Created Sat. Aug 30, 2003


Notes to Readers

I felt this paper was critical to understanding how we came to have the view of marriageable age that we do today in the USA and other industrialized countries. Non-profit foundations, created by the rich and their corporations, in part, as a tax exemption, and in part, to be able to influence and shape the country and world as they like at the same time. They find people whose views support the agenda of these financial supporters who work through these non-profit foundations.

It was not an accident that the predominant Christian views and living habits were changed in a way that would erode Christianity's laws, morals, and ethics that had such a strong hold in this country for so many years since its founding. I'll have more to say through the article with my own words and comments [{My comments}] in double brackets. Then I'll have my final comments and summary after the article ends. Enjoy!

Related Articles


This is a paper whose author and title follow>

Kriste Lindenmeyer (the author)
University of Maryland Baltimore County
Paper Presented at History of Childhood in America Conference
Washington, D.C.
August 5 and 6, 2000

Adolescence, Marriage, and Parenthood in the Twentieth Century U.S.

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is perhaps the most enduring love story in western popular culture. The play's two main characters, Romeo is seventeen and Juliet thirteen in the play's original version. Twentieth-century productions of Shakespeare's classic, although fairly true to the general story, depict the young protagonists' ages in more vague or blatantly mature terms {1}.

>1. For example, the tragic couple in Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, and the 1996 Bas Luhrman version starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes are not quite as young as Shakespeare's original idealized but tragic lovers.<

The popular media's aging of Romeo and Juliet is consistent with twentieth century attitudes and public policies discouraging what turn-of-the-century reformers called "child marriage." Clearly, biological immaturity and dependence upon adults for protection and survival has been the primary factor defining childhood for most of American history. However, as those at this meeting are well aware, the drive to extend the period of childhood for people of all socio-economic classes is largely a twentieth-century phenomenon, and marriage and parenthood are measures of "adult" privileges defined by social constructs beyond biological capabilities.

[{So you see, it is not just my imagination. Things have changed and only recently.}]

During the nineteenth century biology played an important role in defining when most young people qualified for adult responsibilities. Among females in the working class, held as slaves, or the daughters of the rural poor, the onset of menses, at about age twelve to thirteen, marked entry to adulthood. For males in the same socio-economic groups, physical size, usually at age fourteen to sixteen, brought on adult work responsibilities and personal independence. This gender distinction was even more pronounced when defining the socially acceptable age for marriage. Throughout American history, although generally denounced for the middle and upper classes, marriage was an acceptable choice for many adolescent girls. However, adolescent marriage for males of all classes was much more unusual because most could not afford to support a family. Hence, adolescent girls who married generally did so with men six or more years older {2}.

[{Biology should play an important role, the most important one of all and God's laws recognize this. That is why God did not make any age limits for marriage. Also noteworthy that young women marrying men 6 or more years older was quite common. It is said this was due to economic reasons. I would suggest it is more than that but we both agree on the common age difference.}]

>2. Although few historians have looked at age of marriage distinctions among classes and regions, there is much evidence to support this claim in monographs and edited editions centered on other topics. For example, a close examination of the dates in Lillian Schlissel's Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey (New York: Schocken Books, 1982) reveals that a majority of the women included in this collection were teen brides and one-third were teen mothers. This pattern is almost universally true for black females before and even after slavery; for example see Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present (New York: Basic Books, 1985), and Wilma King, Stolen Childhood: Slave Youth in Nineteenth-Century America (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1995); Amy own study of WPA interviews conducted from 1936-1943 found 136 that suggested marriages for females nineteen years and under, NARA, WPA Records, study in progress; Indeed, many of those that historians have identified as "women" in the past, would be called "girls" today.<

During the gilded age and progressive era child welfare reformers promoted new definitions of childhood and adolescence that, at least ideally, extended dependency for both sexes and all classes through the teenage years. For example, the child labor movement, compulsory education laws, and the organization of juvenile courts legally and socially impacted definitions of childhood among all Americans in ways that contradicted tradition. Furthermore, for females, higher age-of-sexual-consent laws (which had been as low as eleven in some states during much of the nineteenth century) established legislative distinctions defining childhood, adolescence, and adulthood in new ways {3}.

