commented in a letter to herhusband.44 At wars end, many returning soldierhusbands and their waiting wives found the strains oflife together intolerable. Reunited, they made eachother miserable until they finally sought relief inseparation or divorce. But the sharp increase in divorce was not uniformacross the nation. Densely populated cities had higherrates than smaller towns and rural areas. Regionally,the West had the highest rates, the North moremoderate, and the South the lowest. Southern whiteswere devastated by their military defeat and thedestruction of their personal property, their "burnedtowns, deserted plantations, [and] sacked villages."45Collectively outraged and bitter that their slaves hadbeen freed and that the despised, victorious Northwas imposing a new order on the old, Southernwhites strongly resisted divorcing each other. Yet the old order had already begun todisintegrate. For one thing, the war had transformedSouthern women, who had survived by assumingtheir absentee husbands and fathers manly roles andby summoning up unsuspected reserves of internalstrength. But to the men coming home from fighting,many with diseased or shattered bodies, missinglimbs, punctured organs, and crushed spirits, thespectre of newly confident and assertive womenwould have been a mortal blow. Understanding this, their women welcomed backthese broken and dispirited men as if they were stillthe powerful patriarchs they had once been. Wives,sisters, and daughters tamped down their newfound
independence in the common cause of restoringconfidence and rebuilding their lives, often in povertyand always in disarray. Once-wealthy plantationwomen like Mary Boykin Chesnut scrounged to feedtheir families; Chesnut noted sardonically that thearrival of Lent was "quite convenient, for we havenothing to eat. So we fast and pray. "46 She and herconsoeurs also tended gardens, raised chickens, taughtschool, pawned family heirlooms and householdgoods, and earned money however they could. Just as crucial as assuaging their mens collectivehumiliation was the need to maintain racialsolidarity; in the common struggle against blackfreedom, race trumped gender, giving white womenyet another reason to restrain themselves in order tomaintain racial unity with white men. In the contextof shoring up damaged psyches and sufferingfamilies, personal divorce seemed even less justified,and the divorce rate remained lower than elsewherein the recovering nation. Throughout the United States, the anti-divorcecrusaders fought hard. Yales Woolsey was amovement leader and in 1 881 co-founded the NewEngland Divorce Reform League, which foughtagainst easier divorce. (In 1 885, it was reconstitutedas the National Divorce Reform League.) As part oftheir proselytizing, league members targetedsexuality, womens rights, venereal disease,prostitution, alcoholism, and drug abuse ascontributing to the disease of divorce. And the disease was rising: the Department ofLabor reported that from 1 867 to 1 886, divorceincreased 150 percent, though the population hadonly grown by one-third. Other reports were just asominous: between 1 880 and 1 890, divorce jumped by70 percent and in the next decade by another 67percent. Divorce rates rose everywhere in the
Western world, but in the United States theyskyrocketed. In 1 9 1 0, for example, there were 83,045American divorces in a population of 92 million,while England, Scotland, France, Belgium, Holland,Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, with acombined population of 1 08 million, had only 20,329divorces. DIVORCE, CANADIAN-STYLECanadians, the northern neighbours who hardlydivorced at all, were horrified at the phenomenon ofAmerican divorce. They had closely watched theprogress of the Civil War, officially neutral butpersonally engaged. Most abhorred slavery, but manysympathized or had connections with Southernbusiness interests; others descended from or hadstrong links to the Northern states. After the War of1 8 1 2 and the Rebellions of 1 837-38, Canadiansgenerally preferred political and constitutionalsolutions over violence and war. Instead of arms,they took up pen and paper and crafted the paperstrewn path to their Confederation. And instead ofdivorce, they lived together in misery or simplyseparated. Canadians associated American-style divorce withwhat they perceived as the United Statesquestionable morals and disintegrating social fabric.Divorce became an important question in the quest todefine the character of the new nation, created onJuly 1, 1867, and to distinguish Canada from itspowerful and often domineering Americanneighbours. Canadians believed that their minusculedivorce rate reflected their moral superiority overAmericans. (When they really wanted to divorce,
however, they travelled south and obtained Americandivorces.) In 1 857, Englands Matrimonial Causes Actchanged the nature of divorce in most of the BritishEmpire by creating a divorce court to replace thecumbrous system of divorcing through a private actof Parliament. The secretary of state for the coloniesurged the colonies to adopt a similar system, andmany did, beginning with Australia. Thanks in largepart to its desire to distinguish itself from the UnitedStates, Canada alone in the British Empire did notallow judicial divorce. Canadian resistance was only partially rooted inmoral concerns. It also stemmed from a desire tospare the provinces the jurisdictional quagmirecaused by the different divorce laws in eachAmerican state. Inter-jurisdictional recognition was aserious issue, both nationally and internationally, andincluded divorces granted to Canadians in the UnitedStates. In 1 867, the British North America Actassigned marriage and divorce to federal jurisdictionbut granted the related matters of property and civilrights to the provinces, thus dividing the legislativeresponsibility for family law. The problem ofrecognizing divorces from the United States and fromother parts of the empire remained. Custody of children was a tremendously importantaspect of the divorce question. By granting womencustody of their children, the 1 857 MatrimonialCauses Act had triggered fears that hordes ofunhappy wives would flee their marriages. At thesame time, there was deep concern that men coulduse the right to custody as a weapon, forcing theirwives to endure abuse out of fear of losing theirchildren. The solution was to grant custody to thewronged or "innocent" party in the divorce.
In practice, divorce reforms had little practicaleffect until laws also reformed womens propertyrights. Before the first such reform, the MarriedWomens Property Act of 1 870, wives werefinancially and legally dependent on their husbandsand, as Caroline Norton so forcefully pointed out, hadno right even to their own earnings. Most womenwithout relatives to support them had no choice butto stay married. Working-class women continued tosuffer, and even after the 1 878 Matrimonial CausesAct, which allowed magistrates to grant womencustody and require their husbands to support them,the tendency was to force reconciliation. In 1 886, theGuardianship of Children Act was the first to considerthe needs of children as well as their parents maritalbehaviour or misbehaviour. Canadas reluctance to tolerate divorce wasreflected in its tiny divorce rate: between 1 867 and1 907, the American divorce rate (even allowing forthe different populations) was 230 times greater thanthe Canadian-Canada had a mere 431 divorcescompared to nearly 1 . 3 million in the States. "We arefree from many of the social cancers which areempoisoning the national life of our neighbours, "boasted the Canadian Methodist Magazine. In 1 9 1 0,McGill Universitys chancellor attributed the highAmerican divorce rate in large part to the rawrecklessness of the American psyche, "the same spiritwhich, carried to the extreme length, is manifested inlynchings and murders and finds a milder expressionin the intolerance of control in the family. "47 Butalthough Canada boasted one of the lowest divorcerates in the Western world, so many Ontario residentswere appearing in upper New York state divorcecourts that a disapproving judge there commented onit.
