Monday, December 3, 2007

For Presentations on Wednesday

Here's what I'd like for you to do:

1) Tell us your thesis (as it currently stands)
2) Explain what sources you are using
3) Relate your paper's questions to the themes of the class

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Why Marriage?

I figured in the blog we would get to the heart of the issue and the title of Chauncey's book: Why marriage? What is it about the title marriage that has both sides so fervent and unyielding?

Evan Wolfson explains that -“One of the main protections that comes with marriage, is the word marriage, which brings clarity and security that is simply not replaceable by any other word or sheaf of documents”

Knowing what we know about marriage and its history from this class, why do you think there is such a wish to "defend" marriage in its "traditional" state by conservatives and the Christian Right and such a desire to be included into the institution of marriage not just by benefits but by name as well (civil unions not enough for activists) on the part of the gay community? Do you think the name marriage is necessary for the gay community to have full equality? How vital is the title of marriage to self-identification, societal understanding, and distribution of benefits?

Monday, November 26, 2007

NY Times Article

My friend Julia knows that Gillian and I are in a class on marriage, so when she found this article she IMed the link to me:

I thought it was interesting since its written by Coontz.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Law and Order: SVU

I'm not sure how many of you watch Law & Order: SVU, but I was watching a rerun on USA while finishing reading the Chauncey book. Anyway, it fell in line pretty well with the book (minus being really sensationalized at parts). To begin with, a girl is being teased by a boy at her school for having mothers that are lesbians (Kate as a biological mother Zoe as her other mother - I only use these to help differentiate later on). The 8 year old girl, Emma, stabs a boy in the back with scissors to stop the teasing. Kate is sick and in the hospital so Zoe acts as her guardian during the police interrogation. The next morning Zoe and a lawyer come in to suppress the confession because she never signed adoption papers and is therefore not her parent or legal guardian.

They arrest Emma, and Zoe is denied custody before the trial because she relinquished custodial rights prior to suppress Emma's testimony. Eventually Emma is acquitted and Zoe gets permanent custody of her. In the meantime, Emma has been staying with Kate's parents who blame Zoe for making her daughter a lesbian. Kate has died by this point, and under persuasion by her grandparents, Emma tells the police that Zoe has been sexually molesting her. The police realize that Emma is being coerced and arrest the grandparents for some complex thing that eventually boils down into a hate crime. Eventually there is a mistrial because it turns out that the lawyer for the grandparents were feeding them information that children raised by homosexual parents are more likely to be molested prior to the custody hearings.

Again, I realize that this is television and probably a lot more complicated than needs be, but I thought it was interesting and wanted to open it up to discussion about the way that parental rights for gay and lesbian couples are portrayed in the media. In this storyline, Zoe uses her lack of rights to her benefit her daughter, but in doing so loses her future ability to gain custody of Emma.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fathers, Wisconsin, and Welfare

From the New York Times Magazine, 2004:

A shorter version - the book review of the book-form of the article:

There might also be an interesting paper topic here!

Race Mixing and Latinos

From Vicki Ruiz, "From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America," (Oxford U. Press, 1998):

In writing about Chicano student and labor activism in the late 1960s, Ruiz points out a theme also present in Romano's book.

"Surprisingly personal decisions, such as dating, marriage, and sexuality, became movement concerns whether one identified with cultural nationalism or Marxism or some sort of combination or an in-between political space. The whole issue of interracial dating and marriage became hotly debated. In 1971, Velia Garcia Hancock argued against this mixing on political grounds. It was not a question of 'mingling of the bloods' given the nature of Mexican mestizaje, but rather that 'intermarriage results in a weakening of ties and declining sense of responsibility and committment to La Raza.' These types of wholesale generalizations did little to promote communication. Love cannot be legislated. Furthermore, did marriage within La Raza always guarantee commitment to community empowerment? Many chroniclers and fighters for social justice, including slain journalist Ruben Salazar and poet/scholar/activist Adaljiza Sosa Riddell, intermarried. Marta Cotera addressed this issue in her 1977 collection of esssays, The Chicana Feminist. 'You have to be mature enough to respect people's choices. Any individual who doesn't have freedom of choice cannot be liberated.'"

Ruiz doesn't elaborate on whether men or women had different views, as does Romano, but this could be an interesting research topic, if you're in the market for a paper idea!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Modern Marriage

Maureen Dowd column mentioned in class today:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gordon article

If you happen to look at this before you start reading . . . the Gordon article is a bit denser than I remembered. You don't need to pay too much attention to all of the reformers, their social positions, etc. that fill up the first pages - instead focus on the part of the article towards the end when she gets to the family ideals supporting welfare policy in the early days.