[{You need to ask yourself why traditional ways that had been in existence since the beginning of time and well in evidence in the Bible should now be changed in the 20th century. What was behind these changes. Was it the people leading the social do-gooders or the other way around and for what reason? Who really benefited from extending or delaying adulthood, responsibility, and entry into the work force and prolonging childhood, education and dependency? We shall find out.}]

>3. For good examinations of the changing status and definition of childhood during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries see Vivana A. Zelizer, Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children (New York: Basic Books, 1985); Joseph M. Hawes, The Children's Rights Movement: A History of Advocacy and Protection (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1991); Robert H. Bremner, eds. et. al., Children and Youth in America: A Documentary History, 3 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971); Kett, Rites of Passage.<

Another interesting reform, although often overlooked by historians, the effort to raise state minimum-at-marriage laws, led by the Russell Sage Foundations' Mary E. Richmond (1861-1928) and her co-author Fred S. Hall (1870-1946), is a potent factor influencing public attitudes and policies concerning adolescence, particularly female adolescence, in the twentieth-century United States. From 1922 until her death in 1928, Richmond led one of the most successful legislative reform campaigns of this century: the drive to prohibit "child marriage." Fred Hall continued this work after her death, but Richmond was the major force behind the design and launching of what quickly became a nation-wide movement. Similar to many aspects of progressive reform, the anti-child marriage drive promoted middle-class family values (the independent nuclear family which glorified motherhood and identified fathers as the family's sole breadwinner) and extended childhood through the teenage years for all classes.

[{Notice the Russell Sage Foundation and its support of a minority view social fanatic that we typically call an activist. A nut case might be a better description. Mary Richmond's views and ideas would have never seen the light of day unless the Russell Sage Foundation had supported her so she could devote all her time and effort to the cause and they could insure that she got plenty of attention and publicity from the media who were part of the social network among the corporate circles who control these foundations.

They could also provide her with money to publish her books and papers and distribute them, again with help of corporate distributors as well. With such money and power to support these movements, they can not help but succeed. But they do not represent the will of the people but those same people will be influenced by what is put forth as propaganda. By merely hearing abut it all the time and being told it is right, they soon come to believe it, whether it is true or not. And there are a few factors in the people's own fears that help seduce them in to changing their views and long standing habits as we shall see.

Also note how they allegedly supported middle and upper class. I dispute this to some degree but I also make the point that if it is true, many Christians come from the lower economic strata and have the least in common with these upper economic classes. Middle class economic values are a materialistic trap for Christians to trip them up. Notice who set the trap.}]

The willingness of Richmond and her supporters to ignore biology and traditional marriage patterns among those outside the middle and upper classes lessened existing gender specific legal and social distinctions for adolescents. For example, it encouraged the idea that all American girls as well as boys should work only part-time (if at all) in order to attend and graduate from high school. But, the movement has also had some unintended consequences. Combined with the new industrial economy, the anti-child marriage campaign actually encouraged males to marry at younger ages. It has also contributed to late-twentieth century misconceptions about the history of "teenage" sexual behavior.

[{The work ethic was a good one and I do not believe adolescents have profited by being "relieved" of this ethic. Children were important sources of labor on farms and among tribal hunting societies throughout history. This only changed with the industrial revolution and this foundation sponsored change.}]

In 1917, Mary Richmond used her best known publication Social Diagnosis, to promote professional case work as a means to eliminating what she believed were increasing threats to individual American families {4}. Richmond, and many other progressive era reformers, focused much attention on the impact of rapid industrialization and urbanization on families. Richmond pointed to the increasing incidence of divorce and desertion to support her claim that families were under siege. In 1890 there were 33,461 divorces in the United States. In 1920 167,105 couples divorced and many more lived apart without going to the trouble and expense of obtaining a legal end to their marriage. Broken families did seem to be one of the negative consequences of modernization {5}.

[{Social reformers have always been very clever. Find a social problem and then blame it on whatever it is you would like to change, even if it is not really the problem. Industrialization was definitely hurting and upsetting traditional ways of life. But industrialization and increased population density were the causes. That was never focused on. Divorces were on their way up. But that was because they were getting further away from Christians values in the city, rather than marrying too young. But why let the facts get in the way.}]

>4. Mary E. Richmond, Social Diagnosis (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1917); Muriel W. Pumphrey, "Mary Ellen Richmond,," in Edward T. James, ed. et. al., Notable American Women, vol. III (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971), pp.152-154.