DIVORCE AT THE DAWN OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURYUntil World War I, Canada remained hostile todivorce. Only Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, andBritish Columbia had the divorce courtsrecommended by England, and they almost nevergranted divorces for any reason other than adultery.In the period between the world wars, Alberta,Saskatchewan, and Ontario established divorcecourts. People from other provinces still had to seekdivorce through Parliament, an exercise that wasexpensive, complicated, and public, and one thatcould be so humiliating, especially to women, thatmany chose instead to live as fake spinsters, or "grasswidows." Instead of divorcing, many unhappycouples simply separated, legally or informally. Somemoved away and remarried, hoping their bigamywould remain undetected. Others settled forAmerican divorces, which, though not legally bindingin Canada, seemed as close to real divorce aspossible. The question of "migratory" divorces remainedcorrosive, as ersatz residents who divorced and thenresumed residence in their home state or provincewere, in effect, importing forbidden divorces theythen tried to get validated. This was true of bothAmericans and Canadians. As they had in other wars, divorce rates escalatedafter World Wars I and II. Before the wars, divorcelaws throughout the Western world were beingliberalized, and divorce was a divisive and hotlydebated social issue. In England, the average annualnumber of divorces rose from 701 between 1 907 and1 9 1 3, to 2,740 in the years 1 9 1 8 to 1921. In theUnited States, there was an average annual increaseof 40 percent from 1 9 1 4 to 1 921 . Canada continuedto maintain a low divorce rate, largely because
divorce was so difficult to obtain. Women won theright to sue for divorce on terms of equality with menonly in 1 925. Ontario, the largest province,established divorce courts only in 1 930. The divorce rates associated with the world warsrose for the usual reasons: a frenzied milieu thatspeeded up notions of life and death and pushedmany people to marry on the spur of the romantic,patriotic moment; enforced separation; andwidespread wartime adultery by both soldiers andtheir wives. But spouses waited to reunite at warsend before they divorced, so wartime divorce ratesdeclined. With peace, however, came divorce, andthe more people divorced, the less unacceptabledivorce became. The abdication crisis of 1 936 reinforced Canadasreluctance to relax its divorce laws. King Edward VIIIhad fallen in love with a twice-divorced American,Wallis Simpson, and in seeking a constitutional wayto marry her, he requested the approval of the BritishParliament and all the dominions. But the Britishpublic and the Church of England stronglydisapproved, and so did Canadians. "Canada is themost puritanical part of the Empire, " an officialBritish report declared. "Canadian pride has beendeeply wounded by the tattle in the American press,which she feels an intolerable impertinence. "48 The press gossip was fierce. Wallis Simpson mightnot even be really divorced from husband #1, at leastin England, where the Church of England did notrecognize the American grounds of emotionalincompatibility. If so, then she was a bigamist withtwo living ex-husbands and could not contractanother marriage. Rumours flew about her busy sexlife, much of it not with the king. Joseph Kennedy,the American ambassador to England-and nopuritan in his own personal life-denounced her as a
"tart." Mrs. Kennedy would not dine with her. TheFBI reported that Mrs. Simpson both slept with andspied for the German Reichs ambassador, vonRibbentrop. Edward was told he could not marry herand so, sad, shaken, but determinedly in love, heabdicated. The British Empire was (temporarily) safefrom the spectacle of a king marrying a divorcee. Though Britain liberalized its divorce laws in 1 937,Canadas continued to reflect a traditional, deeprooted conservatism. The abdication crisis did notinfluence the United States. There, the staggeringdiscrepancy between hard-line states like New York,which divorced only sworn (and famously collusive)adulterers, and Nevada, which had flimsy residencylaws and the nations highest divorce rate, fuelled theproblem of migratory divorces. Even New Yorksgovernor, Nelson Rockefeller, divorced in Nevada. The cleansing and reforming 1 960s halted thecontinued tinkering with divorce laws by craftingnew grounds. What now made sense was no-faultdivorce, which, by the 1 980s, most of the Westernworld had accepted. (Revolutionary France hadbriefly introduced a similar concept.) Neither churchnor state was required to interpret maritalbreakdown; divorcing spouses were their ownauthorities. All they had to do was separate and liveapart for a specified amount of time, and they hadgrounds for divorce. England, influenced by theChurch of England, reformed its divorce laws in1 969. By 1 980, most states, including New York andCalifornia, had embraced no-fault divorce or hadspecified irretrievable marriage breakdown, livingapart, legal separation, incompatibility, even mutualconsent as grounds. The two decades from the 1 960sto the 1 980s "constituted a third generation ofdivorce legislation in Western society, " writesRoderick Phillips, "following the first generation of
the Protestant Reformation, and the second of thenineteenth century. Unlike the first two phases,however, the third abandoned moralistic and faultbased precepts. "49 As divorce laws were slowly relaxed and divorce became more common, it was often the subject of humour. In this 1 889 image, aman embraces a woman, likely the wife of the sleeping man. Another woman, probably a maid, hides behind the door observing their adulterous behaviour, ground for divorce. (photo credit 7.5) Even Canada finally liberalized divorce. TheDivorce Act of 1 968 introduced the concept ofpermanent marriage breakdown, though it retained
