Marriage is Masculinity and Coverture

Robert P. George, law professor at PrincetonUniversity, has recently released a new book titled Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism.  In this book he discusses the meaning of marriage; in particular why so called “homosexual marriage” should be rejected and excluded from the meaning of marriage.  An essay adapted from his new book on the subject of marriage is given at the Intercollegiate Review website.

So what is marriage exactly?  As Robert George states in the opening paragraph of his essay:

“Marriage is an all-encompassing sharing of life. It involves, like other bonds, a union of hearts and minds—but also, and distinctively, a bodily union made possible by the sexual-reproductive complementarity of man and woman. Hence it is ordered to the all-encompassing goods of procreation and family life, and it calls for all-encompassing commitment, one that is pledged to permanence and sexual exclusivity and fidelity. Marriage unites a husband and wife holistically, not merely in an emotional bond but also on the bodily plane in acts of conjugal love and in the children such love brings forth—for the whole of life. Marriage is a form of relationship—indeed, the form of relationship—in which a man and a woman unite in a bond that is naturally ordered to, and would be fulfilled by, their conceiving and rearing children together. And those who enter into this form of relationship—the human good of marriage—are truly and fully participants in it even where their bond is not blessed with the gift of children.”

The above description is beautiful, poetic, and true.  However it seems to be missing something.  Yes; only a man and woman together can have children.  Yes, marriage is not only about the love between a man and a woman but also the basis for providing a happy home for children.  Yes, marriage is an all-encompassing commitment that is pledged to permanence, sexual exclusivity, and fidelity.  Marriage is more than this however.

In reading Robert George’s article on marriage it is well argued, it does make a good case against “homosexual marriage” given the mores of contemporary society.  The article however is entirely too timid for my tastes.  A much stronger case against “homosexual marriage” could have been made by going “back to basics” and not accepting the corruptions of the institution of marriage that have already taken hold in the society.

In the history of marriage there have been four major weakenings in the marital institution so far.  First was the repeal of the coverture laws and the idea of coverture, second came the progressive weakening of marriage equaling the financial support of wives, third came martial dissolution at the will of either party, now the fourth weakening of marriage is happening now with the acceptance of homosexual couples as being “married.”

So what is marriage traditionally in the English and early American tradition?  It is coverture.  People do not associate marriage with coverture today but historically coverture was the foundation of marriage.  From Wikipedia:

“The system of feme sole and feme covert developed in England in the High and Late Middle Ages as part of the common law system, which had its origins in the legal reforms of Henry II and other medieval English kings. It also held sway in English-speaking colonies because of the influence of the English common law there. This situation persisted until the mid-to-late 19th century, when married women’s property acts started to be passed in many English-speaking legal jurisdictions, setting the stage for further reforms.”

In the United States coverture was largely undone with the Married Women’s Property Acts of 1839 to 1865.  Mississippi was the first state to pass such an act in 1839.

The idea of coverture was that the married woman was a “covered woman” under the “protection and influence” of her husband.  The wife and husband were viewed as being one legal entity.  The husband was considered to own and control all financial assets and property in the marital unit.  Also the wife’s earnings were considered to belong to her husband.  There were some exceptions to these general rules.  There were some arrangements where the wife would have legal control of some property during her marriage for her sole use even while the husband was considered to own the property.  Also the wife was entitled to one-third of the husband’s property upon the husband’s death to support her as a widow.  For this reason the husband could not dispose of his property as he wished without his wife’s consent as the wife could reclaim her third of the husband’s estate after his death for her own support.  This led to the wife’s consent “free from coercion or pressure” being required for many property transactions.

The other side of coverture beyond the husband controlling and owning all the property was the “law of agency” or the “law of necessaries” where the wife was presumed to be acting on the husband’s behalf whenever she bought “necessaries;” clothing, food, lodging, and medicine for domestic use.  The law of agency defined “necessaries” according to the husband’s status, occupation, and wealth.  As the great English jurist William Blackstone (1723 to 1780) said “The husband is bound to provide his wife with the necessaries by law, as much as himself; and, if she contracts debts for them, he is obliged to pay them.”  What this means is that under coverture husbands literally had the legal obligation to provide for their wives and wives could unilaterally go out shopping for the basic necessities according to their husband’s status, occupation, and wealth and their husbands would then be legally bound to pay the debts their wives incurred.