5. William O'Neill, Divorce in the Progressive Era (New York: New Viewpoints, 1973); Glenda Riley, Divorce: An American Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991); and Mary Ann Mason, From Father's Property to Children's Rights: The History of Child Custody in the United States (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), pp.111-112.<

Richmond never married, but she believed that the rising incidence of broken marriage could be avoided through case work and better regulation of marriage codes. Her 1925 book co-authored with Fred Hall, Child Marriage, argues that those too "immature, reckless, or unfit" should be prohibited to marry by state statute. Richmond and Hall also condemn common law marriage as "inappropriate for modern society." {6} Influenced by the progressive era's Eugenic movement, regulations against marriage by the "unfit" were a part of many existing state codes by 1925 {7}. Twelve states prohibited marriage on grounds of miscegenation, the presence of mental defects, venereal disease, and addiction or drunkeness; and eighteen states had restrictions on the ability of divorced persons to remarry. But Richmond and Hall's attention to "immaturity" was something new.

[{Richmond never got married. The flags should go up immediately. This was more uncommon then than now. So many excuses were made for why marriages needed to be controlled by the state but I address those in my article. The key here is that they wanted the state, the government to be the one to determine how we should live. That is not the state's right. It is the right of the parents to decide. One obvious result from this is that the state gains more control over our kids and what they can do or not do and deprives the parents of ever more rights to raise their children their way. And it is all done in the name of our interest and protection. We do not know better and need the state to think for us. I know many religions that also teach that. They are both wrong.}]

>6. On the history of marriage in common and canon law see James A. Brundage, Sex, Law, and Marriage in the Middle Ages (Brookfield, Vermont: Variorum, 1993); Joel F. Harrington, Reordering Marriage and Society in Reformation Germany (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); and The Marriage Act of 1753: Four Tracts (Garland, 1984); English common law adapted changes such as parental consent and the repeal of common law marriage during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; in the U.S. by 1919 only twenty-six states formally recognized common law marriage and six suggested its validity in individual cases for specifics see Fred S. Hall and Elisabeth W. Brooke, American Marriage Laws in Their Social Aspects: A Digest (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1919); John R. Weeks, Teenage Marriages: A Demographic Analysis (Westport, CT: The Free Press, 1976), pp.16-17, 144.

7. Linda Gordon, Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare (New York: The Free Press, 1994): 21-22; Johanna Schoen, "Family Planning or Race Genocide?: African American Women Confront Birth Control and Sterilization" and Molly Ladd-Taylor, "'Because of Their Bad Behavior': 'Feeblemindedness' and Compulsory Sterilization in Minnesota" both papers presented at the 1996 Berkshire Conference on Women's History, Chapel Hill, NC; on Progressive reform and sterilization for example see Donald K. Pickens, Eugenics and the Progressives (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1968); Edward J. Larson, Sex, Race, and Science: Eugenics in the Deep South (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995); Kriste Lindenmeyer, "Bringing Birth Control to the Hinterland: The Cincinnati's First Contraceptive Clinic as a Case Study," Mid-America: An Historical Review 77(Spring/Summer 1995): 158-160; Jones, Labor of Love, pp.306-307.<

British common law had set age minimums in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. U.S. state codes generally followed this standard. But between 1890 and 1925 eight states raised the age at which minors were permitted to marry without parental consent. Nevertheless, such a dramatic social shift could not be affected simply through regulation and the minimums remained low. In 1925 the allowable age at marriage was twelve (or as low as seven by judicial order) for females in fourteen states. Eight states recognized the minimum as fifteen; seventeen states at sixteen years of age, and one at eighteen.

By the end of the Progressive era, all the states had adopted laws requiring parental consent for the marriage of females under a specific age and every state except Georgia and Michigan had requirements regarding males. But individual states had minimums ranging from twelve to eighteen for females and sixteen to twenty-one for males {8}. Such laws were more reflective of attitudes about economic independence, particularly based on the middle-class family ideal, than perceptions about psychological maturity.

[{Here is my big gripe. Raising the age of marriage is based almost completely on financial considerations, nor moral ones. And middle class values, love of money and good living, certainly added to that. What they were not overly concerned with was that biology and powerful peak human sexual desires present in adolescence would never be content with waiting till mid 20's and later. so what is more important, moral values and fidelity, or economic ones.