the fault-based grounds of adultery, rape, homosexualacts, bigamy, cruelty, or desertion, equally availableto husbands and wives. Other grounds were twoyears of imprisonment, alcohol or drug addiction, andnon-consummation of the marriage. A divorce judgeheard the case and adjudicated. Collusion, common ifnot ubiquitous, invalidated the process. So did aspouses earlier forgiveness of infidelity, abuse, orany other grounds cited in the divorce procedure, orthe judges perception that reconciliation waspossible. (Cohabitation of more than three months inattempts to reconcile annulled a previous separation.A new separation was necessary to qualify as agrounds for divorce.) The first stage of a successfuldivorce action was a decree nisi, which becameabsolute in three months, after which the divorcedspouses could remarry. In 1 985, no-fault grounds were expanded, makingdivorce a cheaper, less formidable, and moretransparent process. This move was largely the resultof the 1976 Law Reform Commission of CanadasReport on Family Law, which underscored how theadversarial nature of divorce poisoned issues of childcustody and support. Though the reportrecommended marriage breakdown as the solegrounds for divorce, the act of 1 985 still specifiedhostile grounds for establishing that breakdown:adultery or physical or mental cruelty. (By then, thebattered womens shelter movement had emerged,safeguarding some women and their children fromtheir abusers.) The Unified Family Courts itrecommended, with exclusive jurisdiction over familylaw issues, were set up in some jurisdictions. The 1 985 act described bars to divorce, mostreiterations of the previous act: collusion, condoningcruelty then citing it as grounds, and failure to makereasonable arrangements for child support. It
facilitated uncontested divorces, which constituted anestimated 85 percent. It emphasized the importanceof attempting reconciliation through negotiation andmediation, believed to ease the settling of marriageissues faster and more effectively than litigation. Italso simplified divorce by removing the two-stageprocedures of decrees nisi and absolute. In the mid-nineteenth century, Caroline Norton andElizabeth Packard converted their private pain andpublic humiliation into fuel that powered theircampaigns to improve womens rights withinmarriage, including the rights to divorce and toobtain child custody. Since then there has beensteady progress in how Western society deals withunhappy marriages. Today, divorce laws and familylaws anticipate and evaluate marital problems andallow for resolution, usually by separation or divorce. Divorce still has critics who reiterate the argumentsof past centuries: that divorce equals failure ratherthan solution, that high divorce rates reflect moralcatastrophe, that easier divorce laws encourage if notactually cause divorce and go hand in hand with thesecularization of marriage. Some blame womensimproved rights and changing roles for maritaldissolution, or at least suspect that there is a strongconnection. But todays divorce laws strongly reflect egalitarianideals and also the rights of affected children (exceptthe right to an intact family) . Forced reconciliation isa thing of the past. So is prohibiting adulterers frommarrying their illicit lovers. Increasingly, negotiationand mediation are legal tools to deal with maritalconflict, and the concept of fault that was once thebedrock of divorce law has been replaced by itsbenign antithesis: no fault.
IntroductionThe Way We Think We Were and the Way We Think We AreThe Montrealers wedding march is more of a waddlebecause the glowing brides pregnancy bulges underthe simple dress she bought the day before. Her backis aching and her feet hurt. But the ceremony cannotbe rushed because it is a complicated blend of herJewish and his Muslim faiths. A month later theirdaughter will be born in ecumenical wedlock, in thepleasant house her parents have lovingly prepared forher arrival. In a medieval walled town in modem Germany, akindly Lutheran pastor blesses the couple he has justwed, then urges their guests to partake of thewedding cake that, in alternating layers of chocolateand vanilla, symbolize the brown skin of the Indiangroom and the white skin of his German bride. Twodays later, the newlyweds and their wedding partytravel to India, where the blond bride dons a red andgold sari and bangles for her Hindu marriageceremony. In San Francisco, two exhilarated couples arrive atCity Hall to tie the marital knot. The men are intuxedoes, the women in elegant gowns. In simple buteloquent ceremonies that leave few guests dry-eyed,Jonathan and Diego pledge themselves to each other.In another room, so do Christine and Ling-Ling. How times have changed from the old days that wetoo often cloak in the golden glow of nostalgia! The
very nature of marriage is changing. Racial, religious,and ethnic intermarriages, once forbidden, arecommonplace, and in some jurisdictions, same-sexmarriages and civil unions, once unthinkable, arelegal. Many people cohabit, but they tend to break upmore frequently than those who marry. Single peoplefind their lifestyle so attractive that family types havebeen redefined to include the solitaire. And who of ushasnt heard warnings that even when people domarry, one out of two of those marriages will end indivorce? Yet this much-quoted warning that fuels ourwidespread horror of divorce is based on faultypremises and is one of the ways in which we are notquite like the way we think (and fear) we are. Theone-in-two divorce rate misrepresents the reality. Thedevil is truly in the details, and in the case of divorce,statistics are too often analyzed simplistically, andmisinterpretation is the result. In her paper "Divorce: Facts, Causes andConsequences," sociologist Anne-Marie Ambertexplains how this happens. "The number of divorcesin a year is calculated over the number of marriagesthat have taken place during this same year, " shewrites. "If the number of marriages goes down, as ithas in the past decade, it only makes sense that, evenif the number of divorces remains the same, theproportion of divorces will increase." This is, Ambertpoints out, "a very misleading way of calculatingdivorce. " It is similarly misleading to compare therate of divorce in one year with the rate of marriagein that same year, for example 1 994, in whichCanada had 2.7 divorces and 5.4 marriages per 1 , 000population. "Thus, the divorce rate (which becomes aratio) is 50% that of marriages-a falsefact . . . [often] erroneously used to predict that 50%of people marrying in a year will end up divorced. "
The people marrying in any one year are rarely thesame ones divorcing in that year. "The fact is, "Ambert concludes, "we can know what proportion ofmarriages end in divorce only after the death of oneof the spouses." Rather than the "false fact" that onein two marriages will end in divorce, Canadians andAmericans marrying for the first time risk about a 30percent chance of divorcing. (The much higher u.s.divorce rate reflects many more remarriages that endin divorce; American first marriages are not muchmore likely than Canadian ones to end in divorce. V But thanks to false facts and our propensity tobelieve them, divorce is so entrenched in popularculture that, in response to queries about theirmarital status, bachelors quip, "I havent yet met myfuture ex-wife." Singers sing about divorce: AliciaKeys in "Every Little Bit Hurts," Tammy Wynette in"D-I-V-O-R-C-E, " Cher in "You Better Sit Down Kids. "Writers write about it in articles and books for bothadult and child readers: I Dont Want to Talk About It,Two Homes, and Its Not Your Fault, Koko Bear.Scholars study it, and there is the scholarly Journal ofDivorce and Remarriage. Self-help divorce books,support groups, and specialized divorce counsellorsaddress the needs of people contemplating or in theprocess of divorcing. And divorce is real even if not as frequent as wesuppose. One consequence is that children who livewith their married biological parents are now in aminority. Another is that even for them, accustomedto the changing home circumstances of friends,neighbours, and family, divorce is a lurking anxiety,the "dark doppelganger of marriage. " 2 Yet millions of North Americans shuck off societyscollective anxiety about the state of marriage and,driven by conviction, parental or communitypressure, or the evident satisfaction that some friends
