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History of the Wife Hardcover – Feb 2001

4 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (Feb. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060193387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060193386
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3.6 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,910,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Synopsis

From Eve to breadwinner, this title traces the history of the wife in Western society, charting the change in the status of women from mere chattels to equal partners in companionate marriage with control of their own property. Drawing on sources such as myth, letters, diaries and legal documents, it examines shifts in the marital relationship from the ancient world to the second half of the 20th century. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Format: Hardcover
Drawing on a wealth of diverse sources, from the Bible to the unpublished letters and diaries of women down the centuries, Marilyn Yalom has produced a highly readable account of marriage through the ages.
One of the most noticable features of her work is that, from biblical times until the middle of the 20th century, the position of women in marriage hardly altered. The medieval wife, under the rule of her husband and forever called upon to support his ventures, would have been able to recognise the 1930s' 'angel in the house' whose prime function (as far as her husband was concerned) was to keep house and produce children.
The drawback with this study starts in Yalom's coverage of the 19th century, when she focuses almost exclusively on the lives of American women. On entering the 20th century, it is as if the First World War never happened as she launches straight into the changing roles of women during and after the Second World War.
Despite this, A History of the Wife is intelligently written and will be of interest to anyone who wants to know more about the experience and representation of married women thoughout history.
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Format: Hardcover
For anyone interested in social history, especially the development of the family and gender issues, this book is a great read. It is full of real life examples of the changing role of women, which makes it a very easy to read and enjoyable book. It is not heavy going or at all dull. The author uses real letters, diaries and illustrations to bring the history to life, and it is hard not to relate to the lives of the female characters used as examples in the chapters, even though some of them lived centuries ago.

The author begins in Ancient Roman times and brings the subject matter right up to the present day, focusing on the role of women in the family in Europe and North America. The chapters on Medieval and Tudor periods I found particularly interesting, mainly because they clearly show that women in those days did much more than care for the family, and in fact were instrumental in ecomomic and industrial development.
I took a social history module as part of my degree, and have always wanted to find a good introductory book on the development of the family. Highly recommended as an introduction to social and demographic history for non-scholars.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9853cd2c) out of 5 stars 31 reviews
45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97b6c1bc) out of 5 stars A fabulous book for anyone interested in social history 17 April 2001
By Courtney L. Lewis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I had actually pre-ordered this book since several early reviews had me drooling over the topic. Women's history is a passionate topic of mine and I was interested to see how the author would tackle such a complicated issue as marriage throughout the ages. Yalom was clearly up to the task! Her prose is witty and smooth while her research bears up under close scrutiny. Clearly such a mammoth undertaking as studying "the wife" in every society could not have been attempted in a mere 400 pages, so she does concentrate on Western society. Nevertheless, her scope is enormous, beginning with pre-history and leading up to the late 1990s. She does a marvelous job combining scholarly work with personal diaries and anecdotes, as well as the analysis of art and other cultural references.
Two things struck me while reading it: 1) I never thought "Well, this is getting a little dry" and 2) Everything old is new again, since many of the struggles women have today are continual themes that have existed for hundreds of years. I definitely appreciated her broadening the scope of "wife" to include other types of romantic partners in the last chapter during her analysis of the latter half of the twentieth century. Yalom's "History of the Breast" is waiting in the wings for me to read. I just wonder what's next - "History of the Child"? "History of the Daughter"? Whatever topic she chooses, I'll purchase it!
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98539a50) out of 5 stars History of the Wife reviewed by a Husband 20 Mar. 2001
By Robert Busko - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Marilyn Yalom is a compassionate author filled with passion. History of the Wife grabs the reader and moves them from a discussion of wives of Greece to the modern, liberated, opinionated, and hard working version today. Along the way the reader is rewarded with diary accounts that supports the general premise that women have been historically treated as second, third and fourth class citizens. She points out, perhaps accidently, that each age has seen the advancement of wives from persons of no rights to individuals fully functional in todays world. The book deals with European wives as well as wives on the North American continent. Also included in this latter group are slave wives and native american wives.
All together this is the kind of history book that Barbara Tuckman or Fernand Braudel would have enjoyed writing and reading. Filled with insights galore. I loved it.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97da5024) out of 5 stars a balanced perspective 17 May 2001
By Karen Sampson Hudson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"A History of the Wife," by noted Stanford scholar Marilyn Yalom, is a delightful trip across many centuries. As the mother of three twenty-something unmarried daughters, I'm thankful for the perspective it offers. Yalom writes with balance and humor, and her work will enable the reader to learn in-depth about the varied attitudes toward courtship, marriage, and the role of the wife, in other times and places. As a Lay Carmelite, I was especially intrigued by the Puritans, who placed a high value on mutual love, but emphasized that love should not be confused with romantic passion, and was never meant to rival the love of God. Yalom calls their approach "affection in harmony with duty and reason." As a veteran of a marriage of more than thirty years' duration, I would heartily concur with that description, and would hope that my daughters enter into such satisfying and enduring unions.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x11815780) out of 5 stars An interesting read for all women 22 Mar. 2003
By Stephanie Manley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book. I have to give it four stars at it really only includes anglo western women. This gives little detail for women of the East, Africian nations, or even indiginous people of the Americas. With that being said the book is highly informative and goes through marriage through times. Attention is given to the Greek, Roman, Western European wives, then off to America and how American women's lives have changed.
This book explores what typically was an arranged marriage for family prestige and gain, until it became a love match. Wives roles were more than simply taking care of the house and children through out time. Wives often ran a husbands business, and was even a requirement for some careers.
While this book may have been written from a feminist point of view, I believe this book can be read by all who want to know about the role of a wife from a historical standpoint. Its a wonderful thought provoking read that will leave you thankful you live in the modern age.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97e0ceb8) out of 5 stars Good book for history lovers 5 Aug. 2006
By Le Basha - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The title of the book is a little bit misleading; I was under the impression, when I bought the book, that it is going to tackle the history of the wife from a world historical perspective or at least from an overall western perspective. However, the book focuses mainly on the US and Britain and it touches a little bit on the Roman and Greek civilizations. Even the Church does not get as much coverage as it should have had since the Church played a big role in defining marriage the way we know it today in the Christian world.

Having said all that, I still enjoyed reading this book for the amount of historical events that it contains from Europe and the US. It is easy to read and follow and Marilyn Yalom focuses more on showing what women thought and experienced throughout history in their own words than on her own thoughts and hypothesis, which is good because she allows the reader to participate in the analysis of the events.

A good book and I recommend it if you are interested in learning about the evolution of the woman's place in society in Europe and the US.

(Some people might find all the text about history a little hard to read (in other words a bit boring) but if you're a history lover then you'll enjoy it and if you are interested in the woman's movement then this is the book for you)
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