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Great Expectations

Marriage and Divorce in Post-Victorian America

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the divorce rate in the United States rose by a staggering 2,000 percent. To understand this dramatic rise, Elaine Tyler May studied over one thousand detailed divorce cases. She found that contrary to common assumptions, divorce was not simply a by-product of women’s increasing economic and sexual independence, or a rebellion against marriage. Rather, thwarted hopes for fulfillment in the public sphere drove both men and women to wed at a greater rate and to bring higher expectations to their marriages.

208 pages | 5.38 x 8.5 | © 1980

Gender and Sexuality

History: American History

Women's Studies

Table of Contents

I. Tradition in Transition in the Late Nineteenth Century
1. Los Angeles and the Victorian Synthesis
2. Early Divorce in the City of the Angels
3. The Home: From Sacrifice to Satisfaction
4. The Path to Modern Marriage
II. Matrimony Unveiled in the Early Twentieth Century
5. The Romantic Ideal in Crisis
6. Sex: Sin or Salvation
7. Wives at Work
8. The Pressure to Provide
Epilogue: The Pursuit of Happiness
Appendix: Tables

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