and family derive from their marriages-they opt tomarry. For them, marriage may be a religiouscommitment, a bulwark against a threatening world,or a safe place that offers warmth, security, and, ifthey are inclined to parenthood, the best chance ofraising happy, healthy children. As they begin to plan their joint futures, thesemarriage-minded folks are wooed, seduced, and oftensucked into the vortex of the wedding industrysmachine. There is, in fact, a gaping disconnectbetween laments about the state of marriage andNorth Americas current cultural obsession withweddings. Magazines, newspapers, blogs, andtelevision salivate over celebrity weddings, lavishingas much attention on serial spouses such as TomCruise and Liza Minnelli as on first-timers. Photos ofPrincess Dis 1 981 wedding retain their media magic.Barbie bride dolls encourage little girls to planweddings and to participate in pretend ones with aMy Size Bride Barbie, a three-foot-tall doll whose"Wear & Share" gown also fits girls from four to tenyears of age. A glossy and didactic bridal mediainstructs readers about what is required to stage thewondrous spectacle their wedding must be.3 For those who cannot get enough of weddings,(unreal) reality TV blasts them right into our homes.Rich Bride Poor Bride shows the minute details ofplanning a wedding, with the plotline centred onfinances and the denouement an examination ofwhether the actual wedding was over or underbudget. Bridezillas, featuring such episodes as "Lifes aBitch and Then You Marry One," focuses on engagedwomen as they prepare for their perfect day. Foxpromoted the show as stories about "sugarysweethearts who mutate into matrimonial monsters[and] stars of their own horror movie. " A Bridezilla,it explained, is "a poisonous green-faced wedding-
dress-adorned expletive-spewing fist-waving bride outof control."4 Weddings fascinate viewers. WomensEntertainment channel programs hours of dailywedding-related shows, including Puppy Weddings,featuring pooches in tuxedoes and tulle. Slicetelevision offers Bulging Brides, in which personaltrainers known as the Dream Team put brides toopudgy for their wedding through a personal bootcamp of diet and exercise. Hitched or Ditched followsdysfunctional couples to see if they make it to theirwedding day. The list goes on and on, even withoutsuch big productions as The Bachelor and TheBachelorette about the (few) couples who make it tothe wedding-planning stage. Despite the televised ubiquity of lavish, fantasticalweddings, some first-time and many second-timereal-life couples choose simpler alternatives: civilservices, plain religious services, outdoor or othertheme-style ceremonies, foreign "destination"weddings with or without a travelling wedding party,and entertain the wedding guests in restaurants,community halls, church basements, or privatehomes. But the wedding as extravaganza is much morecommon. Weddings have become a multibilliondollar industrial complex of related businesses: bridalboutiques, wedding-garb designers and retailers,tuxedo and wedding paraphernalia rental companies,banquet halls, caterers, bakers, florists, jewellers,photographers, musicians, DJs, wedding planners,and trinket, favour, and accessory suppliers. Thewedding industry, writes Rebecca Mead in One PerfectDay: The Selling of the American Wedding, depends "forits economic health upon the perpetual spiralingupward of wedding-day expectations. . . . theexperience of the bride is only a particularly acute
crystallization of the larger experience of allAmericans, which is that of being immersed in aculture whose imperatives are derived more andmore from the marketplace."5 Weddings have become such a self-referentialindustry that they seem disconnected from themarriages they celebrate; "marriage is theafterthought, the residue," writes Anne Kingston inThe Meaning of Wife; "the perfect wedding [provides]the necessary structural underpinning for the perfectmarriage. Miss a step, forget the embossedmatchbooks or forgo the butterfly release, and yourmarriage is imperiled." 6 Eighty percent of so-called traditional weddings arestaged in churches, synagogues, temples, or mosques.For the unreligious, their ambiance imparts grandeurand gravitas to the proceedings. For believers, forwhom marriage is a sacrament, they radiatespirituality. The wedding gown, however, is the ultimatesymbol of wedding madness, a fusion of fantasy andextravagance with stark consumerism. It transformsthe fiancee into a bride, a being suspended in timeand released from reality before she transmogrifies,after or even during the honeymoon, into a wife. Thegowns whiteness lends her an ersatz purity, itsyardage the illusion of opulence. Its veil is ananachronistic prop that suggests coyness and is oftentopped by a glittering tiara, her crown for the day?After a childhood of dressing her Barbie dolls inwedding gowns ranging from frilly polyester to blackaccented Vera Wang, the bride is finally dressingherself. For many a bride, the gown is a personal challenge.If she does not have a perfect figure, as svelte as amodel or as curvy as Barbie (who, if she were fivefoot six rather than eleven and a half inches, would
