Marriage And Family In America Essays

Marriage And Family In America Essays-72
The Beechers’ definition of family suggests additional clusters of keywords.

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“Family” derives from the Latin , either in the sense of a group of servants or a group of blood-relations and servants living together in one house” (108).

By extension, “familiar” connoted feelings of friendship and intimacy born of “the experience of people living together in a household, in close relations with each other and well used to each other’s ways” (109).

In (1914), social reformer Margaret Sanger promoted birth control as a means of relieving poor women burdened with children.

But she came to envision it as a tool of eugenics meant to ensure that the “unfit”—poor immigrants and African Americans—would not reproduce.

Many African American writers of the period took as their subject the untangling of what Jacobs had called the “tangled skeins” of slave genealogies by reconstructing family lineages.

Here, too, writers often followed a normative impulse, reconstituting the family as bourgeois and patriarchal and emphasizing lineage and inheritance.Yet further analysis of alternative family structures complicates this opposition between norm and deviance, challenging conventional systems of classification and evaluation. law denied them the right to create families, rejecting both the legality of slave marriage and the legitimacy of its children. blacks in and out of slavery were able to form families, these were extended kin families, adapted from African culture (Sudarkasa 1988).Consider the history of the African American family. Bent on economic profit, slaveholders refused to acknowledge that slaves could experience familiarity, or feelings of intimacy, thereby justifying the separation of slave families. In (1861/2001), Harriet Jacobs described her childhood family as composed of a brother, an uncle, and a grandmother.Yet once again this family structure may be seen as deviant in its application to African Americans.In diminishing differences between whites and blacks, black families proved a powerful threat to the norms of white supremacy, premised on the assumption that families were normally white.From a more class-based perspective, the family has been seen as a social structure whose “happiness” (in the Beechers’ words) depends on the labor of servants; in direct contradiction to Williams’s , however, these servants are prohibited from establishing “relations of private intimacy” with their employers’ families (Beecher and Stowe 1869, 326).The nineteenth-century invention of the bourgeois family has obscured the history of other familial formations. “Family,” here and elsewhere, often functions as a code word intended to stigmatize the deviant, those who are placed beyond the norm by virtue of their race, sexuality, class, or other social identities. It is a significant point of reference in public policy, whether in debates over welfare, AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children), DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act), immigration laws, or, more generally, “family values.” The word has a long history in U. ” For them, the answer was self-evident: the family state consists of a “stronger and wiser” father who “undergoes toil and self-denial to provide a home,” a mother who becomes a “self-sacrificing laborer to train its inmates,” and the inmates themselves, children (18). This image of the family has persisted throughout U. history, reaching its apogee in the 1950s, the “golden age of the family” (Coontz 1992). It is a central topic in journalism, biography, autobiography, fiction, television sitcoms, theater, and film. In 1869, Catharine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe began their book by posing the question, “What, then, is the end designed by the family state?They both follow and counter the bourgeois family’s prescribed gender roles. Although female, her grandmother is the family’s economic provider yet simultaneously upholds the cult of true womanhood.If her adherence to true womanhood is normative, her application of it to slave women is deviant.


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