Marriage a requirement not a choice

Marriage has only in recent years become a more back burner idea to education. During our research in the archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society I came across a note that was written in the 1930s and a part of the collection of the Gladys Splinter notes from her days at school. When reading this note it talks about a man named Elmer Zilch for president. That if he is elected, he promises them husbands. It then goes on to say that the girls should not all rush to the polls. When reading this note it reminded me of a book we read earlier this semester called Mountain Wolf Woman: A Ho-Chunk Girlhood. The book was written by Diane Young Holliday. When comparing the note from the Gladys Splinter collection to the book Mountain Wolf Woman: A Ho-Chunk Girlhood I saw major similarities in the fact that girls were expected to marry young and have no argument about it.

Marrying young was a custom in the olden days but it did not mean it was well liked or enjoyed. In Mountain Wolf Woman’s story she was expected to leave school and get married because that is what her brother instructed her to do. It was custom for the Ho-Chunk that the brothers pick their sisters husbands. In the book, Mountain Wolf Woman, expresses her greatest sadness at the fact that she had to leave school and get married while still being a teenager. She also got no say in the matter. She had not even finished sixth grade but it was not the norm in this time for school to come first or even really be a priority. Education as quoted from the keywords test, “The formation of individuals for the benefit of society” (Nel and Paul 70). Education was a way of training girls for the bettering of society and not for the uses of knowledge itself. School was only instructed to train girls for what comes next which in this case is marriage. The note even though it was written in the 1930s it was still custom for girls to get married at a young age. In this note, one can assume, that she is being sarcastic and pointing out the dislike she has for this candidate. She is portraying her feelings toward a person who would guarantee husbands to her and her friends when that might not be what they had envisioned or wanted. Their girlhood had been cut short all because marriage was seen as a priority not a choice.

The reason that marriage is seen as something expected for girls and something they are suppose to embrace is seen as a shared dislike from the note in the Gladys Splinter collection and the book Mountain Wolf Woman: A Ho-Chunk Girlhood. Both girls are voicing their opinion that marriage is not what they have in mind at that point of their lives. They have other aspirations and dreams or things they want accomplish. Marriage is last on their list of expectations.

2 thoughts on “Marriage a requirement not a choice”

  1. I really like how you differentiated between the idea that marrying young was custom with the concept that it wasn’t necessarily preferred or desired. When we describe the old days, we always generalize by saying everyone got married young, but we never consider that maybe it wasn’t what people wanted. It’s often assumed people do things because they want to. In the old days, there were expectations that aren’t as enforced today. These expectations could range from marrying young, to simply sitting at the dinner table until everyone finishes. I’m curious to how these norms will evolve as time goes on– will it become popular for woman to be career-driven instead of marriage driven? I think it maybe already started!

  2. I think you bring up an interesting point when you say that when we think of the olden days we think everyone getting married young was just the way things were and everyone was happy about it, when, in fact, that may not have been the case. It had never crossed my mind before reading this that many women who didn’t want to get married young may have been forced to or gave way to the pressure of society to. For instance, Mountain Wolf Woman’s situation. However, later in her life Mountain Wolf Woman gets remarried to who she wants to, and promises herself she will never force her kids to marry, and she keeps this promise. This rebellion of the norms by Mountain Wolf Woman may have also been the case for other women who didn’t want to be married so young, and could potentially be a cause for the possible evolution of these norms.

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