I did, and then I didn’t: Being a divorced twenty-something at Positive and Promise

Cross-posted from: Positive & Promise
Originally published: 25.01.14

I have decided that my goal will be to update Positive and Promise by Monday, at least every other week. Originally, I thought Sunday night might make a nice, tidy deadline, but, let’s face it, I am watching “Downton Abbey” on Sunday nights. And, if I can catch up soon enough, I will be watching “Sherlock” as well. One has to manage one’s priorities responsibly.

Generally, I also will do my best to alternate more somber posts, like the one from last week, with pieces that are more light-hearted. But everything that follows has been on my mind for some time now, and I would like to put it into words.

Writing this piece will be simplest if I begin with the absolute basics:

When I was twenty-three years old, I got engaged to my college boyfriend. When I was twenty-five years old, I married him. Ten months later, we legally separated. A little over a year after we married, our divorce became official.

Anyone who has been in my shoes knows that a whirlwind marriage is anything but uncomplicated, even if it is only a brief foray into the world of matrimony. For one thing, like most people who decide to marry, I entered into marriage with the full intention of remaining married. But before long, I realized that I had been ill-equipped to make the promises that accompany marriage – even though I was positively chomping at the bit to make them.

Read more I did, and then I didn’t: Being a divorced twenty-something at Positive and Promise


Cross-posted from: Suppressed Histories Archives

The Private War of Mrs. Packard by Barbara Sapinsley is a classic case of the legal subjugation of women in Euro/American society, a legacy of Pauline scripture and medieval law all the way through Blackstone and the Napoleonic code. An Illinois housewife in Kankakee, married to a  Calvinist minister, dared to disagree with the dogma of humankind’s “total depravity” (by original sin) and to refuse the absolute obedience that her husband demanded.

After browbeating her for years, in 1860 Theophilus Packard had his wife  forcibly removed from home and locked up in a mental hospital for years. Illinois law, as of 1851, allowed husbands absolute authority to do this,  without any restraint whatsoever: “Married women and infants who, in the judgment of the medical superintendent of the state asylum at Jacksonville, are evidently insane or distracted [i.e., distressed or upset] may be entered or detained in the hospital at the request of the husband of the woman or the guardian of the infant, without the evidence of insanity required in other cases.” [p. 66]

There was ample precedent for this in the chattel status and legal minority of women in most European law. The medieval term for it was couverture; the male literally covered the woman, eclipsing her personhood, her name, and her rights with his own privilege as head of household. Countless laws allowed him to beat, to “chastise” and “correct” his wife (and children), with the smug approval of church and state. He had absolute control over her body, her property, and her children.