62 pages 2 hours read

Kate Moore

The Woman They Could Not Silence: One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom, and the Men Who Tried to Make Her Disappear

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 2021

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Background

Socio-Historical Context: Rights of Women with Respect to Autonomy and Marriage

Gender roles were clearly delineated in mid-19th century America, and set standards based on the culture’s collective values were expected to be upheld, particularly by middle- and upper-class men and women. Women were meant to be gentle, kind, demure, deferential, forgiving, nurturing, and loyal to their domestic sphere. Men were meant to be the protectors and supporters of their wives and other dependents, assuming responsibility for major life decisions on the presumption of their inherent wisdom and the guidance that they were thought suited to provide. While neither legally nor socially equal, these roles were thought to complement each other and believed to result in the mutual support and love experienced in an ideal marriage. Many men took to heart these expectations of them and tried their best to embody these values and act accordingly in their relationships with themselves and others. As is often the case where unequal power dynamics exist, many others either consciously or otherwise took advantage of their privilege. Disproportionately, women were held to their prescribed standards to the letter, while deviation from what was expected of men was accepted with greater leniency. Thus, pervasive hypocrisy permeated many 19th-century marriages.

Coverture laws also placed women at a significant disadvantage; when a woman married during this period, most state and federal laws dictated that her personal property became that of her husband and that she, as a person, became a subordinate extension of him.

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