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Marriage

October 11, 2009

was not a smart move for the independent eighteenth century woman. Here’s what the 18th century novelist Fanny Burney has to say about weddings: “How short a time does it take to put an eternal end to a Woman’s liberty!” Wives were not allowed to own their own property. They had no rights to their own earning, nor to their children. Husbands were allowed to torture, imprison, and abuse their wives. One of my favorite female characters in an eighteenth century novel says, “the marriage contract was, in short, nothing but giving up of liberty, estate, authority, and everything to the man, and the woman was indeed a mere woman ever after — that is to say, a slave.” No wonder Mary Wollstonecraft hated marriage. She grew up watching her father beat her mother. I am filled with righteous anger, just like Mary. What I hate the most is that marriage was (and still is) glorified as a moral act. And so Mary was (and is) viewed as immoral for warning women against marriage and endorsing “free love.”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2009 9:53 pm

    Golly, and we didn’t get these property ownership laws and basic civil rights for women worked out until . . . sometime in the 1960s through the 1980s, right? And that’s only in the USA. *sigh*

    Just curious, but do you think that centuries of male-centric monotheistic faith was responsible for the great inequalities? Of course, it is incumbent upon women to band together in order to demand and lobby for their rights but many women even today prefer to allow their husbands to function as the head of the household even if they don’t hide behind the veils of their religion as justification.

    Of course, this whole male-head-of-the-household thing would have worked if all men had been capable of acting respectfully toward women. It would have been an inter-dependent relationship in which the partners contributed their unique skills. *sigh*

    We have a long way to go yet, don’t we.

  2. October 18, 2009 4:34 pm

    Judith, it has taken me a long time to reply because you ask a question I have thought about a lot. What do you think? I worry about this issue, cliched though it may sound. You know, the old truisms: Why patriarchy? Why God the Father? Why Shakespeare and not Shakespeare’s sister? I would much rather hear you discuss this than me, though.

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