Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Beloved Strangers: Interfaith Families in Nineteenth-Century America

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Beloved Strangers: Interfaith Families in Nineteenth-Century America

Article excerpt

Beloved Strangers: Interfaith Families in Nineteenth-Century America. By Anne C. Rose. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 2001. Pp. xiii, 288. $39.95.)

Beloved Strangers examines twenty-six interfaith (i.e., Catholic, Protestant, Jewish) couples in eighteen extended families who married between 1815 and 1917. Sixteen of the twenty-six couples considered have a Catholic partner (fourteen Catholics marry Protestants, two Catholics marry Jews); three of the Catholic partners are grooms and thirteen are brides. The families considered are middle class and articulate. The twenty-six interfaith couples represent every section of the United States except the far west, but the majority of the couples are from the Middle States and New England. The names of many of the couples and extended families would be familiar to students of United States history, and some, for example, William Tecumseh Sherman (U.S. general), Stephen A. Douglas (U.S. senator), Joel Chandler Harris (author of Uncle Remus), and Charles S. Peirce (philosopher), are well known. The study is based primarily on an extensive examination of letters and family manuscripts (in several archival collections) and some personal publications. Seventy-eight pages of thorough endnotes enable readers to track the author's sources.

Through a close examination of the interfaith marriages the author illustrates how American family life adapted to liberalism, individualism, diversity, and an open society. Fiction and journalism dealing with interfaith marriage published contemporaneously with the lives of the couples described is employed skillfully to illustrate the correspondence between what was occurring in the couples' lives and in American culture. The changing attitudes and pastoral accommodations of religious leaders to interfaith marriage are linked with the developments revealed by the "thick description" of the eighteen extended families. Professor Rose's narrative skill and mastery of the family manuscripts will give readers a sense that they are part of these families, as they live out the challenges and joys of interfaith marriage.

The tone of Beloved Strangers is favorable to interfaith marriages. …

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