Added: December 3, 2016 – Last updated: December 3, 2016


Author: Robin C. Sager

Title: Marital Cruelty in Antebellum America

Subtitle: -

Place: Baton Rouge, LA

Publisher: Lousiana State University Press

Year: 2016

Pages: 216pp.

Series: Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War

ISBN-13: 9780807163108 (cloth) – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat | ISBN-13: 9780807163122 (EPUB) – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat | ISBN-13: 9780807163115 (PDF) – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat | ISBN-13: 9780807163139 (mobi) – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 19th Century | American History: U.S. History | Types: Marital Rape



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  Acknowledgments (p. vii)
  Introduction (p. 1)
  Chapter 1. “As Much Pain as Blows and Kicks”: The Verbal Cruelties of Husbands and Wives (p. 13)
  Chapter 2. “A Kind of Hell upon Earth”: The Physical Cruelties of Husbands and Wives (p. 38)
  Chapter 3. “Every Twenty-Four Hours and Almost Every Day”: Sexual Mistreatment (p. 65)
  Chapter 4. “The Poison That Maddened His Brain”: Drunkenness and Neglect (p. 81)
  Chapter 5. “I Did Not Come to Quarrel”: Community Responses to Perceived Abuses (p. 109)
  Conclusion (p. 138)
  Note on Sources and Methodology (p. 141)
  Notes (p. 145)
  Bibliography (p. 173)
  Index (p. 189)


»In Marital Cruelty in Antebellum America, Robin C. Sager probes the struggles of aggrieved spouses shedding light on the nature of marriage and violence in the United States in the decades prior to the Civil War. Analyzing over 1,500 divorce records that reveal intimate details of marriages in conflict in Virginia, Texas, and Wisconsin from 1840–1860, Sager offers a rare glimpse into the private lives of ordinary Americans shaken by accusations of cruelty.
At a time when the standard for an ideal marriage held that both partners adequately perform their respective duties, hostility often arose from ongoing domestic struggles for power. Despite a rise in the then novel expectation of marriage as a companionate relationship, and even in the face of liberalized divorce grounds, marital conflicts often focused on violations of duty, not lack of love. Sager describes how, in this environment, cruelty was understood as a failure to fulfill expectations and as a weapon to brutally enforce more traditional interpretations of marital duty.
Sager’s findings also challenge historical literature’s assumptions about the regional influences on violence, showing that married southerners were no more or less violent than their midwestern counterparts. Her work reveals how definitions and perceptions of cruelty varied according to the gender of victim and perpetrator. Correcting historical mischaracterizations of women’s violence as trivial, rare, or defensive, Sager finds antebellum wives both capable and willing to commit a wide variety of cruelties within their marriages. Her research provides details about the reality of nineteenth-century conjugal unions, including the deep unhappiness buried within them.« (Source: Lousiana State University Press)


Harris, Leslie J. H-SHEAR (September 2016). – Full Text: H-Net Reviews (Free Access)

Silver, Lindsay A. »Duty over Love: Charges of Cruelty in Antebellum Divorce.« Civil War Book Review 18(4) (Fall 2016). – Full Text: Civil War Book Review (Free Access)

Wikipedia: History of the Americas: History of the United States / History of the United States (1849–65) | Types of rape: Marital rape