Review: A History of The Wife

Editor’s Note: I originally read and reviewed this book in 2015, but it is worth looking at in light of the Victorian-to-Modern transition. The pace of change in marriage and family life was glacial until the second wave of Modernism hit in the counter-culture of the 1960s. Also, it was watching Andrew Anglin ranting and raving about women that inspired me to research the subject.

Marilyn Yalom, A History of the Wife

Marilyn Yalom’s A History of The Wife is the second book that I bought to gain a better understanding of the history of marriage and gender roles.

There’s nothing much in this book that wasn’t previously covered in Stephanie Coontz’s Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage which I reviewed here last month. Both Coontz and Yalom tell what is essentially the same story of the breakdown of traditional marriage.

Lots of OD readers are skeptical of anything Jewish feminists have to say about marriage and gender roles. I plan to continue my research by reading through some more sources, but I don’t see the timeline of the decline of marriage changing all that much.

In 1950, the overwhelming majority of American men and women were getting married and having children. They were getting married at an earlier age than the historical average. About 1 out of 4 marriages ended in divorce. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 1/4 to 1/3 of married women were in the workforce.

Among other things, interracial marriage and fornication, free love, bastards, children born out of wedlock, career women, adultery, single parent households, homosexuality, premarital sex, childlessness, singleness and cohabitation were taboo. Abortion was illegal. The birth control pill was still a decade away, but other forms of contraception (condoms and diaphragms) were in widespread use. In spite of the postwar baby boom, the American birthrate had been declining for more than a century.

There was no such thing as “sexism.” It was still commonly assumed that men and women were fundamentally different and each had sharply differentiated gender roles. What is now decried as “sexism” used to be everyday life. The American ideal was the nuclear family based on a male breadwinner, who was the recognized head of the household in law and custom, and a submissive housewife. The overwhelming majority of women expected to live out their lives as housewives. It wasn’t until the 1970s that women were able to open their own checking accounts, get a no fault divorce or that social scientists began to collect data on “domestic violence.”

In the preceding fifty years, women had won the right to vote. Victorian sexual repression had come to an end and marital sexuality had come to be seen more positively in American culture. There had been a shift away from the traditional view that linked sex and marriage to procreation and toward the modern perspective which sees sexual pleasure as an end in itself. American men and women expected to find love, companionship, intimacy, sexual pleasure, financial security and children in marriage.

In spite of this, the pace of change in marriage and gender roles had been rather gradual across time until the 1960s, when the Sexual Revolution crystallized long term trends and unleashed a sharp break with tradition. For about 160 years, liberalism had been eroding the foundations of Christian marriage – it was becoming more individualistic, more about romantic love and sexual pleasure, more egalitarian, more about “rights,” the “pursuit of happiness” and freedom from social norms – but in the 1960s the entire edifice collapsed.

The typical girl of the 1920s might have “necked” or “petted” while the typical girl of the 1950s might have kissed a few boys or engaged in premarital sex with a fiance, but she was light years away from the unregulated sexual anarchy that is commonplace today. We’re swimming in a veritable sea of social revolution. If this book makes anything clear, it is that our own times are a recent and extraordinary departure from historical norms. We have embarked on an unprecedented social experiment.

The great weakness of this book is its lack of attention to the causes of this abrupt breakdown. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the demise of traditional marriage coincided with the Civil Rights Movement or that either coincided with the spread of television in the United States. That subject is so important that I don’t think Marilyn Yalom’s brief treatment of it does it justice. In just the last few years, we’ve seen how television shows like Will & Grace and Modern Family have mainstreamed homosexuality and acceptance of gay marriage.

In hindsight, “gay marriage” was the caboose on the freight train of social revolution. It was merely the inevitable byproduct of assumptions about marriage which became commonplace among heterosexuals several generations earlier which ultimately trace back to the Enlightenment and Romanticism. Marriage became a joke a long time ago and we shouldn’t be surprised by the absurdities that modern marriage has introduced and forced society to wrestle with.

Note: The Protestant woman > Modern woman.

About Hunter Wallace 9702 Articles
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18 Comments

  1. These are excellent posts. Thanks for bringing attention to this history and these issues.

    Scripture: “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin (fornication) is a reproach to any people.”

  2. That reminds me of something I saw on Facebook. It was a meme that said the Woman was proud of being a Christian, Republican, Pro Life, a Feminist, and Voting for Trump. I think that’s pretty symbolic of how dang bad the right wing really is. I see no difference between a Democrat Feminist, Republican Feminist, Libertarian Feminist, and so on. Feminism is all the same and it’s tightly based on Marxism. Same as racial integration. Gay Marriage. So on. It’s all tools against the White Man. Oh but don’t get me wrong…..I respect all White Christian Women and our women play such an important role. However the Man has a role and the Woman has a role. Those aren’t the same and we sure shouldn’t be dressed the same. Something I’ve always liked about the Amish and especially the Mennonites…those folks act right. It’s really nice seeing Mennonite ladies who actually dress like ladies….all while the rest of the Women look like a Lesbian or some other nasty creature from Hell. #TraditionalValues Deo Vindice !

  3. As soon as romantic love became the focal point of marriage, then gay marriage and divorces became inevitable. When marriage is about romantic love rather than serving a social function in healthy family formation, then why would two men who are “in love” not be permitted to marry? And why should a man and woman not divorce if they “fell out of love?” The gay marriage slogan “love wins” has a much deeper meaning in that context.

  4. “””….Lots of OD readers are skeptical of anything Jewish feminists have to say…..”””

