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Titel: A history of the wife.
Zustand des Schutzumschlags: Dust Jacket Included
New York, NY : HarperCollins, 2001. Cloth. With dustjacket. Hardbound. 8vo. 441 pp. (A very good copy). (booknr: 25722). Buchnummer des Verkäufers 25722
A woman coming of age today has good reason to wonder what marriage will mean to her. Certainly, it will no longer imply that her husband will provide for her, as an ability to earn a living is commonly expected of both men and women. Also, marriage will no longer offer a woman a unique gateway into sexual and domestic pleasures, since premarital cohabitation has long ago ceased to be a taboo. Marriage will not be a woman's indispensable passage to motherhood -- up to 40 percent of American first babies are being born out of wedlock. And, since one in two marriages will end in divorce, it will no longer guarantee a woman permanent protection in a world that has traditionally been unkind to unmarried women.
In this atmosphere of high ambiguity, it is instructive to look to the past, to see what it meant to be a wife from the earliest days of civilization to the present, and to explore how the contemporary wife came into being.
From the perspective of modern marriage, the distinguished cultural historian Marilyn Yalom charts the evolution of marriage in the judeo christian world through the centuries and shows how radical that collective change has been. For example, how did marriage, considered a religious duty in medieval Europe, become a venue for personal fulfillment in contemporary America? How did the notion of romantic love, a novelty in the Middle Ages, become a prerequisite for marriage today? And, if the original purpose of marriage was procreation, what exactly is the purpose of marriage for women now?
A History of the Wife is a study of laws, religious practices, social customs, economic patterns, and political consciousness that have affected generations of wives: in ancient Greece, where daughters were given by fathers to husbands to create legitimate offspring; in medieval Europe, where marriage was infused with religious meaning; during the Reformation and the Age of Enlightenment, when ideals of companionate marriage came to the fore; and in twentieth century America, where a new model of spousal relationships emerged.
This rich, lucid chronicle of the turning points in a History of the Wife includes unforgettable stories about married women who have rebelled against the conventions of their times, from Marjorie Kempe to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, from Heloise to Margaret Sanger. Drawing extensively from diaries, memoirs, and letters, A History of the Wife also pays tribute to the ordinary wives who over the centuries changed with and against the currents they encountered, quietly affecting the legal, personal, and social meaning of marriage.
For any woman who is, has been, or ever will be married, this intellectually vigorous and gripping historical analysis of marriage sheds new light on an institution most people take for granted, and that may, in fact, be experiencing its most convulsive upheaval since the Reformation.
Rezension: The cultural historian who gave us A History of the Breast takes stock of the wife from her conception by the Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans to her 20th-century manifestation as the New Woman. Beginning with the charter myth for the Judeo-Christian wife (Adam and Eve), Marilyn Yalom explains the religious, legal, and social practices of ancient civilizations that provided the template for the idea of wife as property of and subservient to her husband, with a role limited to mother and housekeeper. What she discovers is that the recent transformation of wifehood from sexless stay-at-home dependent to sexy supermom is actually the distillation of changes that have been going on for a long time, say a couple of thousand years. In fact, what makes Yalom's passage through time so fascinating is the steady rise and fall and rise again of the status of the wife and her struggle for greater autonomy. There are plenty of surprises: the first reciprocal marriages were actually had in Roman times; divorce became popular around the same time that monogamy was instituted; and while it's true that Puritans punished adultery harshly, it was they who brought the concepts of mutual love and lovemaking (other than for procreation) to America. The growing tension between women's impulses towards emancipation and the reaction against it was a quickly repeating theme in the 20th century, best exemplified by a WWII ad of a working woman pledging to "guard every bit of Beauty that he cherishes in me."
The wives in this revelatory genealogy resonate with the aid of illuminating stories and the lively voices found in letters and diaries. Through these, Yalom lithely demonstrates that the fantasy of the selfless devoted wife has always had an ineluctable twin, the archetypal powerful woman--and vice versa. While college women in the 1970s may have declared that "the idea that a woman's place is in the home is nonsense," Yalom points out that society still acts like every breadwinner has a stay-at-home wife, and the anxieties that are raised in advice columns today are not that different from those a hundred years ago. Greater independence and equality have not, as feared, led to the abandonment of the marital institution, nor many of the issues that haunt it. --Lesley Reed
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