General History/life in the 1800's
Kimberly T wrote at 2013-05-14 20:54:47
To add to the above:
As the nineteenth century progressed the middle class grew greatly. With men earning more money the relationships between husband and wife started to change from economic partnerships to romantic partnerships. Art work of the day shows the transition from the 18th century (1700s) family where the man often stood seperate from his wife and children to the 19th century family often depicting a close family unit, with the father more involved and more "love" being apparent. Romance novels grew (both men and women in early U.S. could read for it is a Protestant mandate to read and study the bible) in popularity and young people more often picked their spouse (as opposed to the parents).
Industrialism saw the rise of many factories and with it more and more women, and children, began to work outside of the home. Many people flocked to the cities to find work, resulting in young middle class people being able to have greater life choices including n relationships, as they were not as closely monitored by parents.
Women were still inferior to men. Upper class women who likely received formal schooling were most often schooled in topics to make them a better wife, and not with the intention of schooling for careers. As mentioned above, when women were married their property and many rights went to the husband (this is known as coverture). For the wealthy this meant that a man could marry a women and receive the wealth and property she had previously inherited from her father. Inheritance laws began to change during the nineteenth century depending on juristiction. Women could now claim rights to property and create wills, previously only a widowed woman with no sons would inherit her husbands land, or daughters with no brothers.
The nineteenth century really saw a change for the positive in the rights of women (ie. Married Women's Property Acts 1839-).
Seduction law suits were also on the rise in the nineteenth century. Previously if a woman got pregnant out of wedlock they would almost always be married by the time of the child's birth. With increased urbanization and less familial, paternal oversight their was an increase in unmarried pregnancy and premarital sex. To rectify the damage done to a woman's (and her families) reputation, the father could sue the male perpetrator, the rise of such suits speak volumes of societal changes and independent actions of younger generations.
So as for you question, women could choose who they wanted to marry but were likely still pressured by their fathers especially in upper society. More people married for love as we see the rise of the "sentimental family." Dating became more prominent as young people flocked to cities and popular culture and recreation emerged (places like a main street promenade, Coney island and Beach side piers, theatrical shows such as buffalo bill's and playhouses- but such things were considered risque and not for the upper classes). Women received more marital rights and property rights, and more and more worked outside of the home.