State of 'The Union': Marriage and Free Love in the Late 1800s.

Author:Hall, David S.
Position:Book review

State of 'The Union': Marriage and Free Love in the Late 1800s Sandra Ellen Schroer Routledge, New York, 2005 111 pages plus bibliography and index ISBN 0-415-97594-8

This small book, part of the Routledge Studies in American Popular History and Culture series, is a sociological dissertation on the Free Love movement in the last half of the 1800s. Dr. Schroer has joined the editorial board of this Journal and I am pleased to have had the opportunity to read this interesting study.

Dr. Schroer searched for, found, and studied eleven of the thirteen periodicals on the subject of Free Love that were mentioned in her extensive literature search on the subject. The peak of the Free Love movement was during the years 1850 to 1902 and she read all 757 issues found from this period. This reading revealed the vast difference in these publications and her subsequent content analysis was based on three of these, Discontent, Age of Freedom and Good Time Coming.

From this sub-sample, she collected 241 articles for Content Analysis. In separate chapters she analyzed the male, female and gender unknown authors of the articles on a series of nine topics. In the final chapter, she compares the two gendered view points. Needless to say, they were very different, although both were supportive of Free Love.

The social context was one in which the developing Free Love communities were being criticized by the larger society, mostly on the moral basis of "sexual variety", which was considered appalling. This was the topic covered by the smallest number of articles in the sample. Marriage was the topic most discussed, with Free Love second and women's equality third.

The initial question guiding the research was:

Why were women and men involved in the Free Love movement of the mid- to late 1800s?

Four issues were key for both men and women, Free Love as a human right and a search for community; Free Love in its connection to...

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