Amelia Earhart’s Prenup

Dec 15 2012 @ 7:37am

Dan Savage applauds her monogamish take on marriage. Lori Adelman is also impressed:

Reading through the document, one thing becomes very clear: this woman had a clear sense of what she wanted out of a marriage. And I find much of her marital vision compelling, even today. Earhart first expresses some trepidation about getting married at all ("You must know again my reluctance to marry…") for fear of derailing her career, which "means most" to her. Maybe it’s just me, but this kind of agonizing over work-life balance sounds like a distinctly familiar dilemma to the modern feminist. Earhart goes on to give the rough outline of an open marriage ("I shall not hold you to any midaeval [sic] code of faithfulness" and emphasizes rather than monogamy a goal of "finding happiness together", on which she finds the marriage to be contingent.

Amanda Hess, who stumbled upon the prenup last week, wonders:

Maybe part of our confusion stems from the fact that our "modern" view of marriage is actually quite retro.

As sociologist Claude Fisher explains, "Marrying rates and ages around the turn of the 21st century are more like those a century ago." The United States reached peak spinster in 1920, and there was a higher percentage of never-married women in 1930 than in 1998. And though Americans are marrying older today than we used to, we’re making up most of the difference by cohabiting first, not by flying around the world. Also confusing: When we quote figures marking the decline of marriage since 1960, we’re not looking back far enough. According to Fisher, "it was the 1950s-60s that were most unusual—not our era."