Christians want that middle class life style so bad that they are willing to sacrifice just about everything they have to get it for them and their kids. They are willing to risk their kid's morals which are so vulnerable to temptation in adolescence just so they can life the good life. This was becoming a problem in cities even then and has only got much worse now. College is a routine place for Christian youths to have pre-marital sex and live with someone without being married, if they even make it that far. So they are in trouble with God but at least they'll have that education and good job, you hope. Of what benefit is it to gain the whole word but lose your soul or that of your kids? Isn't that what Jesus asked?}]

>8. Steven Mintz and Susan Kellogg, Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life (New York: Free Press, 1988), p.126; ; twelve states prohibited marriages on grounds of miscegenation, the presence of mental defects, venereal disease, and addiction or drunkenness; and eighteen states placed new restrictions on the ability of divorced persons to remarry; on marriage laws and the reform agenda see William L. Snyder, The Geography of Marriage: or Legal Perplexities of Wedlock in the United States (New York: The Knickerbocker Press, 1889); on the history of marriage in common and canon law see James A. Brundage, Sex, Law, and Marriage in the Middle Ages (Brookfield, Vermont: Variorum, 1993); Joel F. Harrington, Reordering Marriage and Society in Reformation Germany (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); and The Marriage Act of 1753: Four Tracts (New York: Garland, 1984); John Model l, Into One's Own: From Youth to Adulthood In the United States, 1920-1975 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989) describes the adoption of white middle-class constructions for marriage during the twentieth century; English common law adapted changes such as parental consent and the repeal of common law marriage during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; in the U.S. by 1919 twenty-six states formally recognized common law marriage and six suggested its validity in individual cases; for specifics by state see Fred S. Hall and Elisabeth W. Brooke, American Marriage Laws in Their Social Aspects: A Digest (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1919); In 1925 the minimum allowable age at marriage was twelve (or as low as seven by judicial order) for females in Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia; Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and the District of Columbia set the minimum age for females at fourteen; Missouri, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin designated fifteen; Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming set the minimum at sixteen; and New Hampshire at eighteen; Richmond, Child Marriages, pp.20,45.<

Frontier conditions and state marriage codes rooted in British common law had made adolescent marriage for females commonplace throughout American history. But, the average age at marriage for males and females rose for the eastern U.S. during the early 19th century. Industrialization made it economically possible for many youths to marry. The exceptions were areas with high southern European, Hispanic, and Asian immigration rates, as well as the rural south. In 1900 less than one percent of males and eleven percent of females fourteen through nineteen years of age were ever married. Over the next six decades this proportion increased four times for boys and slightly rose for girls. The median age at first marriage in 1900 was 25.9 for males and 21.9 for females. By 1950 the median age was down to 22.8 for males and 20.3 for females {9}.

[{It was previously noted that in some cases, boys could marry even earlier at the start of industry. That would change as wages were made much lower for entry level people and degrees were required for higher jobs and wages.}]

>9. U.S. Bureau of the Census. Historical Statistics of the United States. Colonial Times to 1970. Bicentennial Edition (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1976), p.49; U.S. Bureau of the Census, On-Line Census information.<

Richmond and her supporters disapproved of this trend. In 1904 psychologist G. Stanley Hall added to this debate by suggesting in his path breaking multi-volume work, Adolescence, that the years between childhood and adulthood were a period of special psychological development that deserved "specific protections"; a euphemism for prohibitions. Building on Hall's ideas, juvenile court authority rose in some states to cover children up to nineteen years of age and compulsory education laws extended to sixteen.

[{G. Stanley Hall claimed that adolescence was a time of special development. Agreed but with completely different interpretations. This is the time to get married and yet stay close to the nest so to speak where parents and community can guide you through challenging times and circumstances. The community becomes very important and the community is often absent in dense cities or community values are seriously impaired there. Males routinely entered into college at 14 in the Victorian age of the late 19th century. So in order to increase the age of marriage, schooling pace was slowed down (dumbed down) so that they would not be ready till 16 or 18. Today, they are not ready at 20 half the time.}]

In 1930 juvenile court judge Miriam Van Waters explained that "adolescence literally means growth, but as the term is used in biology and psychology, it defines the period of human development from the beginning of puberty to the end of the maturation process." Some, like Richmond, believed that full maturity was not complete until the "early to mid twenties". Miriam Van Waters cautioned, "the adolescent can win his bread, produce offspring, fight and participate in religious activities. [But] his immaturity comes to light in the more subtle phases of social life." {10}

[{They offered an idea but what supporting evidence do they give for their beliefs. There was none presented. That is often the case with these political moves. All rhetoric but no evidence otherwise. Take a lesson and learn.}]

>10. Miriam Van Waters, "Adolescence," in Edwin R. A. Seligman, ed., Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, I (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1930), pp.455-459;<

No phase of social life seemed more "adult" than sexuality and marriage. The recognition of adolescence as a distinct period included a prescription for the sex lives of young people and set standards for "normal" behavior modeled on the middle-class family ideal. G. Stanley Hall argued that "the dawn of adolescence is marked by a special consciousness of sex. . . .the most potent and magic open sesame to the deepest mysteries of life, death, religion, and love." He warned, "It is, therefore, one of the cardinal sins against youth to repress healthy thoughts of sex at the proper age."

