Family, Marriage, and Parenthood

By Howard Becker; Reuben Hill | Go to book overview

sex to rule over others. Unsatisfied with this invective, he went on to give wholesale condemnation of women, quoting Scripture, philosophers, Church Fathers, and writers from the Greek period to his own day in proof of the sin and foolishness of woman, who should recognize her subordinate place under the rule of the man.152 Children too had to recognize their place. In Calvin's view, they were to be ruled with a rod of iron and kept submissive; disobedience (as prescribed by the Old Testament) could be punished even with death.153 Judging from the evidence at hand, there is little to show that this harsh rule was often put into actual practice.

The Renaissance led to an increasing refinement of manners. Books of etiquette became popular, enabling the newly formed bourgeoisie to aspire to a higher social position.154 Among aristocratic circles in the Italian cities women were given many new rights and privileges, particularly education in arts and letters, and social life was much freer than it had been in previous generations. There is little to show that this change affected the common people. Courtly manners, however, finally made their way northward into France and the northern countries, where they finally flowered in the salon life of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Under this new sensitiveness the older habits of the nobles, who ate like peasants in the Middle Ages, gradually began to take on a somewhat more aesthetic tone.155 The romantic ideal became greatly strengthened until Castiglione went so far as to say that a court lady should love the man she was going to marry.156 This was still an exception to the general rule of marriage by convenience, although it showed which way the wind was blowing. On the other hand, the legal status of woman was not raised any higher and in some respects was even lowered, since the dower (or right of the wife to one third of the husband's property at his death) was no longer considered obligatory. This meant that the husband could now leave his entire property to someone else if he chose to do so.157


SUMMARY

Between the barbarians who roamed the forests of Europe before the coming of the Romans and the colonists who set sail from England for the shores of America was a family development of a thousand years or more. Matriarchalism gave way to patriarchalism, while the consanguine form, after a period of transition, was supplanted by a permanent conjugal pattern. Migration and the wandering of people brought the need for a stricter control on behavior. At first this was enforced by the warrior chief, who

____________________
152
Helen C. White, Social Criticism in Popular Religious Literature of the Sixteenth Century ( New York: Macmillan, 1944), p. 161.
153
Calhoun, op. cit., p. 47.
154
Goodsell, op. cit., p. 253.
155
Charles Seignobos, The Evolution of the French People, translated by Catherine Alison Phillips ( New York: Knopf, 1932), pp. 228-229.
156
Count Baldesar Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier, translated by Leonard Eckstein Opdycke ( New York: Horace Liveright, 1929), p. 222.
157
Goodsell, op. cit., pp. 257-258.

-127-

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