measure 39-21-33), she may use her engagementperiod for rigorous diet and exercise. The weddingday is her target date, and fitting into her chosenwedding dress is the goal. Bridal magazines andwebsites urge her on. Lose ten or twenty poundsbefore your Big Day! Walk down that aisle as thewoman youve always wanted to be (and not thewoman he proposed to or who proposed to him).Brides can even attend Bridal BootCamp where, aCanadian site warns, they must "expect complete andtotal exhaustion . . . the toughest workout you haveever done and expect KILLER results. " A boot camp regimen may not be enough. Thebrides nose, lips, ears, chin, or smile may also needadjusting, the breast augmented, the belly nipped, orthe vagina tightened. Dental surgery, implants,braces, or whitening strips will take care of imperfectteeth. Increasingly, brides (and a few grooms) areadding cosmetic surgery and other treatmentsliposuction, injections, laser, chemical peels-to their"to do" lists.8 Weddings do more than sustain a vast industrialcomplex. They assuage our fears about the state ofmarriage by seeming to offer a way to perpetuatetraditions that are at the core of society and thatrepresent its stability and prosperity. At the sametime, weddings symbolize a clash of values betweenthe past we think we had and collectively long for, atime of stable and straightforward family relations,and a past we regret, a patriarchal society pocked byinequities, rigidity, and heartbreak. Weddings also force us to confront the reality ofremarriage, which is so common that it has spawnednew protocol: What to wear the third time round?Where to seat a benign ex-spouse, the parent of thebride, or the grooms children? How to integrateoften reluctant and mutually hostile offspring at their
parents wedding? Where to seat warring former inlaws (now out-laws)? What to give the bride thistime? These thorny issues, couched in etiquette, hintat the minefields on which many modern marriagesare celebrated if not constructed. Our collective failure to remain married-or tomarry in the first place-has become the subject ofreligious sermonizing, scholarly study, and politicizedcommentary. We justify our right to personalsatisfaction but also plead gUilty to rushing todivorce. We rejoice in our individuality but castigateourselves for being selfish, shallow, self-serving, andmaterialistic, unlike (we believe) our ever-marriedforebears. We beat our breasts and hurlrecriminations at the usual suspects: The ease ofdivorce! Working women and feminism! Abortionand the pill! Artificial insemination, which allowslesbians and single women to do without menaltogether! Godlessness ! Greed! Laziness! Hedonism! At the same time, religious and political leaders,journalists and scholars study and predict theconsequences of marriages perceived institutionalfailure and suggest how to reverse the tide.Evangelical and other Christian churches urge peopleto marry (heterosexually) and to stay married. A fewpromote gay marriage as the alternative to Sodomand Gomorrah depravity. Policy-makers draftregulations and laws to encourage marriage throughtax and child-care incentives. Scholars track the fateof the children of the divorced, the remarried, andthe still single, of adoptees, and of gay parents, andtheir reports fuel the fire of the debate aboutmarriage and divorce. In North America, this debate is too often rooted inhistorical, static, and romanticized assumptions abouthistoric marriage, which is painted without the reallife backdrops that were described in Part 1 : the
soaring rate of alcoholism and drug addiction, triplethat of today; bans against interracial marriage; thedearth of effective birth control and, toward the endof the century, its criminalization; high infant andchild mortality rates; the high adult mortality ratethat made remarriage an urgent and commonoccurrence among young widows and widowersunable to cope alone; the grief of child survivorsmourning siblings and parents, then coexisting withstep-siblings and step-parents, all the while sufferingthe trauma of loss on a scale unimaginable today. Whatever would Martha Coffin Wright or JaneAusten have made of our version of their worlds? But this "Victorian fantasy" has been slow to die.Just before the womens movement exploded intopublic consciousness with the 1 963 appearance ofBetty Friedans The Feminine Mystique, the newmedium of television offered the popular series LeaveIt to Beaver and Father Knows Best. Beavers iconicparents, perky stay-at-home mother June Cleaver andher kindly husband, Ward, raised their two sons andlived happily in suburbia; Father Knows Bests Jim andMargaret Anderson did much the same with theirson, Bud, and daughters Princess (Betty) and Kitten(Kathy). Father Knows Best leapt from radio totelevision in 1 954, and 203 episodes aired until 1 962;Beavers 234 episodes ran from 1957 to 1 963 and, asreruns, into perpetuity. French and English Canadas television series LaFamille Plou f and The Plouf Family (1 953-1 959) fe feoffered novelist Roger Lemelins rollicking saga abouta working-class family in Quebec Citys Lower Town.The Plouffe world was one of streetcar conductors,newspaper typesetters, interfering priests, and pryingneighbours in the World War II milieu ofconscription, censorship, and trade union militancy.Good women were stay-at-home mothers and their
men were good providers and patriarchs. Life wasrawer than in American shows, though in the Englishversion, the profanities and sexual references weredeleted. Nonetheless (or perhaps because of this),anglophone Canadians preferred to watch thesanitized worlds of Leave It to Beaver and FatherKnows Best. The Cleavers and Andersons personify amodernized fantasy of the Victorian marriage andfamily life and, as historian Stephanie Coontzobserves, "presented an idealized mixture of valuesthat never coexisted in any real family and that werein many cases quite contradictory. . . . The hybridmodern expectation that a woman can have anintense, close relationship with her children whilesimultaneously maintaining youthful sexualexcitement with her husband is highly unrealistic,and this has introduced enormous stresses into manywomens lives. "9 Ironically, Billy Gray, the actor who played Bud,became the shows most urgent critic. "I wish therewas some way I could tell kids not to believe it-thedialogue, the situations, the characters-they were alltotally false, " he said in 1 983. "The girls were alwaystrained to use their feminine wiles, to pretend to behelpless to attract men. The show contributed to a lotof the problems between men and women that we seetoday . . . . I think we were all well motivated, but whatwe did was run a hoax. " 1 0 That hoax included the portrait of a marriage, thestaging of a cozy interior, and the ease with which aprettily aproned and perfectly groomed June Cleavercleaned, cooked, and ran her little fiefdom, all withdeep personal satisfaction. Yet this hoax, thisahistorical model, continues to influence ourhistorical understanding. Too often, false notions likethis one-and like the crazed world of televised
weddings-frame our discussions about marriage pastand present, and lead us to condemn ourselves assadly wanting. Yet the more we pine for a past thatnever was, the more we blind ourselves to todayspossibilities. As William Faulkner so wisely observed,"The past is not dead and gone; it isnt even past."