[{Hall admits the strong urges at this time of life in youth. I wonder what he thinks is the proper age for healthy thoughts of sex? Those thoughts occur by instinct created by God. So why don't we listen to God? God is trying to tell us something but we do not want to listen.}]

But, Hall also wanted to restrict sexuality among young people to "thoughts." He maintained that adolescence is a period of transition from childhood to adulthood when "the postponement of every nubile function. . . [is] imperative till maturity is complete into the twenties." Hall maintained that the trend toward "indulgences of passion" among youth would lead to "decadence and degeneration" in young males and "hysteria" in adolescent females. Medical doctors agreed that adolescents were too immature, both physically and emotionally, for sexual intercourse and parenthood--both inside and outside of marriage {11}.

[{This postponement being imperative has no evidence of course. It was a left over from the Victorian age just recently passed in Hall's day where sex was evil no matter how you looked at it. There was no reason why it had to wait until 20's. But if you assert it, they will believe. Decadence, degeneration, hysteria. All nice claims but the truth is that it is actually the denial of sexual function and desires that cause this breakdown. When the sex finally is experienced, it will be with lots of hang-ups or extreme rebellious behavior. So rather than prevent it, they actually contributed to it. Brilliant move!}]

>11. G. Stanley Hall, Adolescence: Its Psychology and Its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, Religion, and Education (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1904, second printing, 1922), pp.97, 109.<

Such ideas were also becoming part of mainstream American culture. According to a 1924 opinion survey conducted by Mary Richmond's Russell Sage Charity Organization Department, the majority of adults interviewed "in widely separated communities in 20 different states" believed that persons under eighteen were too young to marry, and almost half named eighteen as the appropriate minimum age for marriage {12}. Armed with statistics about changing social opinions, especially among the middle-class, Richmond encouraged passage of state codes and a federal marriage law that prohibited marriage for both males and females under eighteen years of age. The 1925 federal bill never made it out of committee, but Richmond successfully worked with groups like the League of Women Voters to promote minimum-age-at-marriage law reforms in every state {13}.

[{Given the horrible attitudes toward sex let over from the Victorian age, people were horrified to imagine their daughter having sex. Parents had a lot of trouble excepting the imminent sexuality of their kids and the inability of the parents to deal with it so they had hoped to delay it as long as possible, which was the worst thing they could have done. Ignoring it will not make it go away and will set you up for worse disasters. But humans can be so stupid. It also demonstrates why healthy attitudes toward sex are so vitally important. Notice too, how our bad attitudes toward sex make us easy pawns to manipulate by the government. We have got to get a grip on ourselves.}]

>12. Mary E. Richmond, Child Marriages (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1925), p.49.

13. Joanne C. Colcord, "The Long View: Papers and Addresses of Mary Ellen Richmond," (Dubuque, Iowa: Borwn Reprints, 1971, first published by the Russell Sage Foundation in 1930); Directions for this campaign are also included in the Mary E. Richmond Papers, housed in the Library of Columbia University School of Social Work, New York, New York; reference to the attempt to pass a federal marriage law is located in the League of Women Voters Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.<

The League of Women Voters linked such laws to public perceptions about the independence of adult women in the post-female suffrage era. In other words, as adult females gained a greater independent status, adolescent females were classified as dependent due to their age rather than their sex. The League also condemned ideas accepting lower education standards for girls than boys. Education, for both sexes, was the key to maintaining democracy. Prohibiting "child marriage" seemed to be a good way to guarantee equal education standards for boys and girls in all classes of American society. Compulsory education laws, child labor restrictions, and high minimum-age-at-marriage laws seemed inseparable in the post-suffrage agenda {14}.

[{Ah, yes, the women's movement. It is my belief that many of those early women leaders were somewhat inclined toward lesbianism. (yes, I am a caveman and I really do believe that). Promoting independence from men would free them from marriage and possibly open up a wider field to encourage more women to join them. In addition, there were women among them who wanted to be able to have freedom to have sex with as many partners as they wanted without restraint of any sort, much as many men have had over the years. So they, too, would favor indepnedence from social norms of the time. Education was just an excuse. There is no reason why education could not be pursued after marriage if we wanted it to be that way. But if the man was paid decently and the woman afforded more protections in case of divorce, higher education would not be as important.

