Breaking the Bonds: Marital Discord in Pennsylvania, by Merril D. Smith

By Merril D. Smith

"In Breaking The Bonds, Merril Smith establishes the bold aim of deciding upon 'what form of difficulties arose in bothered marriages' and of examining 'how women and men coped with marital discord.' . . . to complete this, Smith studied thousands of divorce petitions, different felony files, newspapers, almshouse dockets, and prescriptive literature. She concludes that, as right this moment, married fought and parted over intercourse, funds, and abuse."
Pennsylvania History

"A richly textured learn. . . With a watch to cross-class and cross-race illustration, Smith makes use of various resources, together with memoirs and diaries, correspondence, probate documents, newspaper ads, depositions and petitions for divorce, and numerous ethical reform and social regulatory association documents. . . . A courageous try to write an outline of 'the improvement of the Puritan proposal of spirtiual growth.' . . . Gracefully written. . . presents particular new insights right into a too-neglected zone 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 concerning the delight of marriage grew, and gender differences among husbands and better halves turned extra advanced. Marital strife used to be an inevitable final result of those altering expectancies. The problems that rose, together with abuse, a scarcity of sexual communique, and household violence (frequently because of alcholism) fluctuate little from people with which fight today.

Breaking The Bonds is an imaginitive and unique account that brings to mild a strongly communicative global within which pals knew of, dinscussed, or even got here to the help of these locked in unsatisfied marriages.

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Extra info for Breaking the Bonds: Marital Discord in Pennsylvania, 1730-1830

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Couple s wer e suppose d t o discuss thei r difference s an d wor k them out . Los s of love , therefore , wa s no t enoug h t o obtain a divorce, presumably, th e partner s coul d alway s tr y harder . However , i f on e spouse injure d th e othe r b y neglectin g hi s o r he r dutie s o r sufficientl y violated th e marriag e vow s s o tha t the y coul d no t liv e together , the n lawmakers believe d th e innocen t partne r shoul d b e granted a divorce. Despite th e gende r difference s i n th e law , th e inten t o f th e legisla tors seem s clear—the y wer e grantin g me n an d wome n freedo m fro m marriages tha t cause d the m mora l o r physica l har m o r i n whic h the y were unabl e t o cohabi t a s a married coupl e du e t o desertio n o r sexua l incapability.

These lega l separation s occurre d bot h befor e an d afte r th e passage o f th e divorc e law . Meanwhile , othe r couple s relie d upo n les s formal method s o f separatio n b y takin g lon g visits t o family members , by movin g i n wit h parents , o r deserting . Stil l other s drank , attacke d their spouses , o r mad e th e bes t o f a bad situation. 18 Between 177 7 an d 1785 , Pennsylvani a grante d onl y eleve n di vorces, althoug h th e Hous e hear d thirty-fiv e appeals . Twenty-thre e men applie d fo r divorces , an d nin e wer e granted .

Jame s Miller , a yeoma n fro m Northumberlan d County , ac knowledged tha t al l th e fact s i n hi s wife's libe l wer e true ; Barthole mew Corvaisie r als o admitte d hi s adulter y an d "tha t h e hat h violate d the dutie s o f th e marriag e state, " i n a n answe r t o th e court . Whe n Jacob Englema n sue d fo r divorce , th e confessio n o f hi s wife , Magde len, t o he r adulter y wa s attache d t o th e cour t papers. 52 Occasionally, couple s trie d t o divorce eac h other . John Leshe r file d court paper s i n 1786 , chargin g hi s wife , Margaret , wit h adultery , an d stating tha t sh e wa s name d a s a responden t i n a n adulter y cas e i n Berks County .

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