What assumptions are going into welfare policy? How are welfare laws shaping marriage, or vice versa?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Welfare (and more!) Reading for next week

Next week's reading is a bit of a hodge-podge, but I think we'll be able to draw some intersecting lines, or at least we'll look towards Beth and Bailey to do it for us.

The Coontz chapters move us forward from the 1950s to the 1990s with an examination of the feminist movement, the resulting "culture wars" of the 1980s and 1990s, and the gay marriage issue.

The Gordon article ("Social Insurance and Public Assistance") takes us back to the origins of the welfare state; the Mink article ("The Lady and the Tramp (II)") fast-forwards to the so-called end of welfare in the mid-1990s.

The Kunzel article fits in between the Gordon and the Mink. It takes a more intricate look at the psychological analyses of marriage, race, and motherhood - connecting us with Romano's Race Mixing as well as with this week's welfare discussion.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Personal is Political?

One of the interesting themes I noticed in Romano's "Race Mixing" is her analysis of interracial marriage as a political act. It seems that in the earlier period of her book (1940s and 1950s), whites considered interracial marriage political, but by the late 1960s, it was the Black Power supporters who saw such marriages as inherently political.

How do you think Romano's subject matter (and time period?) gives her a different understanding of the political framework of marriage from the more metaphorical politicization of marriage that we've talked about in relation to Republican wives, monogamy, consent laws, etc.?

Related: Where do you think American ideas about the right to privacy come from?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Nostalgia for 1970s girlhood?

Judith Warner's column and blog in the New York Times has an interesting article on why we need to return to the "girlhood" of the 1970s, as well as various entries on modern marriage.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

How did the 1950s family become "traditional?"

Building off of yesterday's class: how did the media, sociologists, and others construct the ideal family model of the 1950s and how did this model become what we think of as the "traditional" family, even as it bore little resemblance to families of the 1800s, 1700s, etc.?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ways of Writing History

So far, we've talked about American History through marriage. This week, we read about the rise of Modern America, through the lens of Modern Marriage. Do changes to marriage always parallel the mainstream narrative of history?

As a thought experiment, think about how you would construct a narrative of the United States without marriage, and then how that story is altered when you interject marriage into it. Does what we are doing illuminate the past, give new insights, or is it separable from real "History?" Just curious to hear your thoughts . . .

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"Adam's Rib"

The movie showed us two different marriages under stress:

1) a working-class couple dealing with infidelity and a reversal of the typical "jealous husband murders wife's lover" story discussed in Hartog's eighth chapter.

2) a upper-class couple facing the challenges of the 1930s "new woman" (following suffrage in 1920) and sexual equality in the workplace as well as the home.

What scenes from the movie developed the personalities and conflicts of these two married couples?

How is the film addressing and working out larger social problems of this period of transition?

Also, related to a gendered analysis, if not to marriage: the Bonner's neighbor, Kip, is a classic example of how gay men were common to romantic comedies of the era, even though their sexuality is obviously hidden. Yet Kip (with his avant-garde and primitive art collections and work as a show business pianist/composer) clearly signals to the audience that he is not a real threat to the marriage of Adam and Amanda. Such "codes" also allowed gay and lesbian audience members to recognize these characters as gay, even if straight viewers did not always see them as such.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Paper #1 Redux

A place to discuss paper topics, ideas, troubles.
Also, I strongly encourage you to meet with a classmate and have her read through your rough draft before you turn in your paper.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Something interesting

This was something that my english professor sent out to the class as something to think about in regards to the development of women's rights, and it reminded me of our discussion yesterday about what society expected of a woman and what society expected of a man. It's an article from a woman's magazine from the 1950's, and it seems to be almost exactly the same as what we discussed. You can see it here:

I was surprised that the social expectations of gender roles didn't seem to change much at all over a period of 100 years. I thought that since so much happened between 1850 and 1950 (two world wars, the Great Depression, the Spanish-American war), that perhaps some of these big events would have influenced some other aspects of society. What do you think?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Normative Marriage

In the reading this week we look at the controversy surrounding polygamy in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Gordon spends an entire book outlining the struggle for power between the Mormon settlers in Utah and antipolygamists in the East, particularly in Congress. One of the arguments that she spends a considerable amount of time developing was the potential for state sanctioned polygamy to undermine the structure of the national government. The basis, in antipolygamists terms, was that women could not consent to being in a marriage with other wives, therefore polygamy underminded the marriage contract. Polygamists argued that consent of each additional wife was necessary, and that polygamy should be protected from persecution under the First Amendment. However, through various acts of Congress (notably the series of Edmunds Acts) and legal proceedings, the national government declared that they would not protect polygamy as a religious act.
Cott takes a similar approach, but a broader look at nonnormative marriage, including polygamy. She writes about the arguments that nonnormative marriages (that is monogamous marriages) underminded the moral content of the nation. Aside from polygamy, Cott includes a section on legislation against the publication of "obscene" material like birth control.
Together, Cott and Gordon paint a picture of the process of taking the public government into the private domestic realm of marriage. How does this reflect the changing atmosphere of the post Civil War period? Specifically, what do the arguments made by pro-womens' rights and antipolygamists advocates contain similar ideas and is this surprising. Would you expect that both sides are arguing that women cannot consent to polygamous marriages?
Furthermore, Mormons are framed as being "licentitious," does this make sense in terms of what we discussed last week? Antipolygamists viewed polygamy as an example of prostitution, but would this be true since Mormon tenets make polygamy a sacred union?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Mormonism Q&A