As J.P. Morgan said, there is the good reason given and the real reason why something is done. Education is good but can be pursued independently and after one becomes employed. But education served other agendas such as delayed entry into the work place, delayed marriage, and an excuse to pay certain types of labor poorly, even though it is real work, maybe even hard work. And to get higher status jobs, one would be required to have an education with a degree recognized in the work place.

Indeed, post-suffrage agenda was inseparable from high minimum marriage laws. In short, their agenda was very destructive on so many levels not ever fully covered here. Of course, I am also including the Women's Christian Temperance Movement in this. I would go so far as to say that when one considers the women's role in bringing about prohibition and abolishing the death penalty, it was one of the most destructive movements of its time or any time in USA history.}]

>14. Louise Merwin Young, In the Public Interest: The League of Women Voters, 1920-1970 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1989), chps. 1-3.<

Growing numbers of adolescents did attend higher levels of school and spent less time working in the nation's fields, mines, factories, and streets. States also developed juvenile court systems that legally identified minors as psychologically immature and not fully responsible for their behavior. Twentieth-century childhood and adolescence had been redefined, at least in theory, for all classes in the United States {15}.

[{There were some good things that occurred with gaining more protections for child labor in increasing safety and being more humane. But to force them out of the work place entirely may not have been a good thing. Just as children were valuable on the farm or in the tribe, so they could be of benefit in the work place. As for protecting them from being over worked, all labor child or adult, should enjoy those protections. But kids could be valuable contributions to family income. And by declaring children incapable of being responsible and mature, we have opened the door to less accountability and further delayed maturity and responsibility and greater recklessness and other bad behavior. What a disaster it has been.}]

>15. On the development of new child welfare policy during the first half of the twentieth century see Kriste Lindenmeyer, "A Right to Childhood": The U.S. Children's Bureau and Child Welfare, 1912-1946 (Urbana: University of Illinois Presss, 1997).<

While such changes are probably judged as positive by the majority of Americans, throughout the twentieth century many young people have resisted the prohibitions placed on their sexual behavior by the extension of childhood and adolescence. Richmond's advocacy resulted in some unintended social consequences and ambiguous attitudes toward adolescent sexuality that deny historical trends. Minimum-age-at marriage laws are now uniform throughout the United States. All states require proof of age for both males and females, and no marriage license is issued to anyone under eighteen without parental consent. Common law marriage is recognized in only twelve states and the District of Columbia {16}.

[{Yes, in general, children, more specifically teens, have enjoyed not having to be responsible, mature, or having to work. We would all love that, right? But they still believe they have the right to sex. Well, if your going to have that, you should also have the maturity and responsibility thing going for you. Can't have one without the other. What it has created are a bunch of teens and young adults having copious amounts of sex without marriage. I do not believe society has benefited from that trend. Christians definitely have not done well by it.}]

>16. "Common Law Marriage" (Nolo Press, 1998), http://www.nolopress.com/ChunkSP/SP8.html, November 1, 1998; states that recognize common law marriage: Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and the District of Columbia.<

But, legal restrictions on marriage have contributed to confusing attitudes and policies toward adolescents. For example, during World War I some policy advocates condemned the drafting of eighteen year old males, noting evidence about adolescent psychology suggesting that they were still children and too immature to go to war, or marry {17}. But in the 1960s and early 70s the United States sent its youngest cohort of soldiers to war (the average age of a combat soldier in Viet Nam was nineteen). The legal drinking age for alcohol has been raised and there is increasing public pressure to try violent juvenile offenders as adults. At the same time, public perceptions about the proper age for motherhood has risen to exclude those in their adolescent years. Ironically, the age of adulthood has been lowered for males and raised for females until most Americans agree that eighteen is the minimum standard for both sexes.

[{I have amply discussed the contradictions in our various policies on age in my own article.}]

>17. For example see, "Youth and War," in Bremner, Children and Youth, vol. II., pp. 93-100.<

This situation is especially evident in the case of adolescent pregnancy. Although, never the majority, for most of U.S. history, pregnancy among females under twenty years of age has been a fairly common circumstance. But beginning in the late-nineteenth century, economic shifts combined with new psychological interpretations contributed to a growing identification of adolescent pregnancy, both inside and outside marriage, as a modern social problem. Historians have generally neglected this story. Some have discussed rising concern about pregnancy outside of marriage. But others, such as John D'Emilio and Estelle Freedman in their otherwise wonderful synthesis, Intimate Matters, suggest that there has been an expanding tolerance of public sexual expression and a general liberalization of attitudes toward sex during the twentieth century {18}. But this contention is not as clear when viewed through the lens of twentieth-century adolescence.