This description of coverture is based on how coverture worked in England from 1660 to 1800.  Coverture is what marriage historically was in the English and early American tradition; men controlled all property and income and men were fully legally responsible for the support of their wives.  Coverture is the historical starting point of what marriage was originally.

So, the first weakening of the marital institution came with the repeal of the coverture laws (1839 to 1865); the undoing of husbands’ legal control of property and income and the legally enforced obligation of husbands to support their wives.

The second weakening of the marital institution was the ever diminishing connection between marriage and the financial support of wives.  Below is a table that looks at the labor force participation of women 35 to 44 years old according to marital status across time in the United States.

Definitions:  The demographic group represented is women 35 to 44 years old.  The percentages given are the Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR).  1890 refers to white women; native born with both parents native.  “Native” meaning born in the United States.  1940 and 1970 refers to all white women.  1990 and 2010 refers to all women.  There were large racial differences in women’s LFPR before 1990; the racial differences were not so great in 1990 and 2010.  So white women’s LFPR for 1890, 1940, and 1970 being combined with all women’s LFPR in 1990 and 2010 doesn’t distort the comparison across time much.  “Total” is all women 35 to 44; “Married” is Married women; “Single” is Single or Never Married women; “Other” is Other marital status or more specifically Widowed and Divorced women combined.  This data is for the United States.

Labor Force Participation Rate of Women 35 to 44 years old by Marital Status

Total Married Single Other
1890 9.2% 2.3% 36.6% 42.8%
1940 25.1% 13.8% 73.6% 59.3%
1970 49.2% 44.7% 76.6% 70.2%
1990 76.0% 74.0% 81.0% 82.3%
2010 74.8% 72.8% 78.2% 80.7%

This is the data in the above table expressed in graphical form:

Women LFPR 35-44 Marital Status

Here is looking at the decline in the support of married women strictly according to the ever increasing proportion of white married women who have worked since 1890.

LFPR of White Married Women 1890 to 2010 United States

You can see from the above line graph that white married women working increased steadily from 1890 to 2000; accelerating after 1940.  Clear deceleration in the rate of growth happened after 1990 and the time from 2000 to 2010 was completely flat.  It is quite certain there will be an absolute and noticeable decline from 2010 to 2020.

Here is the data for the above line graph: 1890, 2.2%; 1900, 3.0%; 1910, 4.65%; 1920, 6.3%; 1930, 9.8%; 1940, 12.5%; 1950, 20.7%; 1960, 29.8%; 1970, 38.5%; 1980, 49.3%; 1990, 57.7%; 2000; 61.4%; 2010, 61.3%.  Note: there is no data for 1910, the 4.65% figure I used is just the mid-point between 1900 and 1920.  Data was collected for 1910 but there were major errors in the definition of terms.  Also the data for 2011, not used, is 60.2%.  The data is for the Labor Force Participation Rate of the entire white married woman population; in recent decades that being all white married women 16 years and over.  Sources for the data are Decennial Censuses, the Statistical Abstract of the United States, and the Women in the Labor Force databook put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So, the connection between being married and being financially supported by ones husband has been radically cut.  In 1890 being married dropped a white woman’s probability of working by 94% (from 36.6% to 2.3%; the age of the women in question being fixed at 35 to 44 years old).  In 2010 being married only dropped a woman’s probability of working by 7% (from 78.2% to 72.8%).  It is also worth noting that even single white women had a markedly reduced LFPR in 1890 (at 36.6%).  The ethic of protecting women from the workforce was so strong in 1890 that even women without a designated man whose duty it was to support them (a husband) were usually supported by others.  This practice of supporting single women was pretty much gone by 1940.

After the decline of financially supporting married women had already been going on for a long time then the third weakening of marriage came; that being the no-fault divorce revolution from 1965 to 1975 where divorce simply according to whim and personal preference by either spouse was instituted.  Before “no-fault” divorce divorce was only granted based on “fault” or just cause.  Common bases of “fault” were abandonment, adultery, and cruelty.  The introduction of no-fault divorce in the United States led the divorce rate to skyrocket from 25% in 1965 to 50% in 1975.

