Women and Marriage in Medieval Society
Engineering and Science,Vol. 44:4 (1981)
We in the 20th century live in a world of separate families. Their welfare, I suppose, is dependent upon the activities of dominant family members, and upon the ac- tivities of governments that are overwhelmingly powerful and exceedingly distant. We are proletarians in the real sense that we are, by and large, dependent upon wages paid us for our labors, rather than being stewards of a family resource that supports us and that we hope will support our children and grandchildren.
The property we have acquired, we own, and we inherit under rules that are prescribed and knowable. The bank may be able to repossess, but we need not be dependent upon our neighbors’ opinions of our worth to be able to buy, inherit, or continue in possession. One or both parents in a family may bring home the bacon and pay the school fees, but their dominance would quickly end if they expected a child’s acquiescence in an arranged marriage; and the idea of our colleagues or neighbors being involved is unthinkable.We may be concerned citizens, but we are not concerned in one another’s family business. As far as government goes, we do not have to be personally, con- stantly active for it to work. Government is the formative background to our lives, but our direct relation to it tends to be slight: April 15, being audited, drafted, or applying for a grant – and the nightmare vision of it is Kafka’s labyrinth of incomprehensible menace.