Marriage in the Early Republic: Elizabeth and William Wirt and the Companionate Ideal

Marriage in the Early Republic: Elizabeth and William Wirt and the Companionate Ideal

by Anya Jabour
     
 

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William Wirt practiced law in Virginia and Maryland in the early national period and served as attorney general under James Monroe and John Quincy Adams. Elizabeth Wirt managed the household and cared for the Wirts' large family during her husband's frequent work-related absences. For more than three decades, the couple struggled to reconcile different daily

Overview

William Wirt practiced law in Virginia and Maryland in the early national period and served as attorney general under James Monroe and John Quincy Adams. Elizabeth Wirt managed the household and cared for the Wirts' large family during her husband's frequent work-related absences. For more than three decades, the couple struggled to reconcile different daily pursuits with a commitment to marriage as a partnership of equals. In Marriage in the Early Republic, Anya Jabour provides detailed analysis of a marital relationship so thoroughly documented that it illuminates gender relations in nineteenth-century America.

On one level, this is a story–a rich narrative full of the joys, sorrows, tensions, and the give-and-take of an American marriage. But because changing gender roles and expectations in this period caused discordance and forced adjustments, Jabour also provides a microhistorical analysis of a broad pattern. Placing the Wirts' marriage in a larger context, she shows how problematic marriage–and the balancing of domestic and childcare responsibilities–could be as well-to-do Americans developed their own cultural and social expectations. By examining patterns of love and marriage in a formative era, Marriage in the Early Republic offers insights into romance and relationships in our own time as well.

Editorial Reviews

Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography - Karin Wulf
This book has much to offer students and scholars of the early republic, and of gender relations in the nineteenth century.

Journal of Southern History - Anne M. Boylan
Clearly written and interpretively convincing. Jabour's singular contribution lies in the wealth of richly textured detail through which the reader comes to understand marriage both as a social institution and as the lived experience of real people.

Journal of American History - C. Dallett Hemphill
Jabour's book has the advantage of giving us a microhistorical look at a single, well-documented marrriage, allowing her to trace the evolving tensions between ideals and realities over the course of their entire marriage and parenting experience. The result is engaging but sobering, as the reader is forced to confront the frustrations produced by the tensions in a marriage that was regarded as a model, loving union by the couple and their contemporaries.

American Historical Review - Glenna Matthews
A fascinating portrait of an intense, if sometimes rocky, relationship.

Booknews
Through the lens of the extensive correspondence between a prominent Southern couple (William Wirt was appointed US Attorney General in 1817), the author (no affiliation noted) analyzes the disconnect between the idealized portrayal of that marriage by a 19th century novelist and the reality contingent upon evolving gender roles and tensions between Old South and urban North lifestyles. Portions of several chapters appeared in recent issues of Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Journal of the Early Republic, and Journal of Southern History. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801871108
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
01/16/2002
Series:
Gender Relations in the American Experience
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
232
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.49(d)

What People are saying about this

Stephanie McCurry
Jabour successfully frames the story of the Wirts' marriage within the context and historiography of marriage and the family.

Meet the Author

Anya Jabour is an associate professor of history at the University of Montana.

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