Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation (Revised)

Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation (Revised)

We commonly think of marriage as a private matter between two people, a personal expression of love and commitment. In this pioneering history, Nancy F. Cott demonstrates that marriage is and always has been a public institution.

From the founding of the United States to the present day, imperatives about the necessity of marriage and its proper form have been deeply embedded in national policy, law, and political rhetoric. Legislators and judges have envisioned and enforced their preferred model of consensual, lifelong monogamy--a model derived from Christian tenets and the English common law that posits the husband as provider and the wife as dependent. In early confrontations with Native Americans, emancipated slaves, Mormon polygamists, and immigrant spouses, through the invention of the New Deal, federal income tax, and welfare programs, the federal government consistently influenced the shape of marriages. And even the immense social and legal changes of the last third of the twentieth century have not unraveled official reliance on marriage as a "pillar of the state."

By excluding some kinds of marriages and encouraging others, marital policies have helped to sculpt the nation's citizenry, as well as its moral and social standards, and have directly affected national understandings of gender roles and racial difference. Public Vows is a panoramic view of marriage's political history, revealing the national government's profound role in our most private of choices. No one who reads this book will think of marriage in the same way again.

Title:Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation (Revised)
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780674008755
Format Type:

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  • ian

    Cott's Grounding of Modern Feminism impressed the heck out of me in grad school. I found this book somewhat disappointing in contrast to that earlier achievement. Still, I've given it 4 stars because ...

  • Nate

    Some interesting history and a few parts definitely stick out as great, but overall it's written in too much of a numbingly dry fashion to be enjoyable on any level. This is (sadly) the kind of book t...

  • Ash

    a fascinating study of the history of marriage in the us, with a special emphasis on the ways marriage has been socially and politically constructed as a means for gender and racial oppression. ...

  • Mary

    This book takes an in depth look at the relationship between public policy, marriage, economy, and basic civil rights. It piqued my interest in the history of social security and taxes in the US. It m...

  • Joshua Witham

    Absolutely essential reading for a society wherein something like 90% of people STILL enter into a legal marriage contract by the age of 50. Cott masterfully exposes the history of our most worshipped...

  • Misha

    The coverage of the abolitionists vs. slaveowning advocates debate onthe brink of the civil war is interesting, as well as its relation tothe change of the views on marriage. All of us materialists kn...

  • Andrew

    As a student in the Honors in the Major Program at UCF who chose the topic, "Women's Dynamic Role in the United States Government," I can say that this book, in great detail, discusses the many proble...

  • Helena

    Ostensibly about the history of marriage in the US, this book actually spend a good deal of time touching on the path to citizenship of many races and nationalities of people through the nations histo...

  • Dan Pecchenino

    Generally well-written, but like most history books it uses a lots examples to make one essential point. In this case, the point is that marriage has been instrumental in shaping our ideas of citizens...

  • Kay

    The writing is a little dry and the chapters are hard going as they're quite long. I felt like the author frequently digressed into territory that was only tangentially related to her primary subject....