Chapter 8 Unmarried and Often Single "WE ARE THE DEAD"Early on a May Sunday morning in 1 9 1 5, LieutenantsOwen Hague of the Canadian Field Artillerys 2ndBrigade and Alexis Helmer of the 1st ventured out toinspect a Canadian battery on the bank of the YserCanal in the French-Belgian border in an area knownas Flanders. German gunners sighted them, andbefore the two men could travel more than a fewyards, a cannon shell exploded. It smashed Haguesleft leg, nearly severing it at the thigh, and fracturedhis right leg. It also blasted him thirty feet away, andthat night he died in a French field hospital. Helmerdied instantly, his body shattered into fragments. Hague, a twenty-six-year-old Montrealer, hadenlisted in 1 9 1 4, directly after graduating fromMcGill University with his masters degree in science,and had won several commendations from hismilitary superiors. Helmer, one month short oftwenty-three, had also signed up right aftergraduating with a McGill science degree. Helmer wasengaged to be married to a girl whose photograph hecarried with him. Helmer and Hague had just endured some of thefiercest fighting of the Great War, seventeen days ofrelentless shelling that included German chlorine gasattacks. Dr. John McCrae, the brigade surgeon,described the battle of Ypres to his mother as "the
most bitter of fights. For seventeen days andseventeen nights none of us have had our clothes off,nor our boots even . . . In all that time while I wasawake, gunfire and rifle fire never ceased for sixtyseconds . . . And behind it all was the constantbackground of the sights of the dead, the wounded,the maimed, and a terrible anxiety lest the lineshould give way." lJohn McCrae in 1 912. He re-enlisted in the army in 1 91 4 "because Ithink every bachelor, especially if he has experience of war, ought to go. " (photo credit 8.1) McCrae was Helmers friend. They had met inMontreal, where McCrae was an assistant pathologistat the Montreal General Hospital, a McGill University
lecturer, and a published poet. He had served in theBoer War and was forty-one when he re-enlisted in1 9 1 4. "I am going, " he explained, "because I thinkevery bachelor, especially if he has experience ofwar, ought to go. I am really rather afraid, but moreafraid to stay at home with my conscience." WhenHelmer died, McCrae waited for a lull in themerciless bombardment, then instructed his men tocollect the pieces of Helmers broken body and placethem in burlap bags. These he fashioned into theshape of a body, covered with a blanket, and fastenedwith pins. "Lieutenant Helmer was killed at the guns-a verynice boy," McCrae wrote. "His girls picture had ahole right through it and we buried it with him. I saidthe Committal Service over him, as well as I couldfrom memory." The next day, as he sat on the back ofan ambulance glancing back and forth between thewindblown poppies and Helmers simple grave,McCrae mourned his friend in quickly scribbledverses now acclaimed as "In Flanders Fields. " Soon after, McCraes health began t o deteriorate,and it is widely believed that he was tormented bymemories of Helmers terrible death. McCrae oftensought solitude and took long lonely rides on Bonfire,the horse he had shipped from Canada, with only hisspaniel Bonneau, a stray rescued from the battlefield,as a companion. On January 28, 1 9 1 8, he died,victim of chronic asthma, bronchitis, perhaps thechlorine gas at Ypres, and despair at the horrors hehad seen in war. Besides plunging their families and friends intomourning, the deaths of these soldiers significantlyreduced the numbers of men available to marry.Hagues military records left blank his marital status.McCrae, a distinguished physician, was likely aconfirmed bachelor. But Helmer had been engaged,
and, back home, a woman learned that she wouldnever marry him. More than 62,000 Canadiansoldiers died in the Great War, drastically changingthe ratio of potential husbands to wives. As McCraesfamous poem lamented, We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sWLSet glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.A dearth of men, the predictable consequence of war,was one of several reasons women remained single.Others were the lack of a decent dowry, socialconnections, good looks, charisma, or just plain luck.Women afflicted by one of more of theseinsufficiencies could take their chances by marrying"down"-if they could find a willing mate. Anotheralternative was singleness, very often accompaniedby celibacy, and in fact large numbers of women didnot marry. In the eighteenth century, about 25percent of English and 30 percent of Scottisharistocratic women remained single, most because ofinsufficiently large dowries but some by choice. LikeJane Austen (and her sister, Cassandra, and theirwidowed mother), most of these single women livedwith relatives. Some were welcomed as much-lovedaunties. Others were belittled and bullied by kinfolkand in-laws who never tired of reminding them thatthey were burdens. North America, too, had large contingents ofwomen who, through happenstance or choice, nevermarried. Except for the right to vote, colonialspinsters had the same legal rights as men (Englishcommon law was the basis of North Americancolonial laws) and many exercised them to carve outproductive lives as innkeepers, merchants,
craftswomen, nurses, teachers, landowners, writers,printers, shipbuilders, tailors, shoemakers, bakers,brewers, painters, gilders, and wallpaper hangers,among other occupations. 2 Many privileged women with good educations andfinancial resources also chose to live independently.In bustling Savannah and Charleston, many spinstersled rich lives dedicated to community service andfamily relationships: they were respected, and weresustained by emotional and social ties with otherwomen, married and single. As "the communicators,caretakers, surrogate mothers, family servants, andbenevolent women extending feminine virtues toindividuals and organizations," historian ChristineJacobson Carter writes, these women were "the glue[that kept] elite social networks as well as individualfamilies intact" and worked within the framework ofpatriarchal white authority to further their relativessocial and political power. 3 Northern and Canadian spinsters, too, dedicatedthemselves to vocations or, if they had to supportthemselves, careers; they also threw themselves intothe great causes of their day: abolition of slavery,womens suffrage, and temperance among them,often in leadership roles. Catharine Beecher, Harrietssister, founded several girls schools, wrote bestsellingbooks on household management and education, andlectured extensively. Unlike Harriet, whose marriagetied her to a penurious life as a mother, housewife,and writer forced to steal time from her domesticduties to write, Catharine was free to indulge herintellectual passions. She had already experienced lifeas a homemaker and mother after her own mothersdeath had forced her to leave school at the age ofsixteen to raise her brothers and sisters. Tellingly,this doyenne of household management preferred tolive itinerantly, a perpetual visitor with no interest in
