Defying Marriage Law in the Twentieth-Century United States
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- Author: William Kuby, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga
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Conjugal Misconduct reveals the hidden history of controversial and legally contested marital arrangements in twentieth-century America. William Kuby examines the experiences of couples in unconventional unions and the legal and cultural backlash generated by a wide array of 'alternative' marriages. These include marriages established through personal advertisements and matchmaking bureaus, marriages that defied state eugenic regulations, hasty marriages between divorced persons, provisional and temporary unions referred to as 'trial marriages', racial intermarriages, and a host of other unions that challenged sexual and marital norms. In illuminating the tensions between those who set marriage policies and those who defied them, Kuby offers a fresh account of marriage's contested history, arguing that although marital nonconformists composed only a small minority of the population, their atypical arrangements nonetheless shifted popular understandings of marriage and consistently refashioned the legal parameters of the institution.Read more
- Links a wide array of unconventional marriage practices, offering many colorful examples of marital nonconformity
- Shows the diverse cast of characters involved in the creation and recreation of marriage law
- Challenges readers' assumptions about what makes a proper family, and of what role the law should play in this designation
Reviews & endorsements
'The belief that marriage as an institution is in crisis is nothing new, historian William Kuby shows us in this engaging study of early twentieth-century marital nonconformists who pushed boundaries by engaging in trial marriages, serial polygamy, or interracial marriage, among other challenges to the norm. But while 'queer' couples generated a conservative backlash, Conjugal Misconduct demonstrates that even perceived challenges to the institution of marriage could serve to reinforce its power and influence in American social life.' Renee Romano, Oberlin College, OhioSee more reviews
'Conjugal Misconduct provides the definitive study of the 'amorphousness' of the institution of marriage between the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Nonconforming heterosexual couples pursued every angle to evade restrictive state laws, often crossing state lines to find a more lenient marital regime. Their acts of defiance reshaped marital legitimacy, while revealing that the law itself could not constrain conjugal choices. For anyone who still clings to notions of marriage’s static, coherent past, this deftly written and deeply researched book proves that improvisation and even chaos shaped the legal history of heterosexual marriage.' Rebecca L. Davis, University of Delaware
'An informative and provocative account of how various groups and individuals have pushed to widen the definition and extend the benefits of marriage, often with unintended results.' Stephanie Coontz, Evergreen State College, and author of Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage
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- Date Published: January 2018
- format: Adobe eBook Reader
- isbn: 9781108645652
- contains: 10 b/w illus.
- availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
Table of Contents
1. Matrimonial advertisements, matchmaking bureaus, and the threat of commercialized courtship
2. Hasty remarriage, out-of-state elopement, and the battle against 'progressive polygamy'
3. Eugenic marriage laws and the continuing crisis of out-of-state elopement
4. Trial marriage and the laws of the home
5. Black-white intermarriage, the backlash against miscegenation, and the push for racial amalgamation
6. Averting the crisis: the birth of the marriage education movement
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