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Conjugal Misconduct
Defying Marriage Law in the Twentieth-Century United States

AUD$38.14 exc GST

Part of Cambridge Historical Studies in American Law and Society

  • Publication planned for: September 2019
  • availability: Not yet published - available from August 2019
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316613368

AUD$ 38.14 exc GST

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About the Authors
  • Conjugal Misconduct reveals the hidden history of controversial and legally contested marital arrangements in twentieth-century America. William Kuby examines the experiences of couples in unconventional unions and the legal and cultural backlash generated by a wide array of 'alternative' marriages. These include marriages established through personal advertisements and matchmaking bureaus, marriages that defied state eugenic regulations, hasty marriages between divorced persons, provisional and temporary unions referred to as 'trial marriages', racial intermarriages, and a host of other unions that challenged sexual and marital norms. In illuminating the tensions between those who set marriage policies and those who defied them, Kuby offers a fresh account of marriage's contested history, arguing that although marital nonconformists composed only a small minority of the population, their atypical arrangements nonetheless shifted popular understandings of marriage and consistently refashioned the legal parameters of the institution.

    • Links a wide array of unconventional marriage practices, offering many colorful examples of marital nonconformity
    • Shows the diverse cast of characters involved in the creation and recreation of marriage law
    • Challenges readers' assumptions about what makes a proper family, and of what role the law should play in this designation
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'The belief that marriage as an institution is in crisis is nothing new, historian William Kuby shows us in this engaging study of early twentieth-century marital nonconformists who pushed boundaries by engaging in trial marriages, serial polygamy, or interracial marriage, among other challenges to the norm. But while 'queer' couples generated a conservative backlash, Conjugal Misconduct demonstrates that even perceived challenges to the institution of marriage could serve to reinforce its power and influence in American social life.' Renee Romano, Oberlin College, Ohio

    'Conjugal Misconduct provides the definitive study of the 'amorphousness' of the institution of marriage between the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Nonconforming heterosexual couples pursued every angle to evade restrictive state laws, often crossing state lines to find a more lenient marital regime. Their acts of defiance reshaped marital legitimacy, while revealing that the law itself could not constrain conjugal choices. For anyone who still clings to notions of marriage's static, coherent past, this deftly written and deeply researched book proves that improvisation and even chaos shaped the legal history of heterosexual marriage.' Rebecca L. Davis, University of Delaware

    'An informative and provocative account of how various groups and individuals have pushed to widen the definition and extend the benefits of marriage, often with unintended results.' Stephanie Coontz, Evergreen State College, and author of Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage

    'The rhetoric of a 'marriage crisis' is a familiar one. William Kuby's excellent new book gives us an incisive history of the way that a sense of crisis was invoked in debates about a variety of forms of marital misconduct and the backlash they inspired in the progressive era. Kuby expertly marches us through the way that late nineteenth and early twentieth-century American judges, state legislators, polemicists, and reformers of all stripes relied on ideas of common sense public policy and moral decency to police marriage in each of the five instances of marital misconduct he examines.' Angela Fernandez, Jotwell

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    Product details

    • Publication planned for: September 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316613368
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 mm
    • contains: 10 b/w illus.
    • availability: Not yet published - available from August 2019
  • Table of Contents

    1. Matrimonial advertisements, matchmaking bureaus, and the threat of commercialized courtship
    2. Hasty remarriage, out-of-state elopement, and the battle against 'progressive polygamy'
    3. Eugenic marriage laws and the continuing crisis of out-of-state elopement
    4. Trial marriage and the laws of the home
    5. Black-white intermarriage, the backlash against miscegenation, and the push for racial amalgamation
    6. Averting the crisis: the birth of the marriage education movement

  • Author

    William Kuby, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga
    William Kuby is a UC Foundation Assistant Professor of History at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, where he directs the Africana Studies Program and teaches in the Women's Studies Program.

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