the permanent home she described with suchexpertise. As a single woman with some financial resources,Beecher was committed to the plight of single womenwho needed to earn a living. Her vision, promulgatedthrough her voluminous publications and lectures,was that they should train to become teachers, toserve as a model for responsible citizenship and toguide childrens moral and intellectual development.Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1853, as she was first gaining fame as the author of Uncle Toms Cabin. (photo credit 8.2) Canadian Margaret Marshall Saunders, author ofBeautiful Joe, the first Canadian novel to sell over a
million copies, was another never-married womanwho parlayed her literary talent and compassion forvictims of social injustices into a satisfying andrewarding vocation. Beautiful Joe, her story about anabused Airedale, was simple, heart-wrenching, andsubstantially true, except for being told in the firstperson. It was translated into eighteen languagesincluding Esperanto and Braille and catapulted herinto literary prominence. Saunders wrote anothertwenty-three books championing social issues such asthe abolition of child labour, slum clearance, and theneed to recognize womens contributions to society.Childless, she wrote childrens books that wovetogether the reality of slums, overcrowding, andalcoholism with a fantasy world of talking animalswith moral agendas. Yet at the same time that contingents of spinsterswere enjoying satisfying and fulfilled lives, the cult ofdomesticitys new sentimentality about wivesincreasingly recast spinsters as socially inadequatelosers. The term spinster, first recorded in fourteenthcentury England to describe someone who spun wooland by the seventeenth century the official term foran unmarried woman, became a pej orative. Thespinster was never to forget-nor to be forgiven forthe fact that she was not a wife. Unmarried men, on the other hand, were seldomvilified, because the double standard that judgedspinsters so harshly exempted bachelors-exceptthose suspected of "inversion, " the term forhomosexual inclinations. Even then, there wasconsiderable leeway, because until the twentiethcentury, intense and sustained male relationshipswere accepted as unremarkable. Stories aboutAbraham Lincoln and Calvin Stowe illustrate just howgreatly customs-and perceptions of them-havechanged. Recent speculation that Lincoln was gay or
bisexual is based on the fact that during hisimpecunious years as a fledgling lawyer, heeconomized by sharing a bed with another youngman, Joshua Speed, who became his lifelong friendand to whom, in later years, Lincoln signed his letters"Yours Forever." But if Lincoln was gay, none of thisis evidence of it. In an era where notions of privacywere still practised largely in the breach, it wascustomary for friends-even strangers-to savemoney or make do with limited space by sharingbeds . As for "Yours Forever," it was Lincolns habitualsignature, including to his law partner and acongressman. The normalcy of sleeping together is epitomized byan anecdote Harriet Beecher Stowes husband, Calvin,wrote her during her long sojourn in a health spa.Calvin told her that a Mr. Farber, a young man of hisacquaintance, had been forced by eye disease topostpone his engagement and subsequently took it"into his little black-curly pate to fall desperately inlove with me, and he kisses and kisses upon myrough old face, as if I were a most beautiful younglady instead of a musty old man . . . . The Lord sent himhere to be my comfort. He will have me here to sleepwith him once in a while, and he says, that is almostas good as being married-the dear little innocentignorant soul."4 Unlike Mr. Farber, who dulled his frustration athaving to postpone his wedding by kissing musty oldCalvin Stowe, other men who were keen to marry(and enjoy marital sex) languished instead inenforced singleness. Many were engaged but had towait to wed until they were deemed to haveestablished themselves financially. In 1857 inEngland, a much-quoted letter from "Theophrastus"to The Times deplored the social "laws" imposed bythe tyranny of the nations richest ten thousand; they
forced millions in the middle class to postponemarrying until they could afford a fancy house, afootman, and a carriage. Even young couples willingto begin married life "on little more than theproverbial bread and cheese" dared not risk shamingtheir family by doing so. Apart from "the sad butfamiliar sight of two young lovers wearing out theirbest years with hearts sickened with hope longdeferred, " there was the fact that affianced men werenotorious for consorting with courtesans andstreetwalkers, thereby contributing to widespreadprostitution and venereal disease. Sometimes professions or vocations kept peoplesingle. Most Christian religious orders, both male andfemale, had to pledge celibate singleness. Female (butseldom male) schoolteachers could work only if theyremained unmarried and chaste, and their privatelives were monitored to ensure that this was the case.Domestic servants often worked in conditions thateffectively forced them to remain single; if theymanaged to mate or marry, they risked losing theirjobs. The eroding tradition of apprenticeship madesimilar demands, until the apprentice achievedmaster status. Most professional and clerical jobs didnot explicitly require celibate singleness, but theusual practice was for women to resign as soon asthey married. Many, however, simply concealed theirmarital status and daily removed their wedding rings. By the end of the nineteenth century, as careeropportunities for women increased, so did womensoptions-and confusion-regarding marriage.Nothing illustrates this as well as Chicagos sixEleanor Clubs, which from 1 898 to 1 930 housedthousands of single white middle-classbusinesswomen, including stenographers, clerks,bookkeepers, secretaries, students, and teachers inlow-cost, safe, and respectable residences, way
stations "between the security of family, home, andtraditional values, and a changing new world. " Aformer resident recalled, "I looked around at thequiet restfulness of the parlour, the cleanliness of therooms, and almost wept at the luck that brought meto such a lovely home. "5 The Eleanors understood that they straddled thechasm between past and present. They set out to theiroffices in smart clothes and bobbed hair, guided bytheir "Business Womans Creed" that lauded "honestwork . . . done by honest women by means of honestmethods," and declared their belief in "working, notweeping; in boosting, not knocking, and in the joyand satisfaction of labor well done."6 But at home inthe residence, where a curfew and strict supervisionensured no one had a man in her room, the Eleanorsarticulated and acted out the fundamentalcontradictions of their lives. At Kid Parties, these otherwise urbanebusinesswomen dressed as infants and toddlers, maleas well as female, and flung themselves into childsplay. "The years fell away from us and we leapedback into childhood with leapfrog, " one residentrecalled. They also held Old Maids Clubs andSpinsters Conventions at which they wore oldfashioned leg-of-mutton sleeves, wasp waistlines, andfeathered hats and acted out their version ofVictorian womanhood. At one Spinsters Conventionthey debated the topic of womens sphere: was itlimited to the home or did it extend to the workingworld? At another, "Susan B. Anthony" appearedwith a giant carving knife to cut the cake. In 1 922, ata musical farce called the Old Maids Association, thewomen responded to a roll-call with quotations suchas, "Of all the saddest words that ever was writ, thesaddest is these-Im single yit. " They also agreedthat "womens highest duty is to adorn a home."