This was in the Chronicle this morning, and I thought I'd pass it on in case people had questions about the basic tenets of Mormonism. This article is a question and answer session between one of the church leaders and a Chronicle reporter, and covers most of the basics.

Claire and I will be researching a bit more into the actual history of the religion, so if you come up with any more questions, post them and we'll try and find the answers!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Writing Mormon History

If you're interested in the minefield that is Mormon history, check out these recent articles from the Journal of American History:

and the reviewed author responds:


As you have hopefully figured out, class, I have enabled you to post on the blog. I'm not sure how this works, exactly, but I have full confidence in your computer abilities to figure it out. I thought it would be a good idea to create some guidelines:

1. When posting a long entry, make sure you break it up into manageable chunks. Also, edit yourself so that your writings are to the point rather than stream-of-consciousness. There's a place for James Joyce, however that place is not on our blog.

2. Ask each other questions and respond to each others' comments!

3. You don't have to be finished with the reading in order to post/comment. Since the reading from here on out is primarily books, you are welcome to post a question or thought even if you haven't finished the reading.

4. The discussion leaders for the week will be in charge of posting whatever they want before class. This might include discussion questions, links to an article, whatever.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Marriage and Slavery

Cait and Brenda hit on the conundrum in the overlap of woman's rights and abolitionism.

If you have white women in the North beginning to see marriage as an unequal relationship just as slavery is an unequal relationship, why do abolitionists persist (before and after the Civil War) on having freed people marry?

One historian (Kristen Hoganson) wrote an article about this, showing that while white women wanted equal marriages for themselves, they had different expectations for black men and women after slavery.

When the woman's rights movement and antislavery movement collided on issues of marriage, how did this play out?

Both Stanley and Cott note how activists of both groups (sometimes the same people) addressed marriage in regards to different issues (control over one's sexuality, the right to contract, the ability to consent, self-ownership, how to "civilize" freed people, etc.). What were the arguments of woman's rights activists? What were the arguments of antislavery supporters? Did they contradict each other?

What was the white southern view of marriage, slavery, and contract? What happened to this perspective after the Civil War?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A note on Angelina Grimke's "Letters"

To give you some context about the primary sources in this week's reading:

Angelina Grimke was born into a slaveholding family in South Carolina. In her teenage years, she moved to Philadelphia to live with her much older sister, Sarah Grimke, who had become a Quaker. Angelina also joined the Quakers, but she left faith when she married a non-Quaker (the abolitionist Theodore Weld) in 1838.

In the early 1830s, as more northern whites became "radical" abolitionists who favored immediate emancipation. In 1834, in Ohio, a group of radical abolitionist seminary students withdrew from Lane Seminary in Cincinnati. The leader of the group was none other than Theodore Weld, Angelina's future husband. The president of Lane Seminary, Lyman Beecher (father of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Catharine Beecher), was humiliated; his daughter Catharine was infuriated.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Angelina Grimke had achieved some fame for publishing two books: one addressing southern women and the other addressing northern women on the need for ladies to adopt the abolitionist platform. In the mid-1830s, she and her sister two women went on a lecture tour in New York City, and in various towns in New England, and they became notorious. They were the subjects of a "pastoral letter" written by Congregationalist church leaders advising local ministers of the dangers of having women speak in front of mixed-sex audiences.

Since radical abolitionists were frequently accused of having no "family values" (can you guess why?), the presence of these two women on the lecture circuit frustrated some abolitionists who felt that the Grimkes distracted from the primary cause of the movement - ending slavery.

Catharine Beecher had had enough. Frustrated with the Lane Rebels abandonment of her father's school, and seeing the Grimkes' behavior as highly unladylike, she penned a book of letters directed to Angelina Grimke. She had met Angelina once, briefly, in the 1820s. In Beecher's book, she made two points. First she complained about the brutality and unmanliness of "immediate abolitionists" who she felt demonstrated values antithetical to Christianity. Secondly, Beecher pointed out that white women had no place talking about political questions like slavery. Beecher supported gradual emancipation and plans to send freed blacks to Africa.

