Chapter

Radical couples, 1790–1850

Ginger S. Frost

in Living In Sin

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780719077364
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700723 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7228/manchester/9780719077364.003.0009
Radical couples, 1790–1850

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The period of the Civil Wars saw an outpouring of criticism for the church and traditional marriage practices. William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft's own relationships showed the risks of marital experimentation without societal changes. Wollstonecraft's plight showed the dangers of cohabitation for women. Their relationship was different, both because of Wollstonecraft's prior experience and because Godwin was more considerate. The Godwin/Mary Shelley elopement defied the ‘monopoly’ of marriage. The majority of free unions in the Romantic period had little to do with theorising against marriage. The Owenite movement made a strong argument against traditional marriage. Owenites challenged the biblical basis of marriage and highlighted the problems with England's marriage laws. The writings of Radical Unitarians influenced the women's movement that began in the 1850s. The number of men and women willing to support new family forms showed strong dissent from the English laws and church.

Keywords: free unions; Radical Unitarians; William Godwin; Mary Wollstonecraft; cohabitation; Mary Shelley; marriage laws; Owenite movement

Chapter.  12003 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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