Saturday, November 29, 2008

Vive Le Mariage!

My hubby got a great book recently that was supposed to be one of my Christmas gifts, but patience is a condition with which I rarely suffer, so—with my wonderful enabling husband’s OK--I opened the heaviest present I got this year.

It is one of those huge coffee table books titled The New York Times: The Complete Front Pages: 1851-2008. The book itself does not contain every front page of the NYT ever printed (being as how the cover of the book says there are 54,267 front pages included; they have included inside the book itself selected dates of important events such as the Civil War, World Wars I & II, September 11, etc.), but the book also comes with 3 CDs from which you can pick nearly any date from 1851 to April, 2008, and view the front pages on your computer. Because, as with most newspapers, the front pages rarely contain entire articles, and refer you to pages further inside the newspaper, there are links that allow you to view—-as Paul Harvey says--“the rest of the story”--that begin on the front pages. The only problem with accessing anything beyond the first page is that you must either have or be willing to buy a subscription to the NYT. I may yet do it, but just seeing the headlines & the pictures (some of the older editions of which are unavoidably grainy & of poor quality) of past historical events & reading (even the partial) articles & noting how the writing styles have changed through the years is interesting enough to me, even if I don’t buy a subscription!

I went looking through the book & found the pages from my birthday (October 17, 1962), my husband’s birthday (April 2, 1976) & my mom’s birthday (February 12, 1938). It was while reading the page from my mom’s b-day that, below the fold (as they say in the newspaper biz), I found a news story that really caught my eye.

We’ve all been hearing for a good long time now about the “sanctity of marriage” & how important so many people think it is to keep marriage in its pristine traditional form. Considering the foregoing, I got a real kick reading this article from over 70 years ago, that shows how drastically the “obviously” frail institution of marriage has changed in just a relatively short span of human history. I know it deals with marriages in France, but it gives you an idea how marriage has indeed evolved not just here in the U.S. of A., but around the world.

Reading this article, it seems to me that a there have certainly been a few tweaks here & there to the “marriage contract” through the years, and so far it’s survived pretty well. Allowing me to marry the person I love seems to me to just be a logical next step…then again, why drag inconvenient logic into the marriage equality argument???

Hope you find this article as interesting as I did (in case the copy of the actual article is a little difficult to read, I have typed it up), and that you see, too, how sometimes, just because things are the way they are, doesn’t mean it’s right.

From the February 12, 1938 edition of The New York Times:

French Bill Drops ‘Obey’ in Marriage Vow,
Gives Wives Independent Legal Status

PARIS, Feb. 11 – French wives will no longer be obliged to promise to obey, it is provided in a bill passed by the Chamber of Deputies without debate early this morning. The bill, originating in the Senate, contains many other reforms in the status of married women which go further, some feminists believe, in their emancipation than if it gave French women the vote.

Under the French civil code to date a wife has been under the supervision of her husband almost to the same extent as minor children. Unless otherwise stipulated in the marriage contract, she could bring legal action only with her husband’s authorization, sign checks on her own bank account only with his countersignature and make a will, dispose of her goods or make a contract only with his approval. The bill passed today permits her to do all these things in her own right with the condition that she must not thereby pledge the family fortune in any way.

As to the marriage service, French brides used to be told on their wedding day by the Mayor: “The husband owes protection to his wife and the wife obedience to her husband.” Now he will say: “The husband is the head of the family.”

The old law forbade a wife to bring legal action without her husband’s authorization, even when she was authorized to have a separate business property. The new bill states that a married woman shall enjoy full independent exercise of her civil status. This cannot be restricted except by special legal provisions or by stipulations in the marriage contract.

French women, who since the war have faced a scarcity of husbands, complain frequently that men will not marry unless they obtain full charge of the community property in the marriage contract. Despite the new bill, this feature of the marital status stands.

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