Women without Husbands: An Exploration of the Margins of by Joan Chandler

By Joan Chandler

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Trost (1985) identified two types of cohabitation in nineteenth-century Sweden which were linked to class culture. There were bourgeois couples who had a conscientious objection to the religious control of marriage. By contrast, among the poor, and especially the migrants seeking work in a growing industrial economy, marriage was rejected not through principle but because the couple were insufficiently well-off to establish and sustain a durable household. This historical distinction is also relevant today.

Waters (1989) sharpens the distinction in describing changes in the masculine gender system. He suggests that in modern society, as power has moved from the private to the public domain, the system of gender control has also changed. It has moved from 'patriarchy', Conceptual themes and issues 47 rule by heads of extended families, to 'viriarchy', rules by adult males, whose power is independent of kinship structures. In developing her model of patriarchy Walby (1990) comes to similar conclusions.

For those with significant amounts of property, the preparation for a divorce may begin with men hiding family assets and women hiring financial detectives. Women's greater participation in paid employment has led them to be considered economically self-sufficient and lessened their claim to continued financial support from former husbands. The emphasis on assets has replaced that on alimony and there is a widespread desire, wherever possible, for divorce to produce a clean financial break from marriage.

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