July 25, 2008, Newsletter Issue #94: The History of Marriage

Tip of the Week

Humankind has always formed family units in order to survive. Marriage was a way of legally formalising the agreements between families when a woman was passed from the protection of her father to her husband.

This agreement was usually accompanied by financial arrangements, sometimes in the form of a dowry given to the husband for his wife's keep. In return, the wife had no rights to property, children, or refusal to engage in sex with her husband. In areas of England , wives were even sold between men in a crude form of divorce.

New York was the first US state to pass a Married Woman’s Property Act, entitling women to the ownership of property, sign contracts, and keep wages they earned. In 1978, New York became the first state to outlaw rape in marriage.

Since the early part of the 20th century, marriage has evolved into a formal recognition of emotional commitment. One of the positive gay marriage facts is that, as ideas of gender and possession are different in a gay marriage, the custom will evolve further away from its tradition of ownership.

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