Friday, March 06, 2009

Married woman's liabilities


Yesterday's popular media were filled with reports of a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society: "Bad Marriages Strain Women's Hearts, But Not Men's";"Bad Marriages Take Health Toll on Women"; "Strained Marriages Harm Women", the headlines screamed.

And in another of those instances of serendipity that keep me coming to work every day, I just yesterday had occasion to brush my fingers across the spines of Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard's two-volume work, Modern Persecution. When it was originally published in 1868, the expose on insane asylums was titled, The prisoners' hidden life, or Insane asylums unveiled. By 1873, Packard had changed tactics: volume 2 of the work was now subtitled "married woman's liabilities as demonstrated by the action of the Illinois legislature."

Packard well knew the hardships of a bad marriage, and the unequal effect of ill unions on husbands and wives. While she would undoubtedly celebrate the many strides women have made in modern society, I think she would also have applauded yesterday's study, which affirmed to some degree her introductory statements:
'A wounded spirit who can bear.' Spirit wrongs are the keenest wounds that can be inflicted upon woman. Her nature is so sensitively organized that an injury to her feelings is felt more keenly than an injury to her person.

The fortitude of her nature enables her to endure physical suffering heroically; but the wound which her spirit feels under a wanton physical abuse is far more deeply felt, and is harder to be borne than the physical abuse itself.

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