Thursday, February 26, 2004

Love, Honor, and Cherish: Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal ran an article showing the evolution of legal marriage in this country. (I don't have an online subscription to the paper, so I can't link to the story: "Couples in the U.S. Used to Marry Early, Often and Informally") In the 1800s, many couples were considered married even without a license, witness, ceremony, legal magistrate, or official church or state sanctioning. If they lived together as a couple, they were considered married and enjoyed all protections and privileges thereof.

Females were eligible to get married at the age of 12, males at 15. Partially as a result, divorce was not uncommon. To fight this, states began outlawing common-law marriage. Some even clamped down to make it nearly legally impossible to divorce. That, mixed with the fact that women could not claim a share of any of the couple's property and probably wouldn't be hired anywhere because of rampant sexual discrimination in society, meant many women were stuck in terrible relationships.

And of course, most states banned interracial marriage up to just a few decades ago. In Florida, a white person wasn't allowed to marry anyone with "one-eighth or more of Negro blood." Anyone in an interracial marriage in Mississippi could face life in prison.

All that seems ridiculous and discriminatory now. Funny how the "traditional" state of marriage changes in just a few years.


Post a Comment

Copyright © Staunch Moderate
Using Caribou Theme | Bloggerized by Themescook