History of the Wife Hardcover – 1 Feb 2001
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About the Author
Marilyn Yalom is a former professor of French and a senior scholar at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University. She is the author of widely acclaimed books such as A History of the Breast, A History of the Wife, Birth of the Chess Queen, and, most recently, How the French Invented Love. She lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband, psychiatrist and author Irvin D. Yalom. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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!
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.
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.
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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