Read Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation by Nancy F. Cott Online


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 embeddWe 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
Author :
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ISBN : 9780674008755
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 297 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation Reviews

  • ian
    2019-02-28 13:58

    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 it's lucid and powerful in its demonstration of the public character of the "private" marital realm. Among the books on this subject I've read, and there are quite a few, this one stands out in its attention to monogamy as integral to U.S. American conceptions of marriage. I'd have given it five stars but for the fact that Cott leaps over the 1950s and the early 1960s, moving more or less directly from the end of WW2 to no-fault divorce and "swinging." Given the importance of the 1950s in establishing current (conservative?) fantasies of what marriage should or could be, this is a significant omission.

  • Nate
    2019-03-24 14:44

    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 that people are forced to read in school, which then turns them away from reading in general after school is finished.Would be best to use as a source for a paper, but certainly not great for a cover-to-cover read. Still, the history of marriage in America is humorous and sad, and this book will help you formulate an educated opinion on what the institution means to you today.

  • Ash
    2019-03-22 13:30

    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.

  • Misha
    2019-03-11 15:34

    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 know thatthe debate was a sideshow rather than the root cause of the conflictbetween North and South, and the abolitionists were scarcely paidattention to. However, it is interesting how both sides tried to usethe analogy of master-slave and husband-wife relation to theiradvantage. The slavery advocates -- to equalize them as proper, andthe nascent women rights agitators -- to denounce both as a form ofoppression. Oh, yeah a "free love" commune was established in Berlin,Ohio in 1850-ies. Now it is the capital of the Amish country. I doubtfree love is germane there any longer.In general, one is sort of used to think of modern-day marriage (err,between a man and a woman) as being a rather simple, square thing thatis not all that hard to define.However, it is surprising how people of the background that one wouldthink is rather close to modern -- in Protestant North America of thelast couple of centuries, struggled with the definition, had to invokethe analogy of the state and its citizens or the sovereign and hissubjects. And how the views on marriage changed together with theviews on the state. Ideas are truly a powerful force in its own right,they take time to develop and take on a life of their own afterwards.--------------I think the writing and analysis of the marriage book is pretty solid.I'd say it exceeded expectations. The author, being a womannotwithstanding, rather tactfully does not shove "women's issues" inyour face. But calmly proceeds with her exposition. The subject isslightly dull, mostly because, well what could possibly happen tomarriage in 200 years that we don't know about. One downside of thebook is a relative scarcity of empirical examples and testimonials (orat least the examples that we have not heard before). Just to make thenarrative more lively, she might have dug up some fun stuff.-----------------------------have about 20 pages to go. It grows increasingly boring.

  • Andrew
    2019-03-24 07:45

    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 problems women have faced throughout not only America's existence, but also that of the institution of marriage. Most historical writers write with a "matter-of-fact," narrative-fact pattern hybrid. Cott, however, looks at multiple dimensions of the institution of marriage, while also discussing the multiple dimensions of personalities attained by women throughout history. While the text was slow moving, it has a great deal of depth and brevity. It looks not only at "how" women were the victims of sexism throughout history, but also discusses "why" people's values were, for lack of a better word, sexist. Cott thinks outside of the normal spectrum of history and discusses marriage not only as an institution, but analyzes the way people related to and viewed the practice. From great philosophers to the Women's Rights Movement, this book shows that thinking outside of the typical "realm" can make connections previously unseen. As a writer, this helped me to make connections between the texts I was reading at the time I was beginning my Honors in the Major Thesis. One might see a disconnect between religion and sexism, but a connection certainly exists between the former and the latter. Cott showed me that there is almost no bound to connections that can be drawn throughout history, and continues to contribute significantly to this practice with each new text she releases.

  • Helena
    2019-03-09 12:51

    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 history. Although it has only a brief version of each, it's definitely has made me want to read more on these topics. Now to attempt to find good books on the immediate post slavery era and the history of Japanese American immigration…I also found the section on Social Security and race very interesting and want to know more but this book did not go into enough detail (this is not necessarily a criticism as it is not the main point of this book). Need to find a book on that as well. In general, I very much like reading this kind of book which summarizes it straight through the lens of one particular topic. It is often shocking to see how fast things change and just how little time has passed since certain norms were seem to be unavoidable that now seem unthinkable. Obviously, the final chapter of this particular book does need an update and a new edition would probably be quite welcome. This is copyright 2000 and obviously there have been significant updates in marital policy since then. Nonetheless this book has been quite interesting and worthwhile, and I very much enjoyed reading it.

  • Dan Pecchenino
    2019-03-06 09:42

    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 citizenship in the United States. As such, the notion of marriage as either a religious or private institution is largely a fantasy, and Cott provides mountains of evidence to prove that changes to rules about marriage have been used to both maintain unequal power relations between men and women, and to shape distinct and rigid gender roles. Probably not a good book to read if you are thinking about getting hitched anytime soon, but a must if you are writing your dissertation on the economic function of the dyad in American life...

  • Kay
    2019-03-14 12:41

    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. I learned a lot about immigration policy and slavery, but felt like she spent too much time on what was (admittedly very important but ultimately only) background information. Cott, like Barbara Ehrenreich, has a problem with class; Cott frequently implies that women didn't work before the 30s.Alternate title: Marriage and a Bunch of Other Stuff That Sucked for Women and People of Color.

  • Christina
    2019-03-09 08:55

    If you're interesting in learning the history of the institution of marriage as it relates to American values, national events, and changing laws, I highly recommend this book. The reasons why I gave it four stars instead of five are due to Cott's poor treatment of the feminist movement--one I see as biased against feminism--and her lack of interest in divorce culture as it has shaped and influenced views on marriage. She, of course, includes both aspects in her discussion, but fails to outline them as carefully as she does changing racism and anti-polygamist sentiments.

  • Timothy
    2019-03-24 09:37

    Immensely informative, and an easy read. Cott sums up a great deal of legal and cultural history, producing a generally clear narrative. The last chapter felt a bit truncated to me, and it also read like more of a polemic than the rest of the book; however, one of the challenges of history is how to cope with a lack of distance. This book is a great resource, and I only wish it were more up-to-date.

  • Rebecca
    2019-03-10 13:39

    Cott was called as an expert witness to the US Congress on the history of marriage in America. This book is the reason she went there. She asserts that marriage in America is a public institution, and she details the changes and challenges to marriage from the early days of settlement right up to the present. It is really interesting and provides a lot of insight on the current situation.

  • Jose
    2019-02-26 09:45

    also excellent, haven't finished. great history on marriage. used in human behavior and policy classes.

  • Margaret Zhang
    2019-02-26 11:40

    Excellent perspective on how traditional marriage is not an institution preserved pure since antiquity, but rather a public construct, molded and shaped by social forces.

  • Lindsay
    2019-03-24 08:42

    A history of the fucked up way hetero/monogamous marriage became what people think is normal and natural.

  • Liz
    2019-03-11 07:40

    Truly fascinating historical analysis of the role of marriage in American society and culture.

  • Paula McConnell
    2019-02-21 15:36

    Interesting. It had just the information I was looking for regarding bi-racial marriages in the US at the turn of the century. I now understand why gay marriage is a difficult subject.