1888 – Letters Show Women Who Create Happy Marriages Pick Well & Are Mature

About a year ago, I picked up a book from the library thinking it would be an interesting read.  I had no idea I was picking up a book written by a feminist author, who’s agenda was clear and intriguing through all it’s 400 pages.  I’m so glad I read it, as it helped me to understand from a feminist perspective, the lies that are promoted about women and marriage.

Although there could possibly be 100 different post ideas or more from this one gem of a feminist book, one of the more interesting ones to me that caught my attention, was centered on what creates happiness in marriage.

So what creates happiness in marriage?

According to feminism, it’s all on the man.  He has to meet all her needs first, no matter how outlandish they are, and then she’ll meet his needs in return, like a reward for letting her get her way.  He has to accept her the way she is, or the way she will let herself physically and emotionally become (if she gains weight or acquires a contentious spirit after marriage), and he can’t ask her to change because that would be uncomfortable for her to face her faults.  It’s the whole “Happy Wife, Happy Life,” meme… if “Mamma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy!”

And that is very true.  If the mom/wife decides to not be happy, to be miserable even though she has a good man, has a nice house, has more than enough money and has the blessings of children, then everyone in the house will suffer because of it.  It comes down to immaturity or lack of character.  If a woman cannot earnestly create a happy marriage with a normal, good man, then she is failing not only herself, but also her husband and even failing her children.

It’s my opinion that it’s fairly easy to create a happy marriage.

Unless you’re married to a AAA man who’s truly abusive, or an alcoholic, or a philanderer, (Abuse/Alcohol/Affairs), men are simple and are quite easy to make happy or content.  So the AAA issues aside, in my opinion, it’s the wife who has a lot of control in either creating or destroying their marriage from the inside out.  A woman who is not married to a AAA member, and who is still harping on minor things like jealousy over his hobbies, flying into emotional rages, making everyone miserable in her household, is selfish and has never learned how to become a mature woman.

This expectation that a wife needs to be mature, is something that society thinks is asking too much of her.  It’s the man’s responsibility to do everything the way she wants it right?  He’s supposed to make her happy… never mind that she actually controls her own happiness.

So it seems that not only must a woman pick well (avoid the AAA types and personalities), but also she must grow into maturity in order to accept her part in creating a beautiful marriage.

Back to feminist book I read a year ago, in describing the “New Woman in England,” the author talked about a Mona Caird, who was the first one to bring this issue to the public, and wrote an article in 1888 entitled, “Marriage,” that was published in the Westminister Review.  Her article received no less than 27,000 letters sent in as the public responded to her claims about marriage.

Caird pronounced marriage “a failure.”  Because a wife was still subject to a “system of purchase,” she was forced to develop her moral standards “in accordance with her servitude to man.”  A wife did not honor her own intelligence, education, or chastity, except to the extenet that it was “relative” to her husband.  …

Because the wife’s virtues “belong” to her husband, he sees himself “dishonoured” by any of her failings.  the idea that a man’s honor can be injured by his wife’s infidelity is, in Caird’s eyes, “a most naive proclamation of the theory of proprietorship.” …

Caird offered a number of radical proposals to alter this state of “degrading bondage” (aka marriage).  One solution was to reject marriage altogether.  this was the option taken by “an increasing number of women… refusing a life of comparative ease in marriage, rather than enter upon it as a means of livelihood, for which their freedom has to be sacrificed.”

I found in reading the short clips from the marriages that they could be separated into two groups: Happy or Miserable, and within the Miserable Marriage group, into 4 more separations: Abuse, Alcohol, Affairs, or Immaturity.  Here are some of these women’s personal thoughts from 1888.  I found them all fascinating, and it comforting to know that people really haven’t changed that much.  That even over 100 years ago, women were either capable of creating a beautiful marriage, or were only focused on themselves and whether or not all their circumstances were perfect.

Miserable Marriages in 1888:

“I must say I concur in the suggestion that greater facilities should be afforded for divorce.  Let me cite my own case.  My husband is a helpless drunkard.  It is true, he earns a good living and keeps me in comparative luxury; but is this an adequate consideration for the fact that i have to associate with a drunken, besotted husband five nights out of seven?”


“I should indeed be grateful to Mrs. Mona Caird, or to anybody else, who would show us unhappily married folk a decent way out of our difficulties.  Marriage, in my case, has been a miserable failure, simply because my husband and I do not suit each other.  Ours is a clear case of incompatibility, proved beyond all doubt by the almost daily jarring and wrangling of some fourteen years.…  We have both broken every vow we made to each other on our wedding day, save one; and being highly moral, if nothing else, we must still endure, wearing out our days in mutual misery, and darkening and embittering our children’s lives by a loveless and joyless home… ” -A TIRED WIFE

“I myself am a deserted wife, and my husband has treated me with exceptional contempt and unkindness, but I am proud to say that so great is my reverence for the sanctity of the marriage vow, that if my husband sent for me to return to him to-morrow, I would go, and with a hearty will and friendly affection strive to do my duty to him.  -A City Merchant’s Wife

“I married, unthinkingly, a man whom I did not love.  I thought that perhaps I might grow to care for him, but I did not do so….  As I am his wife, I consider that I ought to stay with him, but my whole soul revolts against being tied to a man for whom I have no particle of love, and who, in tastes, character, pursuits, is my direct opposite.  I reflect how much better a woman I should have been had love and not duty, ruled me…. ”  -MATRIMONIAL ADVENTURER

“My partner and I suffer from a total incompatibility of disposition.  We do not quarrel but there is an absolute want of sympathy – an absolute antipathy of every thought and feeling…  I believe there would be fewer fretful, unhappy, and brokendown wives if husbands would see that their wives had amusements and occupations, apart from domestic matters….  Another case of “Failure” in marriage is the objection English husbands have to their wives being independent in money matters… Few men realise how humiliating it is to a woman of independent spirit to ask for every sixpence, nor the spirit of bitterness and rebellion that it engenders….  ” -A LOST LIFE

The Happily Married women of 1888 who were part of the 27,000 letter response will be featured tomorrow, along with their secrets to what made a marriage happy even then.  Will it be the same things that make marriages happy today?

(Quotes and excerpt taken from A History of the Wife, by Marilyn Yalom)

2 thoughts on “1888 – Letters Show Women Who Create Happy Marriages Pick Well & Are Mature

  1. Pingback: 1888 – Happily Married Couples Respond to Article Calling Marriage a ‘Failure’ | girlwithadragonflytattoo

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