Escaping Matrimony is a documentary history of hundreds of husbands and wives who ran away from one another over the course of the eighteenth-century. In this collection of elopement advertisements, men and women protested marriage, challenged coverture, and declared themselves independent and free. In an endeavor to discredit and intimidated their spouses, husbands and wives used early American newspapers to achieved at once voice and agency in a complex world that would have preferred that they endured unnoticed and in silence.
Antonio T. Bly is the Peter H. Shattuck Endowed Chair in Colonial American History at California State University, Sacramento.
“Bed and Board”: An Introduction to Reading Advertisement Regarding the Peculiar Business of Eloping Spouses.
Note on Notices
Note on Newspapers
Chapter 1: Elopement Advertisements in the Southern Colonies
Chapter 2: Elopement Advertisements in the New England Colonies
Chapter 3: Elopement Advertisements in the Mid-Atlantic Colonies
Appendix A: Anthony Afterwit
Appendix B: Benjamin Franklin to John Alleyne
Appendix C: David Ramsey’s A Sermon on Tea
About the Author
Antonio T. Bly’s Escaping Matrimony is a remarkable example of the power of social history to unlock the voices of ordinary women and men. Pulling together a seemingly disparate collection of newspaper ads and flyers, Bly provides the reader with a new understanding of 18th marital discord, the always unstable balance of power between wife and husband, and the way in which assumptions of masculine and feminine roles present themselves in the public display of marital grievances. At the same time, this rich collection of “elopement documents” reveals the role these announcements played in creating and sustaining a community ethos. Scholars of the 18th century will welcome this treasure trove of primary sources.
Michel de Montaigne, understanding the value of primary documents, complained that historians sometimes ruin history because they “chew our meat for us.” Professor Antonio T. Bly’s spectacular book permits people not only to chew but also to digest valuable if often underappreciated advertisements describing wives who abandoned their husbands in early America. The delightful introduction is wide ranging, encompassing topics from domestic marital disagreements to emerging political conflicts between the colonies and Great Britain. The volume is a very rich and entertaining source for scholars, genealogists, and students alike.
This fascinating collection of ads—compiled here for the first time—illuminates in remarkable ways the jagged edges of thousands of broken marriages in early America and the unhappy women and men in them. These newspaper notices of eloping spouses form a rich resource for students, scholars, and indeed anyone interested in the intimate politics and fraught history of American marriage, families, and households.