Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Great Marital Freedom Fighters

The following excerpt is from pages 77-78 of Elizabeth Gilbert's new book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage:
     "One of my personal hero-couples of the marital freedom movement were a pair named Lillian Harman and Edwin Walker, of the great state of Kansas circa 1887.  Lillian was a suffragette and the daughter of a noted anarchist; Edwin was a progressive journalist and feminist sympathizer.  They were made for each other.  When they fell in love and decided to seal their relationship, they visited neither minister nor judge, but entered instead into what they called an 'autonomistic marriage.'  They created their own wedding vows, speaking during the ceremony about the absolute privacy of their union, and swearing that Edwin would not dominate his wife in any way, nor would she take his name. Moreover, Lillian refused to swear eternal loyalty to Edwin, but stated firmly that she would 'make no promises that it may become impossible or immoral for me to fulfill, but retain the right to act always as my conscience and best judgment shall dictate.'
     It goes without saying that Lillian and Edwin were arrested for this flouting of convention--and on their wedding night, no less... The pair were charged with failure to respect license and ceremony, with one judge stating that 'the union between E.C. Walker and Lillian Harman is no marriage, and they deserve all the punishment which has been inflicted upon them.'"

This case is a perfect example of how far the evolution of marriage has moved in terms of what society now accepts, or rather, tolerates.  Cohabitation is fast becoming the norm as well as an individual's choice to remain unmarried.  Both choices are often frowned upon by the larger portion of society but the difference is that unlike our forefathers/mothers, cohabitation has been decriminalized.  Yet, we still have a long way to go.  If you're interested in learning more about the evolution and revolution of the Marital Freedom Movement, Elizabeth Gilbert does an astounding job of presenting research and insights from different cultures across the world.