European Journal of Population / Revue Européenne de Démographie vol:19 issue:4 pages:375-412
Relying on the assumption that privatisation of family life intensified in the 19th century and that women were the pioneers in this process, we formulate nine hypotheses concerning indicators on family and marriage. The hypotheses are tested using data for three municipalities in Flanders (roughly the northern part of Belgium) covering the period 1800-1913, taken from about 17,000 marriage certificates. Special emphasis is on gender and social status distinctions. Most of the hypotheses, particularly those relating to first marriage, are confirmed. The various developments point to an underlying process which we refer to here as the privatisation of marriage, which can be explained by the changed social position and gender identity of women. The hypothesis put forward is that 19th-century economic and political marginalisation encouraged women to develop their dyadic power in primary relationships. Marrying young and creating an identity around expressive family and motherhood tasks was, for many women, a reaction to and a remedy for their public exclusion and economic subordination.