Making Marriage Modern: Women's Sexuality from the Progressive Era to World War II

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The nineteenth-century middle-class ideal of the married woman was of a chaste and diligent wife focused on being a loving mother, with few needs or rights of her own. The modern woman, by contrast, was partner to a new model of marriage, one in which she and her husband formed a relationship based on greater sexual and psychological equality. In Making Marriage Modern, Christina Simmons narrates the development of this new companionate marriage ideal, which took hold in the early twentieth century and prevailed in American society by the 1940s.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"If you imagine that it took the sexual revolution of the 1960s to rumple the marriage bed, read this book—a very revealing, serious, and highly useful study of changes in thinking about sex and marriage before World War II."—Nancy F. Cott, author of Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation

"In this important book, Christina Simmons insightfully examines the ideas and impact of intellectuals, novelists, advice writers, reformers, and radicals who forged a new vision of marital sexuality in the early twentieth century. In so doing, she illuminates the range of views—about heterosexual companionship, sexual knowledge, and female independence—that made marriage modern in the 1920s and 1930s, and continue to shape attitudes to the present day."—Kathy Peiss, author of Hope in a Jar

"In a carefully researched and crisply written account, Simmons reconstructs debates—about sex for pleasure, privacy for couples, and equality for women—that still have relevance for us today. A smart, engaging, and important book."—Joanne Meyerowitz, author of How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States

"Challenging both the myth of Victorian repression and the notion that it took women's liberation to transform the institution of marriage, Christina Simmons traces profound changes in sexual and marital relations from the 1910s through the 1940s. She analyzes debates over intimacy, privacy, freedom, and reciprocity among reformers, intellectuals, sex radicals, educators, therapists, physicians, novelists, and playwrights. Deeply researched and lucidly argued, Making Marriage Modern changes the terrain for all future discussions of marriage in the twentieth century."—Nancy A. Hewitt, Rutgers University

"Simmons' complex interpretation of white and African American sources maps a range of competing sexual ideals. Grounded in sex advice literature, marriage manuals, and reform tracts, this book will fascinate readers and provide important perspectives on contemporary debates over sex education, reproductive rights, and the changing definition of marriage."—Estelle B. Freedman, author of No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women.

"Simmons's ability to bring order to the cacophony of opinions about sex and marriage is a clear strength of this book. ...Another noteworthy asset is her attention not only to gender but also race... Simmons's work will surely serve as an example for future explorations in this vein, just as it has helped loosen the hold of teh 1950s on the history of twentieth-century marriage." —Journal of American History

"Simmons skillfully navigates the discourses of leftists, feminists, and bohemians who called for a positive vision of female sexuality based on individual autonomy and limited governmental intrusion...Simmons's work offers the fullest historical examination of companionate marrage to date." —Alexander Street Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195064117
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/10/2009
  • Series: Studies in the History of Sexuality Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 3.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Associate Professor of History and Women's Studies, University of Windsor

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3

1 Education for Social Hygiene 16

2 Sex Radical Challenges to Marriage 58

3 Companionate Marriage 105

4 Modern Marriage: Three Visions 138

5 Sexual Advice for Modern Marriage 178

Conclusion 218

Appendix Selection of Marriage Manuals 227

Notes 231

Index 295

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