    Predators know a lot about prey weaknesses so better learn from them

    “””…heterosexuals…”””

    Who controls the language controls the debate This weasel word appeared in the Eastern Europe too and now we have lot of job explaining that policeman is heterocriminal, , firefighter is heteropyromaniac, human is heterocommunist and generally, we are equal. Good people are heterobadpeople.

    For all good Christians, you are heterodevils and your churches are heterohells. If anybody fanning Hitler he is heterojew.

    This compliment works . Some people claim that there are people called Jews. I always say that get your facts straight There are no Jews, only heteronazis and .there is nothing wrong getting rid of the heteronazis even when you need a spend some gas.

    When you want again to drag holy rotten corpses around the country for a weeks, longer than Lenin or Stalin burial , do not forget to call Mr. McCain heteroantisemite or Mr. Lewis a heteroklanmembrer.

    This how 4Gen warfare works.

    • such a beautiful protestant woman close to the classy handsome saxon Martin Luther.
      Btw a study showed that in 371 of Martin Luther’s letters, 39% had some sort of scatological reference, including to buttocks or defecation (45 letters), shit (21) and arse (19), among others
      You need to have a 13-year-old mindset to take seriously protestantism,
      Catholicism is only slightly better. At least Catholics were hypocrites, not dumb autistic fanatics

  5. Dalrocks old Christian manosphere blog covered a lot of this in depth.

    Though he went all the way back to Chivilristic liturature such as Arthurian mythos.

  6. The History of Marriage is an insightful book — it shines much light on the prehistoric, ancient, classical, Christian, and modern worlds. In an era of rampant multiculturalism, I suspect Coontz left out large non-European traditions (Hinduism, Islam, Confucianism, etc.) for a reason — similarities would stand out more than differences in a comparative survey, which would undermine the book’s emancipatory intent.

  7. Women are of imponderable value.

    From great-grannies, mamaws, mamas, nannies to teachers, girlfriends, and, yes, most certainly, wives, they light up this world and give it so much meaning, balance, and beauty that it would sorely lack without them.

    Who can doubt The Good Lord when one sees such a design?

    As to a wife – a good one is a complete justification for living, each and every day.

    She is a companion in every peril, every frustration, and in every joy.

    This Tarheel is so very very grateful to my wife, to her family and to those Deep Southern communities, in Union Springs, Huntsville, & Gunnarsville/Alabama, Phoenix City & Columbus/Georgia, and Lucedale/Mississippi areas for having played such an important part in the making of her soul.

    I wish every Southern man the joy of a true Southern Lady, for, from her honeyed speech and curvy alabastre complexions and strong no-nonsense souls, they are the gems for which there is no conceivable sale price.

    • Ivan, the more affection you express for a woman the more likely she will betray you for someone else. It is important to remind your female partner that you do not love her unconditionally or worship the ground she walks on. In other words, you must be willing to walk away and enjoy her suffering if she betrays you. You are putting your wife on a pedestal. I was taught to do this, and it was terrible advice. Be misogynistic and show women that they serve and submit to you rather than the other way around. It is best to imagine a potential mate as a dog, horse, or other pet. This livestock ownership attitude serves to frame her as inferior to you. You should own your wife like you own your dog. This confidence lubricates any sexual action.

  8. HW, I am confused by your last comment which stated that “Protestant women” are greater than modern women. What Protestant women do you refer to? Are you referring to German Lutherans in 1600s, Amish today, or Episcopalians in the year 1990? I am not a Christian, but I was raised in a baptist conservative protestant denomination. Women were in most church leadership positions except pastor. Most women in the church worked outside of the home. Most couples used birth control. The girls my age in Sunday school had regular premarital sex with their HS lovers which often included sodomy. They had tattoos. They wore skimpy bikinis which flaunted their busts and butts and posted risque pictures on Instagram. At the same time, many posted Bible verses on FB and supported racial justice. If in Sunday school one spoke negatively of female behavior that was contrary to the plain interpretation of Bible verses, one was chided. Today’s Protestant woman is generally identical to the modern woman. A traditional conservative protestant wife is like a hitler-loving tradwife aryan princess. They do not exist. Almost all women today are feminists regardless of their party or religious affiliation. Traditional gender roles are no longer promoted by mainstream Protestant churches and as a result, the last benefit they gave white nationalists through high birth rates has vanished. These effeminate churchmen do not need to lead white nationalists. Modern global Christianity including today’s Protestantism must lose all cultural power over Heritage Americans if we are to survive.

    • That’s the point of these book reviews and all these posts about Modernism.

      I’m trying to illustrate when, why and how the culture changed. It is true that Protestant women these days are fully immersed in Modernism. Virtually everything you just named there has a history. None of it comes from Protestantism. Before Modernism, Protestant women weren’t anything like that. On the contrary, female sexuality and behavior was strictly regulated.

      • You are historically correct. Thank you for your initiative in discussing modernism and disaffiliating our movement from Nietzsche’s amoral nihilism.

  9. Who’s writing this Brad, you or your wife? Luther was from the Middle Ages. “I’m a man of blood” which means he was from the aristocracy, the true rulers then and even today.

    Your modernism articles are a faint daft. With your articles on covid I’m sure you’d line your family and yourself to modernism by taking their vaccine. Isn’t that modernism that you put down so much Brad?

    We as humans evolved through many resets as history proves and is kept silent in the history books through academia, but no one is looking at that unless you want to.

  10. There’s an even more insidious influence since the mid 90s, Pornography. It seems that young women now are heavily influenced by this stuff too. They may not be addicts like the dorks who are obsessed with it but lots of them seem to check it out to learn the birds and the bees and model themselves after what they see. All the “shaved genitals” and endless screaming coming through hotel room walls and apartment floors from above, strange positions, etc. Women didn’t do this 40 years ago, this is something “learned” from porn.

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