The response, written by Angelina with her sister Sarah's help and the editorial advice of her now-fiance, Theodore Weld, is your reading this week. You are reading two of the last three letters in which Grimke directly addressed "the woman question," as the woman's rights issue was called in the 19C. The rest of Grimke's book addresses slavery specifically - you can skim through the chapter titles if you want.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Next week's reading

For Wed. Sept. 26:
Cott reading is from Public Vows
Stanley reading is on E-Reserve at Fondren
Angelina Grimke letters: follow the link on the blog, and scroll down to the bottom of the book. The two letters that we're reading for next week are "The Sphere of Woman and Man as Moral Beings the Same," and "Human Rights Not Founded on Sex."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Paper #1

Here's a thread for you to ask me and your classmates about potential paper topics.

In the paper, I'd like you to take an issue that we've discussed or that interests you concerning marriage, and using the assigned readings as well as additional books and articles, trace how different historians have approached the topic.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Revolution for Marriage?

For this week, we're reading three pieces:
1) "Review: On Citizenship" - This book review gives the broad context for citizenship and marriage
2) Jan Lewis, "The Republican Wife: Viritue and Seduction in the Early Republic"
3) Linda Kerber, "'No Political Relation to the State:' Conflicting Obligations in the Revolutionary Era."

All of them look at the place of marriage and women in particular when it comes to politics and citizenship. Lewis and Kerber both examine the late 1700s and early 1800s. They are interested in marriage and its political meaning, but they give a different reading than Nancy Cott's first chapter (go back and remind yourself if you've forgotten.)

There are also a lot of legal and political terms in these readings. What are liberalism, republicanism, ascriptive Americanism, consent, and contract? What do these things have to do with marriage? What do these ideas have to do with the American Revolution and the early Republic?

*Also: start to think about what topic you might want to consider for your first paper. The paper will be a historiography paper, asking you to consider how different historians have interpreted a particular topic. If you want to test out an idea on the blog, please do so! I'll make a post for ideas and comments.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


This is probably the most discussed person and court case of early Virginia, especially for women's historians. The story has been in multiple books, multiple articles, and is a standard part of talking about gender in colonial America.

What do you think about Kathy Brown's interpretation?

Do you think that it's a good thing, historically speaking, to use such a unique case to draw broader conclusions about English society?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Too Many Men?

In reference to our discussion last week, I saw this in Sunday's Times:

Friday, September 7, 2007

Marriage in Colonial Contexts

For our class on Sept. 12, we're reading selections from two books from Early America:

Ramon Gutierrez's When Jesus Came the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500-1846

Kathleen Brown's Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia

These historians will give us perspective on Spanish-Catholic ideals of marriage and English-Anglican ideas of marriage in the Early Modern period (1500s-1600s).

Then, they look at how these conceptions of marriage shift and transform when they are carried into a colonial context - in the case of Gutierrez it's New Spain, or modern-day New Mexico, for Brown, it's colonial Virginia.

If we talked about marriage in broad terms last week, let's look at these readings as case studies of two distinctive understandings of marriage. Think about how Nancy Cott and Hendrik Hartog's ideas play out in real life.

**What are the legal cultures at work here?
**How does religion shape in each context?
**What are the gender roles assigned to "husband" and "wife" in these cases?
**Why do both authors use "power" in their subtitles? (an unfair question since you haven't read all of the books, but make an educated guess.)
**How does race affect gender and marriage?
**Can you see the kernels of the monogamy/political liberty/consent VS. polygamy/despotism/coercion that Cott identifies developing in the 1700s?

Remember to be a good historian and to collect evidence (examples) to support your argument.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Iowa Marriage Laws

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Room change!

We will be meeting in Fondren 412 next Wednesday.

For 9/5: What We're Reading.

For the first week's assigned reading, we're looking at two different perspectives on marriage to ground ourselves in the different ways historians approach the topic.

Women's historian Nancy Cott's book Public Vows examines the social and religious bases of marriage, but she also wants to see how political discourse and marriage collide in American history. Her book is also a synthesis history, bringing together a lot of historical work rather than rooting through primary sources. The first two chapters look at marriage in the colonial and revolutionary eras, and on the many different marital regimes during the early republic.

Hendrik Hertog, on the other hand, comes to marriage as a legal historian, and he is interested in how legal cultures, the informal rules of communities, and individuals negotiated the terms of marriage. His book relies much more on a close reading of particular court cases, usually addressing separations and divorces. His first chapter introduces his approach to legal history and marriage, and locates his own take on marriage in the historiography. His second chapter does a close reading of a divorce case in New England in the late 1700s.