The fourth weakening of marriage is what is taking place right now; the drive to eliminate the requirement that marriage actually be between people of opposite sex.

In Robert Page’s article he states “In almost all Western jurisdictions, marriage has been deeply wounded by a culture of divorce, the widespread practice of nonmarital sexual cohabitation, the normalization of nonmarital childbearing, and other practices.”  This is true enough but these are late stage manifestations of the breakdown of marriage.  What first weakened marriage was the abolishen of the coverture laws.  What then weakened marriage even further was the relentless financial male abandonment of women within marriage.  Only after the link between marriage and male support of women was radically weakened did we get things like widespread cohabitation and a social acceptance of having children out-of-wedlock.

In Robert Page’s article on marriage not once does he ever mention masculinity or femininity, not once does he mention male duties or the feminine role of women in the family, not once is mention of men financially supporting women ever brought up even indirectly.  Page talks a lot about “sexual complementarity” and how there is a natural link between heterosexual union and childbearing.  He also touches on some more deep and philosophical issues related to marriage that most people don’t think about and would have a hard time articulating.  He also mentions the radical agendas of some of those pushing for “gay marriage.”  Polyamourous unions and “minimal marriage” being the next items on the agenda.  These are the strengths of his article.  Still however I notice more what Page does not say than what he does say.

Marriage is masculinity, marriage is coverture, marriage is the man providing for the woman thereby enabling the woman’s feminine purpose and expression.  Marriage is a male institution; the means by which men provide to women the environment a woman needs to function best as a woman.  Of course marriage is heterosexual by nature; masculinity is necessarily based on the man’s interaction with and reaction to woman.  Masculinity itself however is the foundation and organizing principle of marriage.  The man takes control and the man then executes his plan and mission for the family.  The man finds a woman to help him in his mission of family; this woman then becomes his wife.  A family unit is then born and established.  This family unit then creates and raises the next generation or in the absence of children provides for the expression of the woman’s feminine strengths in other ways that benefit the community.  This is what marriage is all about.

In thinking about marriage we must remember what marriage used to be; we must not forget the diminishment of marriage that had already taken place before the modern feminist revolution of the 1970s even got started.  Marriage is about masculinity to uphold and protect and empower femininity; marriage is about male power and male responsibility in service to women under God.

Sources for Statistical Information:

Statistics of Women at Work – 1890 and 1900 Censuses

1970 Census
Employment Status and Work Experience
Table 5: Marital Status by Labor Force Status, Age, Race, and Sex: 1940 to 1970
Page 76 of 159

Statistical Abstract of the United States – Earlier Editions

Women in the Labor Force: A Databook 2011

The History of Married Women in the Workforce

About Jesse Powell TFA

Anti-Feminist, MRA, Pro-Traditional Women's Rights Traditional Family Activist (TFA)
This entry was posted in Cultural History, Patriarchy, Research, Social Statistics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Marriage is Masculinity and Coverture

  1. mamaziller says:

    I love this post. It is important to remember exactly what marriage is so that we can understand why I is not working anymore. What is the point of being married if we are interchangeable? If we are each independent then what will keep us together in the moments when we feel like we picked the worse spouse in the world? Yes there is love, but the conditions required for a marriage to work are more complexes than that. The conditions are also rooted in our biology. Feminism claims that they are not anti-marriage but they are because they weaken the bond between a husband and wife by telling women that they should be independent of their husbands. Marriage is about dependence because it was meant to last. Also I think women crave submission, we want to submit to a man, a marriage that denies us that will be hard for many women.

    Also is the second graph correct? And I want to ask you how to add and about page to my blog?

  2. Thanks for the comment. When people talk about why so called “gay marriage” is wrong they often seem to have only a rudimentary sense of what the purpose of marriage actually is. People may talk about divorce or out-of-wedlock births weakening marriage and make the obvious point that only a man and a woman can have a child but the husband supporting his wife as a foundation of marriage is never brought up. Historically however the husband supporting his wife was absolutely foundational to marriage. Looking back historically it was the ending of coverture that seemed to be the starting point of family breakdown. Coverture lasted for hundreds of years; as soon as coverture ends however the ball starts rolling for ever worsening apparently self-feeding family breakdown. People don’t even know what coverture was about and are only vaguely aware that it ever existed; I figure therefore that it is good to give a little history of what coverture was about and then to detail what happened after coverture was abolished.

