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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 173 pages of information about Getting Married.
husband.  From both classes may, perhaps, be subtracted for the present the large proportion of women who could not afford the extra expense of one or more children.  I say “perhaps,” because it is by no means sure that within reasonable limits mothers do not make a better fight for subsistence, and have not, on the whole, a better time than single women.  In any case, we have two distinct cases to deal with:  the superfluous and the voluntary; and it is the voluntary whose grit we are most concerned to fertilize.  But here, again, we cannot put our finger on any particular case and pick out Miss Robinson’s as superfluous, and Miss Wilkinson’s as voluntary.  Whether we legitimize the child of the unmarried woman as a duty to the superfluous or as a bribe to the voluntary, the practical result must be the same:  to wit, that the condition of marriage now attached to legitimate parentage will be withdrawn from all women, and fertile unions outside marriage recognized by society.  Now clearly the consequences would not stop there.  The strong-minded ladies who are resolved to be mistresses in their own houses would not be the only ones to take advantage of the new law.  Even women to whom a home without a man in it would be no home at all, and who fully intended, if the man turned out to be the right one, to live with him exactly as married couples live, would, if they were possessed of independent means, have every inducement to adopt the new conditions instead of the old ones.  Only the women whose sole means of livelihood was wifehood would insist on marriage:  hence a tendency would set in to make marriage more and more one of the customs imposed by necessity on the poor, whilst the freer form of union, regulated, no doubt, by settlements and private contracts of various kinds, would become the practice of the rich:  that is, would become the fashion.  At which point nothing but the achievement of economic independence by women, which is already seen clearly ahead of us, would be needed to make marriage disappear altogether, not by formal abolition, but by simple disuse.  The private contract stage of this process was reached in ancient Rome.  The only practicable alternative to it seems to be such an extension of divorce as will reduce the risks and obligations of marriage to a degree at which they will be no worse than those of the alternatives to marriage.  As we shall see, this is the solution to which all the arguments tend.  Meanwhile, note how much reason a statesman has to pause before meddling with an institution which, unendurable as its drawbacks are, threatens to come to pieces in all directions if a single thread of it be cut.  Ibsen’s similitude of the machine-made chain stitch, which unravels the whole seam at the first pull when a single stitch is ripped, is very applicable to the knot of marriage.

REMOTENESS OF THE FACTS FROM THE IDEAL

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