Yet the Eleanors commemorated two real weddingannouncements with a mock funeral that includedChopins Funeral March. As the "lawyer" read a willbequeathing girlish trinkets and love letters to fellowresidents, the Eleanors "wailed . . . over the loss of thetwo from our midst." Cupid was a kidnapper, and onefuture husband was a "bold brigand" whose fianceewas "his plunder." The Eleanors displayed strongambivalence toward marriage. They equated it withlove, companionship, social acceptance, and greaterfinancial security, and considered it a better choicethan "blessed singleness." But they also feared it as asacrifice of both independence and success in thebusiness world. Eleanor Girls, including Edna Greaves, fourth from right, pose withtheir housekeeper. After Ednas father died, her mother sent Edna andher sister Lois to the Eleanor Club in Chicago to work and study. Edna later ran a successful travel business in Chicago and Lois became aschoolteacher. Edna married and had one son; Lois married late and remained childless. Both sisters outlived their spouses and lived independently into old age. (photo credit 8.3) The Eleanor women were ideally placed to ponderthe choice between living singly or married. Their
residences offered security, friendship withcompatible women, creature comforts, stimulatingactivities, and encouragement in their careers. Ifanyone were well placed to enjoy singleness, it wasthe Eleanor residents, and they were quick to mockthe stereotype of unmarried women as pitiful oldmaids desperate for a man. Yet despite theirconfidence and gainful employment, the Eleanorsepitomized the confusion and conflict felt byaccomplished and thoughtful women who were wellplaced to choose either marriage or singleness andfeared the consequences of either: marriage wasdesirable, yet they celebrated it with mock funerals. UNMARRIED IN NORTH AMERICAToday the meaning of singleness-and therefore itsconsequences-is drastically different. Singleness nolonger implies a solitary existence (even within acommunal living arrangement) . Singleness can claimautonomous or independent as synonyms; it hasbecome a way of life rich in possibilities and is losingits former sad and negative connotations. And beingsingle can no longer be defined as the opposite ofbeing married. Even being unmarried is not exactly the opposite ofbeing married, or at least in the traditional sense.Today, millions of men and women are persuaded tolive outside of marriage, to the extent that in NorthAmerica, married couples have become a minority ofhouseholds. The 2005 U.S. census, for example,reveals that 51 percent of American women, and 47percent of men, now live without a spouse. (InCanada, the figures are even higher.) "On average, "says marriage scholar Stephanie Coontz, "Americansnow spend half their adult lives outside marriage."7
(Parsed by ethnicity, the statistics translate into 70percent of black women, 51 percent of Hispanicwomen, 45 percent of non-Hispanic white women,and less than 40 percent of Asian women livingwithout husbands. In Canada, 41 percent of blackCanadians marry, fewer than any other ethnic group,and more divorce. There are more single-parentfamilies among black Canadians than any othergroup, 27 percent compared with a national averageof 1 5.6 percent.) Yet many of these husbandless women and wifelessmen are not living alone. Instead of marrying, theysimply cohabit. Cohabitation, defined as livingtogether as spouses, increasingly rivals marriage as away of life and as one of two principal alternatives toit (singleness is the other). In Canada and many otherjurisdictions, cohabitation has the legal status ofcommon-law union or is registered as a recognizedrelationship. At least 1 2 percent of Canadianscohabit; in Quebec the figure rises to 22 percent; 8.1percent of u . s . households consist of unmarried menand women. (In Europe, by comparison, this figurerises to 21 percent in Finland and 17.5 percent inFrance.) Cohabitation often precedes marriage. Three infour Canadians who have cohabited did so beforemarriage, one out of four after a marriage ended, anda small number both before and after. In this context,marriages preceded by cohabitation break up atgreater rates than those that are not, except when anengagement precedes cohabitation. Increasingly, cohabitation is replacing marriage.(This also explains why the divorce rate is nowstabilizing and even declining: there are fewermarriages to end.) Quebec, for instance, now vieswith Sweden for the highest percentage of peoplecohabiting, and 45 percent of cohabiting Quebecers
do not intend to marry. The Quebec phenomenonmay stem from a fierce commitment to genderequality, with cohabitation seen as a more equitablerelationship than marriage. As well, rejectingmarriage is part of a collective reaction against thepowerful Roman Catholic Church that shapedQuebecs history but that, since the 1960s and theQuiet Revolution, has been bitterly challenged andstripped of much of its influence. Outside Quebec,cohabitation may also reflect a protest againstmarriages religious associations. Many North American critics worry thatcohabitation is a greater threat to marriage thandivorce because it offers so many of the same featuresas marriage, yet at the same time ignores or floutsreligious and moral conventions. The culture ofcohabitation, for example, seems to encourage theclassic double standard that winked at a husbandsbut not a wifes infidelities. In a Canadian study, 41percent of cohabiting men, but only 21 percent ofwomen, declared that cohabitation does not implythe same degree of sexual loyalty or commitment asmarriage.8 Cohabitation accommodates men andwomen reluctant to commit to marriage. In thisrespect it also raises doubts about the fundamentalcapacity of humans to enter into monogamousunions, and raises the question: does modernlongevity preclude the notion of lifelong unions? Cohabitation is also easier and cheaper to embrace-and to leave-than marriage. As society growsmore tolerant of different lifestyle choices and nolonger pressures individuals to marry, the popularityof cohabitation has been accompanied by increasingsocial acceptance. Cohabiters are no longer treated assinners, and some jurisdictions and institutions suchas universities extend spousal benefits to them.Though some American states require cohabitating
taxpayers to pay taxes on a partners benefits and donot permit joint filing, and others forbid unmarriedcouples to claim one another as dependents,Canadian tax law no longer discriminates (andsometimes does not even distinguish) betweenmarried and common-law or cohabiting couples. Thisdesire to avoid discrimination has even created a taxstructure that favours unmarried parents, who caneach claim a child "as if that child were adependent, an important deduction for two-incomeunmarried parents. Another change is that the law no longerbastardizes the children of cohabiting parents. Andthe number of these children is growing. In theUnited States, for example, as marriage declines andcohabitation increases, at some point about 40percent of the nations children will live in acohabiting household. (At any given time, however,only 3.5 percent do SO.)9 But these children do notfare as well as their peers with married parents, likelybecause in North America (but not Europe orQuebec), cohabiting parents are more likely to haveless education and lower incomes than their marriedcounterparts, and are more likely to split Up. l0 Buteven this finding is complicated by the fact thatcohabitation and marriage are so often intertwinedunions; a maj ority of those who marry and remarryfirst cohabit, and about half of these previouslymarried men and women who later cohabit bringchildren to these unions, as do about one-third ofthose who were previously unmarried. SINGLES AND THE SINGLE LIFEFor all cohabitations lure, marriages true rival issingledom. Cohabitation, especially as it is enhanced
by new social standards and law, has such a closeresemblance to marriage that it looks increasinglylike its fraternal twin. The single life, on the otherhand, is quite different, although, like marriage, itcan last forever or be cut short to embrace-literally-new circumstances. There is growing interest in and respect forsingleness, so long disdained and often dreaded as anincomplete existence synonymous with a sepia-tinted,cobwebby world of frustrated or frigid MissHavishams, failed spinsters in a wife-filled world.There is also an intensifying scholarly focus onsingleness-such as the Scholars of Single WomenNetwork-and a steady flow of books that describeand document its history. And these scholars of singleness are exposing adeep secret. Youd never know it from most historybooks but in prior centuries singletons wereubiquitous, and in some eras and places accountedfor as many as one-quarter to one-third of thepopulation. l1 As we have seen in previous chapters,economic conditions and financial constraints keptlarge segments of the adult population single. Intimes of high mortality, widows and widowers wereoften very young, and some were merry because theydid not remarry rather than because they did. In The Economics of Emancipation: Jamaica andBarbados 1823-1 843, for example, Kathleen MaryButler describes the economic role played by singleand widowed white women after the abolition ofslavery. Unlike married women, they had the sameproperty rights as men and they exercised themvigorously. White women owned 5 percent ofJamaicas sugar estates and some were greatlandowners, with over a thousand acres. In postemancipation Barbados, they collected compensationmoney, bought and sold estates, lent money to other