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Marriage History - 19th Century

Marriage, courtship and divorce practices in the nineteenth century, shedding light on the roles and status of women, wives and widows.
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Robert Dale Owen and Mary Jane Robinson - Marriage Protest - 1832
Statement issued by American radical Robert Dale Owen on his 1832 wedding to Mary Jane Robinson.

Husband and Wife - English Law
The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica included a surprisingly feminist entry on the history of women. This entry describes then-current understanding of laws relating to women, including divorce and marriage law, as it stood in 1910. This page emphasizes changes in British law in the 19th century.

Marriage Protest: Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell, 1855
A copy of the agreement signed by Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell prior to their May 1, 1855 marriage. The Rev. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who performed the marriage, not only read the statement at the ceremony, but also distributed it to other ministers as a model that he urged other couples to follow.

Marriage Protest: Robert Dale Owen - 1832
A copy of the 1832 statement issued by Robert Dale Owen to protest the state of law by which women lost property and other legal rights upon marriage.

Married Women's Property Act, New York State, 1848
Passage of this act protecting some property rights of married women was a landmark in women's history. An entry in the Encyclopedia of Women's History on this site.

Queen Victoria - Marriage - by Lytton Strachey
From the 1921 biography of Queen Victoria, an account of her marriage. The marriage of Victoria and Albert reflected and shaped 19th century western attitudes towards marriage.

Queen Victoria's Wedding
An account of Queen Victoria's wedding, with an illustration.

"The Best or None!" 19th Century Spinsterhood
Zsuzsa Berend, in a Summer 2000 article in the Journal of Social History, looks at New England women in the 19th century who chose not to marry, instead choosing careers and active lives in social reform movements. Article mentions (and, in most cases, quotes) Catharine Sedgwick, Clara Barton, Susan B. Anthony, Alice James, Frances Willard, Emily Howard, Lucy Stone and other "useful women."

Chronology of Federal Legislation on Polygamy
Perry L. Porter presents a detailed timeline showing first the establishment and later the prohibition of plural marriage among the Latter Day Saints (Mormon Church).

Women in America: Courtship and Marriage
Travelers to America in 1820-1842 describe practices of marriage and courtship, providing insight into the status and roles of women.

Kate Chase Sprague
Kate Chase Sprague, daughter of Republican politician Salmon P. Chase, and married to a wealthy Rhode Island Senator, fought for a divorce and custody of her children, as well as restoration of use of her maiden name.

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