Marriage And Family In America Essays

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In (1914), social reformer Margaret Sanger promoted birth control as a means of relieving poor women burdened with children.

But she came to envision it as a tool of eugenics meant to ensure that the “unfit”—poor immigrants and African Americans—would not reproduce.

“Family” derives from the Latin , either in the sense of a group of servants or a group of blood-relations and servants living together in one house” (108).

By extension, “familiar” connoted feelings of friendship and intimacy born of “the experience of people living together in a household, in close relations with each other and well used to each other’s ways” (109).

Another cluster includes “home” and “domestic,” as the title of the Beechers’ book suggests.

The text itself pointedly distinguishes between “out-door,” where the father labors, and the “domestic home”—a physical and emotionally charged space—realized by his labor.These processes of inclusion and exclusion have frequently been rearticulated as a tension between “norm” and “deviance.” Family, it turns out, is not a private, but very much a public, affair. Working on topics ranging from gender and slavery to sentimentality and nationhood, they mined the archives—notably John Locke’s (1884/1972)—to trace the evolution of the family from the North American colonial period onward.In the 1970s and 1980s, feminist historians, anthropologists, and literary critics embarked on the critical process of questioning traditional norms by exposing the bourgeois family as a nineteenth-century invention (Coontz 1988; M. In the earlier periods, domestic home and workplace formed a single economic unit located in the household; whether working on farms or in trades, all of a family’s members—father, mother, and children—contributed to its sustenance. It is a significant point of reference in public policy, whether in debates over welfare, AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children), DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act), immigration laws, or, more generally, “family values.” The word has a long history in U. ” For them, the answer was self-evident: the family state consists of a “stronger and wiser” father who “undergoes toil and self-denial to provide a home,” a mother who becomes a “self-sacrificing laborer to train its inmates,” and the inmates themselves, children (18). This image of the family has persisted throughout U. history, reaching its apogee in the 1950s, the “golden age of the family” (Coontz 1992). It is a central topic in journalism, biography, autobiography, fiction, television sitcoms, theater, and film. In 1869, Catharine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe began their book by posing the question, “What, then, is the end designed by the family state?They both follow and counter the bourgeois family’s prescribed gender roles. Although female, her grandmother is the family’s economic provider yet simultaneously upholds the cult of true womanhood.If her adherence to true womanhood is normative, her application of it to slave women is deviant.Yet further analysis of alternative family structures complicates this opposition between norm and deviance, challenging conventional systems of classification and evaluation. law denied them the right to create families, rejecting both the legality of slave marriage and the legitimacy of its children. blacks in and out of slavery were able to form families, these were extended kin families, adapted from African culture (Sudarkasa 1988).Consider the history of the African American family. Bent on economic profit, slaveholders refused to acknowledge that slaves could experience familiarity, or feelings of intimacy, thereby justifying the separation of slave families. In (1861/2001), Harriet Jacobs described her childhood family as composed of a brother, an uncle, and a grandmother.This threat has echoed through the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.Even progressive public policymakers have not been able to discard binaristic notions in relation to the black family.


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