Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Institution of Marriage in 17th-Century England

From The Seventeenth Century Lady:
Once at the altar, marriage for a man meant primarily the chance to father a lineage, to become master of a household, and to take control of his wife’s finances, wealth and belongings. It also made him eligible for various offices, such as to be a reeve (official supervising a landowner’s estate)   or a member of a jury, or warden or constable of a Parish. Husbandry was originally control of livestock for profit, and the idea of this control for profit still permeated 17th century marriage.
Marriage for a woman, on the other hand, meant imminent motherhood, giving up her rights and lands, and a means of determining her social standing. She was ‘graded’ as a woman according to the status of her husband, so a ‘good match’, in other words a profitable match, was essential. A married woman also was granted access to other women’s births and deaths, as these were usually attended by married women, and so to the network of wives and the hidden knowledge of menstruation and midwifery.

Women were regarded as the ‘weaker vessel’ (a phrase taken from the New Testament) and so physically, intellectually and morally inferior to men; therefore, the man had a right to chastise his wife, by physical punishment and beatings if she disobeyed him. (Read more.)

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