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Marriage - Essay Example

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In the late 19th and early 20th century marriage was not something that women really looked forward to. In fact, initially marriage had been a largely patriarchal institution although feminist group did try to bring about reforms for the women to be able to have certain rights after their marriage…
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Download file to see previous pages For instance, after marriage all the property and inheritance of the woman went to her husband and she used to be completely dependent and vulnerable to him. There were reforms that took place in the 1960s, for instance the women started being able to work and participate in the household income. Single mothers were not frowned upon and neither were spinsters. Child support was assured and property was divided equally.
It was in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when major social and legal changes occurred, and therefore we will talk about this period in relation to marriage and matrimony laws and rights.
Before the 20th century marriage had deep roots in religion, law as well as interdependence between men and women. Although marriage was not a platform where both men and women stood equally, they were dependent on each other. They could not live without each other without having to face problems. For instance, women needed men to get them the basic necessities to survive, while men needed women to bear and rear their children, take care of the household and family. Often a widower could be found looking for a new wife right after his former one died. This interdependence definitely did not mean equality of men and women. In fact, it was the other way round and marriage was based on patriarchal laws where, at the time of their marriage ceremony, women had to vow to always obey their husbands. The property laws stated that a wife’s “legal identity was obliterated at marriage and she was entirely under the power and control of her husband” (Chambers 3). There was no way that a married woman could have any kind of property or even have control of the salary she might be getting if allowed to work. Therefore, marriage meant “civil death” for women (Chambers 3), and they were absolutely dependent on their husbands for everything. The cruel part was that the husbands could spend their wives’ inheritance and money on anything at all, which included keeping mistresses and hiring prostitutes. It was in the late 19th century that in some parts of the world, for instance in Canada, laws were passed that allowed women to own their property as well as the personal savings or earnings they got from any work they did. However, considering that most women, especially of middle and lower class, did not have much of property these laws did not really make much difference, and the judges were reluctant to apply them anyway. In fact, it was not just the women’s property and inheritance that the husbands got control over. The men also controlled their wives’ bodies after marriage. They could force them into sex or childbirth against their wishes, and the women had to oblige them. This also meant that in case there was some kind of an offence against a woman it was only her husband that could prosecute, if he wished to. Women were always at the mercy of their husbands. Apart from their money and bodies, women also did not have any right over their children. Their husbands could take their children anywhere at all and the women could not say or do anything about it. Their ownership lay with their fathers who could keep and raise them wherever they wanted, without giving any reason. In fact, they could practically do anything with them; sell them, trade them, make them work and take the money. Such was the case during the late 19th century. The early 20th century saw feminist groups rising up against this practice too like they were protesting against the property, suffrage and other rights. Birth rate started to decline due to maternal instincts. Due to this and the feminist groups’ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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Terrific work done on the "Marriage". I think it is the best document I have seen so far.
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