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Book Report A History of Marriage from same sex unions to private vows and common law, the surprising

diversity of a tradition Soci 320 Contemporary American Family- Warren Fritz By Lori Shive March 21, 2012

A History of Marriage The book A History of Marriage was very well written. The author uses great detail and interesting facts to support the claims identified within. Elizabeth Abbott utilizes great sources to describe in detail how marriages were first celebrated into how marriages are today. She explains the view from a society aspect, and uses personal accounts whenever possible. The author used a time line style in the book; each chapter describes certain aspects of marriage and it flows in chronological order throughout. Marriage is described as a union between man and women, but Elizabeth further indicates marriages that include same sex or common law. Hundreds of years ago marriage was viewed differently than today. Elizabeth explores marriages from a world stand point. Throughout the entire book Elizabeth makes clear distinction of the mistreatment women endured. Abbott portrays an interest for woman issues and conveys this theme in the book by presenting the history of marriage, nevertheless, revealing the history of mistreatment toward women. Elizabeth Abbott surprises the reader with explicit detail and creative pictures to help the reader visualize and imagine how marriage really was two hundred years ago. Not only does the author describe marriage in America, she also includes ideals from all over the world. Marriage was quite different many years ago. Some marriages were simply marriages for procreation, pre-arranged, and/or loveless marriages. Throughout time, people developed ideals of what marriage represents and it evolved into fancy weddings all the way into same sex marriages. The diversity of marriage is quite interesting. Starting in the 16th century, Elizabeth describes how many cultures allowed polygamy, and most marriages were prearranged, and many cultures made it a norm to give away the young females for marriage. The author points out the discrimination and mistreatment of women remained constant throughout almost all cultures. Culture determines marriages, and interracial marriage was illegal until the 19th century, thus limiting peoples choices in marriage. Some cultures before the 19th century did have same sex marriages. The opening chapter gives a good understanding of what marriage is and how it is forever changing. Other information the author included: women of high status usually were prearranged for marriage, most married women were not happy, many were beaten and treated like a slave rather than a wife, and how women developed the term hope chest. The hope chest was created for women. The women were to put whatever was required for future marriage in their hope chest. Women are portrayed with the most responsibility within the family, yet they are the most un-recognized. (Abbott,42) Women have come a long way since then, but are still working toward total equality.

Elizabeths book also includes information on weddings, tradition of weddings, such as, the bride to have something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. The old represented family and past, the new represented the brides future, the borrowed represented sharing happiness together of the loved lender, and the blue represented the colour of Virgin Mary, signifying purity and fidelity, blue used to be the color of most wedding gowns. By 1930, mens attire became of importance as well. The author details the history of marriage among slaves as well. Slaves had no rights, many times slaves were prearranged for procreation purposes only, and the slave owners basically could do whatever they wished with the slaves. Many times selling them away from their family or using the slave women for their own sick desires. Certainly this affected marriages before slavery was abolished. Throughout the book, Elizabeth describes how women were portrayed as a wife. Women in the 18th century were denied orgasms and the enjoyment of intimacy. The male population thought the women were crazy or something was wrong with them, or they were labeled as trashy if they showed enjoyment during sex, even with their husband. Doctors tried to help women with the creation of massage therapy. In fact, the first vibrator (battery operated) was invented in 1880 by Dr. Kelsey Stinner. Women had a huge burden of birth throughout the early centuries. Many women died at birth and many lost children due to the pregnancy or other diseases rampant. Women began to fear sex for fear of giving birth. (what a terrible feeling) After 1920, vibrators were associated as pornographic instead of therapeutic. In 1916, Margaret Sanger opened first birth control clinic, Elizabeth quotes Sanger promoted birth control not as a means to facilitate indiscriminate sex but as a way to empower working women otherwise crushed by too much child-bearing. (Abbott,123) The book reflects the expected roles of women and living conditions of families. Much was expected of a mother, she was to do all the housework, take care of children, along with trying to contribute whatever income she could make too. Housing in the beginning of the United States was not always ideal. Privacy was an issue, along with disease and cramping of families. Buildings overpopulated and people were put together like sardines in some housing establishments, this created issues for married couples. The author also talks about divorce as it relates to marriage. Women did not have the right to divorce for the most part. On the other hand, men had the right to commit their woman without much valid proof, and women were not allowed to press charges for rape against their husbands until the 1960s. Women were basically considered property to the husband (Abbott,215). During the early 19th century woman were being affected by war, men were in shortage. Many women were single, although some were considered lesbians, the Egalitarianism was a way woman

began to be educated and go out into society. The book explores woman in detail. Describing how women began working and earning their own way, along with the labeling of women involved in the womens right movement. In 1920, women rights were ratified by the 19th amendment. According to the author marriages are evolving. Elizabeth reveals marriages that are not of the norm. She examines the same sex union. In 2008, the California Supreme Court allowed same sex marriages. Eighteen thousand same sex couples took advantage of their long-waited opportunity; marriage of this nature were quick decisions and unfortunately many of these couples divorced (Abbott, 267). Upon reaching chapter 10, I had a good understanding of the history of marriage, but the author describes further the aspects pertaining to marriage. Fatherhood is zoomed in here. All throughout time most fathers simply worked to provide for their families and fatherhood was taken on by the mother. This chapter introduces the birth control called the pill which was popularized in 1960. (Abbott,296) The pill was used to help women control getting pregnant. Women needed to have more time for work, instead of always bare foot and pregnant. Of course, birth control made a huge difference in families and impacted marriages. Another contributing factor in marriages is incarceration. Elizabeth quotes, In 2008, more than 1 percent of the adult population was behind bars. (Abbott,322-323) This would directly impact marriage and family. Many children have parents who are in jail, most often, leaving the women to care for the family. The Divorce Act 1995 is when women had more rights to obtain divorces from their incarcerated husbands, or abusive ones. Perhaps the life expectancy is relative to marriage as well. People living longer would certainly affect marriage. Elizabeth shares statistics relating to life expectancy and how it has doubled in the last 100 years.

Overall, the book was extremely interesting and I learned a lot about marriages and how they have changed. Most interesting to me is the way women have been treated until the 1990s. I work at Safeplace and it amazes me how difficult it is and has been for abused women. Women have so many challenges and this author recognizes and validates the difficulties women have to overcome. I believe it to be a great book, especially to help young women of today and men, to understand how women really do have the biggest challenges among a family. God created us to be mothers, and the responsibilities of motherhood are of utmost importance more than any other responsibility a human can hold. Plus, it is a wonderful description of the evolution of marriages, showing the changes and aiming to educate the reader about the new wave of marriages coming into society.

Reference
Abbott, Elizabeth. A History of Marriage: From Same Sex Unions to Private Vows and Common Law, the Surprising Diversity ofTradition. New York: Seven Stories, 2011. Print.