>18. John D'Emilio and Estelle Freeman, Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America (New York: Harper and Row, 1988), introduction; Freedman also expressed this idea in her presentation on sexuality in America given at the University of Cincinnati as part of the History Department's Taft Lecture Series, Fall, 1990, Cincinnati, Ohio; there are some exceptions to the general neglect of the history of adolescent pregnancy in the twentieth century, but most such mentions focus on the post World War II era; for example see Steven Mintz and Susan Kellogg, Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life (New York: The Free Press, 1988), esp. pp.178-181; Carl Degler, At Odds: Women and the Family in America From the Revolution to the Present (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980); Jacquelyn Jones, Black Women, Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present (New York: Basic Books, 1985), esp. pp.306-307; Joseph Kett, Rites of Passage: Adolescence in America, 1790 to the Present (New York: Basic Books, 1977); two excellent recent studies focusing on the history of adolescent pregnancy emphasize why the issue has received more attention from policy makers and the media since 1970; Kristin Luker, Dubious Conceptions: The Politics of Teenage Pregnancy (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1996); Maris A. Vinovskis, An "Epidemic" of Adolescent Pregnancy?: Some Historical and Policy Considerations (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).<

Many adults today complain that teenagers are simply thinking about and having too much sex. Policy makers and those in the popular media point to the "unprecedented epidemic of teen pregnancy," often portrayed as a problem linked to the expansion of welfare and America's perceived "declining morality." A recent subject search for "teenage pregnancy" in the Library of Congress' computer database found over 160 books published on the topic just during the past twenty years. In addition, numerous articles in popular magazines, newspapers, and television reports lament the "teen pregnancy problem." {19}

[{Attitudes and practices in regards to se and marriage clearly have changed. You would have to be a fool not to think that. Teens and college kids are having more sex and living together rather than marrying. It may not be more sex, but it is without marriage now rather than with it.}]

>19. Library of Congress On-Line Card Catalog, search completed April 1, 1997; Infotrac On-Line search completed April 4, 1997.<

Nonetheless, recent books by Kristin Luker and Maris Vinovskis show that despite public perceptions, today's adolescent birthrates are not higher than in the past. Luker and Vinovskis argue that the public focus on "teen moms" in the late twentieth-century simply reflects more public interest in the issue. Both scholars provide convincing evidence that adolescent pregnancy is not a modern phenomenon {20}.

[{Pregnancy rates may not be different but what about whether they are married or not? I sure that has changed.}]

>20. Kristin Luker, Dubious Conceptions; Maris A. Vinovskis, An "Epidemic" of Adolescent Pregnancy?.<

According to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, in 1995 fifty-seven of every 1,000 girls fifteen to nineteen years of age gave birth. While this is one of the highest teen-pregnancy rates in the industrialized world, it reflects a ten percent reduction compared to the same age cohort in 1920. Furthermore, the current rate is thirty-seven percent less than that in 1960 (91 per 1,000). Perhaps most surprising to many, the idealized "family values" decades of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s included the twentieth century's highest adolescent birthrates (79.5, 91, 69.7). In 1960, nearly one-third of American women had their first child before reaching age twenty. And, running counter to the 60s' sexual revolution, teen birthrates during the 1970s and 80s declined to levels below those in 1920 (53.0, 59.9)(Appendix A) {21}.

[{But pregnancy and birth our of wedlock is much more common and accepted.}]

>21. The U.S. census counts women of childbearing years as those aged fifteen through forty-four; this cohort is divided into the following five year age groups: 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 40-44; for example see U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970, Bicentennial Edition (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1976), p.52; Mintz and Kellogg, Domestic Revolutions, p.179.<

Many factors contribute to the recent perception of "teen moms" as a growing social problem: a rise in unwed birthrates among all women in their childbearing years, changing definitions of childhood and adolescence, the expanding "welfare" state, as well as shrinking employment opportunities for those with less than a high school education. I argue that this list should also include marriage law reforms resulting from Mary Richmond's anti-child marriage reform movement.

