By Merril D. Smith
"In Breaking The Bonds, Merril Smith establishes the bold objective of picking out 'what form of difficulties arose in marriages' and of studying 'how women and men coped with marital discord.' . . . to complete this, Smith studied enormous quantities of divorce petitions, different criminal records, newspapers, almshouse dockets, and prescriptive literature. She concludes that, as today, married fought and parted over intercourse, funds, and abuse."
"A richly textured research. . . With a watch to cross-class and cross-race illustration, Smith makes use of diversified assets, together with memoirs and diaries, correspondence, probate files, newspaper ads, depositions and petitions for divorce, and numerous ethical reform and social regulatory association files. . . . A courageous try to write an outline of 'the improvement of the Puritan notion of spirtiual growth.' . . . Gracefully written. . . offers particular new insights right into a too-neglected sector of early republican family politics."
—William and Mary Quarterly
The past due eighteenth century marked a interval of adjusting expectancies approximately marriage: companionship got here to coexist as a norm along older patriarchal criteria, women and men started to see their roles in additional disparate methods, expectancies in regards to the delight of marriage grew, and gender differences among husbands and better halves turned extra advanced. Marital strife was once an inevitable end result of those altering expectancies. The problems that rose, together with abuse, an absence of sexual conversation, and family violence (frequently as a result of alcholism) vary little from people with which fight today.
Breaking The Bonds is an ingenious and unique account that brings to gentle a strongly communicative global within which acquaintances knew of, dinscussed, or even got here to assistance from these locked in unsatisfied marriages.
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Additional resources for Breaking the Bonds: Marital Discord in Pennsylvania, 1730-1830
Althoug h th e mothe r the n marrie d th e ma n wit h whom sh e ha d bee n unfaithful , i t doe s no t see m t o hav e influence d the court—a t thi s point . Thre e year s later , however , th e fathe r wa s given custod y o f th e children . I t wa s fel t that , b y thi s time , th e olde r could b e harme d b y exposur e t o ba d morals . Rathe r tha n separat e th e two children , custod y o f bot h wa s give n t o th e father. 37 Pennsylvania wa s th e first stat e t o includ e a provisio n fo r grantin g divorces fro m be d an d boar d o n ground s o f cruelty .
H e state d tha t hi s wife , Catherin e O'Brien , ha d i8 DISSOLVING MATRIMONIA L BOND S an "extravagen t Fondnes s fo r stron g Liquors, " led a dissolute life , an d had ru n hi m int o debt—making lif e wit h he r intolerabl e to him. Afte r he mad e som e sor t o f writte n agreemen t wit h he r i n whic h sh e prom ised no t t o mak e an y furthe r claim s o n hi m an d h e gav e he r a su m o f money, h e wen t t o sea . O n hi s return , abou t fourtee n month s later , he foun d sh e ha d give n birt h t o a bastar d child .
I hav e writte n t o [Chie f Justice] Mr . McKea n an d give n a general characte r o f Dickson. " Despit e hi s introductio n t o th e judges , however, Patric k Dickson' s nam e doe s not appea r i n the Suprem e Cour t divorce records. 36 Only tw o peopl e submitte d libel s i n th e remainin g thre e month s o f 1785. Th e nex t year , nin e person s filed fo r divorce . Afte r tha t th e rate remained fairl y stead y unti l 1795 , when th e numbe r o f libels sub mitted jumpe d t o nineteen.