    Regarding the second graph; it looks correct to me? What is making you question whether the second graph is correct? I list the data points used for the second graph; the line graph corresponds to the data points given, correct?

    As far as the “About” page on your blog. Your blog (The Secular Traditionalist) already has an “About” page though nothing is actually written on the “About” page. The thing to remember is that the “About” page is a Page, not a Post. Your new entries are Posts. Somewhere in your Dashboard there should be a Pages section. Under All Pages “About” should be one of the Page options. After selecting the “About” Page you should then be able to Edit the “About” Page and in that way add new content to your “About” Page. The important part is to get into your Page area as “About” is a Page, not a Post.

  3. mamaziller says:

    Yes and it makes sense. A husband should ”own” his wife. Marriage has a particular structure based on give and take. The husband is the provider, and because of that he is granted leadership. It seems like I cannot see the entire graph but I understand it in any case so it is good. I will email you about the about page.

    • The Radical One says:

      Ah! Love your comments mamaziller. Many people don’t get why we have the husband as leader. He has to be the authority figure because he holds all the responsibility for the wife and children. I’d much rather just be barefoot and pregnant all my life in some back woods shack with my husband than writing political blogs. Under Coverture a woman only has to worry about children and she can devote her time to them as opposed to today where very few women devote their time solely to their children. They can’t because men aren’t being men and fulfilling their duties as providers and protectors of women. Instead they scream about equality like little whiny babies when they should just man up and put their women in their place and take their responsibilities.

  4. The Radical One says:

    I used to own a Facebook page titled “In Favor of Coverture for Married Women.” Coverture is everything I’ve ever wanted in marriage and, in my opinion, the most beautiful expression of a man caring for his wife. She has children for him and cares for them and she knows that under the law she is protected. Her husband has the responsibility for her, to feed and clothe her and protect her. How could anyone think women were dogs or slaves? True marriage is one of mutual slavery. The husband for the wife and the wife for the husband and, of course, both for children if there are children. I hate feminism and nearly every single thing it has ever stood for. I do agree with the early feminists about wanting to ensure women could be in the home with their children. That was a good thing. But why do I want to vote or be “independent?” Single women have always had options if they chose to pursue them anyways but taking away the rights and protections of a married woman and force her out from under her husband’s protection just because a few selfish women wanted independent lives and incomes is terrible.

    Now we are forced into being the same as single women. We have no rights to let our husband’s take care of things for us or protect us. They can force a married woman out of her home to sit on a jury trial and deal with the law, they can force her into the workforce if her husband can’t or won’t support her and, just watch, well be forced into the military next even to be slaughtered in combat. And many people will rejoice and call it “equality.”

  5. The Radical One says:

    I’m going to reblog this Jesse.

  6. The Radical One says:

    Reblogged this on What's Wrong With Equal Rights? and commented:
    I have certainly always been in favor of Coverture for married women. These are the principles we need to bring back. The principles that even the most conservative today don’t want to talk about.

    • Anette Andersen says:

      I have recently become pro-patriarchy and am also in favour of Coverture. Having read about the principles it’s the only thing that makes sense. And if we are to rescue society from the all consuming feminist destruction, we must go back to before family break down began, when the man got custody of his children and before women could vote. Back to a time when the woman focused on the home sphere, caring for husband, children and home. When a woman belonged to her husband, submitted to his authority and in return gained his protection and was provided for,
      It’s a great shame when people can’t talk openly about an issue the moment it challenges feminism which no doubt is why the conservatives don’t want to talk about patriarchy – they fear a backlash from feminists. So much for free speech.

  7. Judithann Campbell says:

    Reblogged this on Why I Am Not A Feminist.

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  12. bodycrimes says:

    Will women get to vote when coverture is brought back? Also, if women can’t find husbands, who is responsible for them financially?

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  23. LavaLady says:

    Wow- you guys truly are fucking crazy! You seriously believe this shit. Good luck.
    “I never felt I could give up my life of freedom to become a man’s housekeeper. When I was young, if a girl married poor, she became a housekeeper and a drudge. If she married wealth she became a pet and a doll.” Susan B. Anthony.
    A man’s ‘power’? License to abuse her. Where are all the good men nowadays? So entitled!

