As usual, many of the topics are pretty grim, but I do love some good old-fashioned reportage. This snippet from 1860 is pretty exceptional:
MEN’S RIGHTS. The married men of Janesville, Wis. whose wives have gone East visiting, have held an indignation meeting. Resolutions were adopted denouncing the long absence of married women on visits to relatives and friends as a serious and growing evil, asserting that a woman’s obligations to her husband were greater than those to her “Eastern cousins” and “relatives by the wife’s side,” and suggesting the formation of a permanent organization for mutual aid and protection, and for the promotion of the desired reform. A baby was then brought before the assembly, and received with deep emotion. The proceedings ended with the singing of “Days of Absence.”
Pfft, women and their expectation that they still get to see their own families even after they marry and move hundreds of miles away to be with their husbands. No word on whether a trip back East would be acceptable to visit the husband’s family.
I’m also unclear on whether they needed mutual protection because they were left helpless in the absence of their wives, or because they wanted to present a united front against their collective womenfolk. Both? I also really want to know how precisely the baby was “received with deep emotion.” Did they gather around to coo? Did they complain about diapers? Which emotion is being discussed here?
Regrettably, I could not find the lyrics to “Days of Absence.”
However, men in Janesville weren’t the only ones banding together in an attempt to enforce behavior. In Nebraska in 1907, women evidently formed both pro-whiskers and anti-whiskers societies. Women in Hemingford, Nebraska formed an agreement not to “receive attentions” from any men sporting facial hair, and were under no circumstances to marry them, on pain of “heavy penalties.” What penalties?
There’s a good assortment of ghastly things, but the award for Best Macabre Headline goes to:
“Thinks He Can Eat Poison and Live; Mistaken.”