In the early 18th century, the American patriarchal home was at its finest. OVERTHROW A MONARCHY, EROTICALLY Ah, but then came the Revolutionary era. It was no longer so deathly important that the farm of Goodman Figgenbottom share the water rights of Goodman Pundersnoot, by way of their children sharing bodily fluids.And not patriarchal as we use the term today, where it can be applied to anything from the injustice of the glass ceiling to men who insist on standing up to pee. Plus, the idea of "patriarchy" and completely ruling your "subjects" was losing its popularity in an America that was screaming at a king to stay out of its room. PROMISE TO STAY ON YOUR SIDE OF THE BUNDLING BOARD By comparing marriage records with subsequent birth records, historians can tell that by the late 18th century, 30 to 40 percent of American brides were pregnant at their weddings.Parents, if still alive, expected to have a say or even a leading part in arranging a marriage.They could react angrily if they were not consulted.
If you were 17, you might suggest to your strict Christian parents that you'd like to snuggle up with sultry Goodie Sally from across the hog farm. You've probably heard of this practice, called "bundling," where unmarried couples could sleep together in the same bed, sometimes with a plank placed between them (for all the good it would do). They planned ahead for it like some parents today stock their son's skater pants with condoms. HOLD HANDS AND MAKE EMPTY PROMISES Handfasting, or spousing, was another way for a dishonorable young rogue to get lucky.Certain etiquette and conduct was expected of an eighteenth or nineteenth century gentleman when courting.One etiquette book noted that “courting ought never to be done except with a view to marriage.” One nineteenth century gentleman maintained that “true courtship consists in a number of quiet, gentlemanly attentions, not so pointed as to alarm, not so vague as to be misunderstood.” This meant a gentleman had to walk a fine line. FIND A LIVE ONE The earliest colonists — the Puritans who struggled for every mouthful of food and whose yearly death count exceeded that of any George Romero movie — did not have time for the frippery of love and courtship. Courtship involved finding a woman of childbearing-ish age who had survived the previous winter.The man plowed things and kept threats of attack at bay.Back then, a woman literally belonged to her father or husband. Marriage was a business arrangement that two men would make, their bargaining chips being their sons' inheritance and their daughters' dowries. Also, bigger towns and more spacious settlements meant it was harder to keep track of people's private affairs with their privates. Society wasn't really upset that the girls were pregnant, as long as they got married to the father.