3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
“Reading Married Love: History, Heterosexuality, and Marriage in the Inter-war Years”
Lisa Sigel, DePaul University
Commentator: Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska University of Illinois at Chicago
Letters written to Marie Stopes in response to the publication of her books, particularly Married Love (1918) and Wise Parenthood (1919). were written for a reason—to get particular sexual advice, to get (legal) birth control, to get (semi-illegal or illegal) abortions, to get a sense of how one’s behaviors fit into the scale of normality—so they are not un-self-conscious productions of people’s sexual histories. Nonetheless they are an extraordinary valuable way of seeing how men and women began to organize their own sexual stories and began to set themselves out as sexual beings—as individuals both acted against and as acting, as responding to information and as creating information. This paper explores the ways that men and women adopted, adapted, rewrote their sexual histories and the history of sexuality to self-consciously fashion new identities for themselves. Though individuals showed themselves as mechanistic, naive, and ill-informed, they nonetheless developed a belief in the redemptive powers of heterosexual union and actively engaged with the process of change. Thus, this paper will show the ways readers reinvented and reconfigured the stories at their disposal to chart out a brave new world of marital satisfaction.