    • Humanity says:

      Since you mentioned Susan B. Anthony, you should know the truth about her relationship with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, another feminist.

      From 1880 to 1886, Stanton and Anthony worked on the “History of Woman Suffrage.”They referred to each other as “Susan” and “Mrs. Stanton”. Anthony deferred to Stanton in other ways also, not accepting an office in any organization that would place her above Stanton. This generally meant that Anthony, although holding a less important office, handled most of the organization’s daily activities.

      So this means that Susan B. Anthony preferred to defer to another woman by doing most of the work and giving her the credit? So Susan B. Anthony is happy being the housekeeper of another woman?

      Stanton sometimes felt the weight of Anthony’s determination and drive. When Stanton arrived at an important meeting in 1888 with her speech not yet written, Anthony insisted that Stanton stay in her hotel room until she had written it, and she placed a younger colleague outside her door to make sure she did so. At Anthony’s 70th birthday celebration, Stanton teased her by saying , “Well, as all women are supposed to be under the thumb of some man, I prefer a tyrant of my own sex, so I shall not deny the patent fact of my subjection.

      So a feminist admits that she is fine with a tyrant as long as it’s a woman?

      By the way, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was married to Henry Brewster Stanton, who supported her cause. They had 7 children together. Even Stanton realized how important men are and therefore would never want to live with another woman.

      Susan B. Anthony helped raise the children in the Stanton household. So it’s fine to raise children for another woman? Apparently, Susan B. Anthony was the baby sitter and maid for the Stanton family.

      Susan B. Anthony lived in hotels and friends’ houses before finally settling down with her sister. Is that better than living with her husband and raising a family together?

      So Susan B. Anthony was basically a housekeeper and a drudge but since she supposedly did it for a woman, she was free according to feminist belief?

      That shows you how warped feminism is.

  24. Humanity says:

    Feminism oppresses women by defining them as victims who need to be rescued.

    Men are real victims and women are just pretending. Men are suffering from discrimination in the Family Court, where they were losing custody battles, while women complain about trivial problems such as ‘manspreading’ and ‘sexist air-conditioning’.

    Feminists keep focusing on how men appear to fill the positions of power in our society, either as politicians or bosses, but these are only some men – the rest are victims of a system that discriminates in favor of women and sees men as ‘disposable’ and ‘obsolete’.

    Why should a man give up his life of freedom to become a woman’s cash slave? Whether a man is rich or poor, he must give up what he has for the woman, while the woman isn’t expected to give up anything. A woman can treat the unborn child she doesn’t want as trash by aborting it and use the child she does want as a meal ticket by collecting support from the man and/or the state.

    A woman has the license to abuse men and children in the name of equality and social justice. Where are the good women nowadays? None to be found. All are entitled who care nothing about family. Women don’t really care about each other either. They like to trash others in order to feel good about themselves.

    If all the men were gone, would women be able to maintain civilization? No. They would just oppress each other even more. Women don’t create resources, they simply demand that others create the resources and then distribute them according to their own desires. Women don’t create societies, they simply demand welfare states. But welfare states cannot survive without providers.

    A Harvard study, “Where is the Land of Opportunity?” finds that children raised in communities with high percentages of single mothers are significantly less likely to experience absolute and relative mobility. Moreover, “[c]hildren of married parents also have higher rates of upward mobility if they live in communities with fewer single parents.”

    Most credible economists and sociologists have known that for years. But the leftist feminists refuse to see the truth. They see men, children and family in general as all being oppressive to women. Being a wife and mother is slavery to feminists.

    According to feminists, it is better for a woman to serve her employer than to nurture her husband and children. It is better to work long hours for a corporation that doesn’t care about you rather than spend time with a husband and family who do care about you – that is the feminist motto.

    And when the women can’t or won’t work for the corporation, then the women should demand that the men support them in exchange for nothing. When the men can’t or won’t support them, then the state should support them because to feminists, men and children are tools used to extract resources rather than human beings who should be loved. To feminists, others must sacrifice so women can have it all without having to sacrifice anything. Then they wonder what has happened to society.

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