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Wedded Wife: A Feminist History of Marriage (Hardcover)
In this fascinating and insightful book, feminist curator Rachael Lennon provides an intimate and intersectional examination of the history of marriage, with a focus on the UK.
In this fascinating feminist history, Rachael Lennon tells a remarkable story of how this institution has developed from the ancient customs of the stone age through to the modern form it takes today.
In this eminently readable and relatable study, Lennon also explores themes such as the pressure to marry, the politics surrounding proposals, the spectacle of marriage, the business behind it, and the politics tied to consummation as well as issues such as taking a man’s name, the nuances of marriage vows and obedience, ‘having it all’ and trying to keep up the fight to have an enduring marriage.
Having married her wife just a few years after the legalisation of same sex marriage in the United Kingdom, Lennon interweaves her own personal experiences of marriage with stories and anecdotes from throughout history to explore how marriage has transformed over the years.
In shaking off patriarchal expectations, Rachael examines marriage’s troubling past and celebrates a more joyful present, celebrating the feminist activists who have fought to make marriage a pure and equitable celebration of love, open to everyone regardless of gender or sexuality.
She also asks what compels us to keep making this choice? Can we let go of the gendered baggage that we have inherited? Can we hold true to feminist values as we commit to our partners? And what does that look like? How can we build on the past to continue to redefine marriage for the future?
About the Author
Rachael Lennon was the National Trust’s co-founder of the revisionist Challenging Histories programme which Clare Balding claimed “will change the way history is written and thought about from this point onwards”. Having grown up understanding that marriage was only for a man and a woman, she married her wife Claire in Northumberland in 2017 - just 3 years after the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the UK. Rachael lives in Durham with her wife and daughter.
'Rachael Lennon demonstrates how the personal really is political in women’s history in linking her own wedding to the history of marriage. Thought provoking and engaging, this is an account of private love and historical connections.' Philippa Gregory
'A fascinating book, which treads a new path through the history of marriage from a feminist perspective, Wedded Wife is eminently readable, and in places, darkly funny. The prose is at once well-paced and reflective, as Lennon weaves her own personal experience of proposal and marriage into the narrative. There is something for everybody here, from the voices of those women in the past who dared to challenge their lot, to the surprisingly recent invention of much that we consider "traditional".' Chloe Duckworth
'Illuminated by wide reading, Lennon interweaves her own experience of marrying her wife in 2017 with past stories – like diarist Anne Lister’s private marriage ceremony in 1834. Lennon makes clear: ‘we remember that there is no one way… to live a marriage’.' Dr Jill Liddington, author of As Good as Marriage: The Anne Lister Diaries 1836–38
'Lennon courageously lays bare the truth about our historical understanding of marriage, dispelling various fairytale myths and highlighting how it has often, through the centuries, subjugated generations of women. In drawing on her own experience of marrying her wife, she reignites the hope that marriage can indeed be a celebration of the bond that is willingly entered in to by two equals who love each other.' Jayne Ozanne
“Lennon is adept at weaving together individual stories and historical records in a way that is simultaneously entertaining and thought-provoking.”—Rachel Cunliffe, New Statesman