By 1940 the new prescription for American adolescents was clearly evidenced in mainstream attitudes and public policies. All states had raised the minimum-age-at-marriage to at least fifteen for females and seventeen for males. Even some of the resistant southern states, such as Tennessee, had raised the minimum-age-at-marriage to eighteen for both males and females. At the same time, wartime mobility, rising employment opportunities for adolescents, and less parental supervision intensified adult fears about the "inappropriate" sexual behavior of minors, especially girls. Since the founding of juvenile courts, adolescent females were five times more likely to be arrested for anti-social sexual behavior than boys. The Second World War further intensified this trend.

Adolescent females and young women who frequented areas around military bases and liberty centers were called "khaki-whacky girls, V girls, or good time Charlottes." Young women interviewed by the Children's Bureau explained that they felt "a patriotic duty" to share sex with men in the military. A seventeen-year-old male described his life in a war-industries town as "a real sex paradise." Premarital pregnancy rates, the incidence of sexually transmitted disease, and illegitimacy (rising from 5.0 percent in 1920 to 7.1 percent in 1940) rose during the war {22}. But so did adolescent marriage rates and pregnancies, both inside and outside of marriage. There is no clearer evidence that young people did not necessarily abide by the new prescriptions for their behavior.

[{War, especially WWII, was very destructive to so many of our morals and attitudes. We never really recovered from WWII, socially. So we beat the axis powers but we lost the "other" war, that against ourselves and against those who try to manipulate us to our detriment.}]

>22. Anthony Platt, The Child Savers: The Invention of Juvenile Delinquency. 2d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977; Camille Kelley, A Friend in the Court (New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1942), p.257; U.S. Children's Bureau, "Facts About Juvenile Delinquency" pub. no.215, 1935; U.S. Children's Bureau, "Controlling Juvenile Delinquency" pub. no.301, 1943; D'Emilio and Freedman, Intimate Matters, p.261, 288-291; "Adolescents in Wartime," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 236 (Nov. 1944); William Graebner, Coming of Age in Buffalo: Youth and Authority in the Postwar Era (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990), pp.17-20; and James Gilbert, A Cycle of Outrage: America's Reaction to the Juvenile Delinquent in the 1950s (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp.11-43; for a summary of post World War II theories on female delinquency see Sheila Balkan and Ronald J. Berger, "The Changing Nature of Female Delinquency," in Claire B. Kopp, ed., Becoming Female: Perspectives on Development (New York: Plenum Press, 1979), pp.207-227.<

As the "less progressive" states changed age minimums during the 1950s and 60s to eighteen for both males and females (only Kentucky and Georgia retained lower minimums). The rising unwed pregnancy rate accelerated by the war continued to climb. By 1960, in the midst of the post-war baby boom, the nation's unwed birthrate had almost tripled and unmarried adolescents contributed a growing share of such births. In 1995, almost twenty-five percent of all babies were born outside of marriage and adolescent mothers constituted one-third of those births while contributing only thirteen percent of all births {23}. Nevertheless, this still means that in 1995 women twenty years old and over gave birth to two-thirds of the babies born outside of marriage. Therefore, unwed motherhood alone does fully explain the outcry against teen sexual activity.

[{They finally addressed unwed teen mothers but the outcry against sexual activity stems in part, from the attitude held by many youths about sex. Sex was taboo, even among teens. They did it but felt guilty. Today, there is no guilt or hesitation and in my mind, you have to be naive to think there is not much more of it going on. But due to freely available contraception and the increase of oral sex with does not contribute to pregnancy, there is far less evidence of such activity.

But we also see the relaxed standard toward sex on TV, magazines, movies and other entertainment. We know instinctively that the kids perceive this and do not hold or share our values any more. That has to result in more sex. Just how much more is not quite as quantifiable. But among college students of today versus the 1950's, I do not see how there can be any doubt. Nearly all college kids have partners and have sex. The singles scene is way more open and acceptable than it has ever been before.

This may not be apparent in big cities but it is very noticeable in smaller less populated places like Maine where I live. The change over the last 30 years has bee dramatic and not subtle at all. Sex is more prevalent on all levels and exposure to more open free attitudes is definitely there.}]

>23. Luker, Dubious Conceptions, p.196; Sey Chassler, "What Teenage Girls Say About Pregnancy," Parade Magazine (February 2, 1997), p.4; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States, p.52; John R. Weeks, Teenage Marriages: A Demographic Analysis (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1976), pp.53-57; Lindenmeyer, "A Right to Childhood," pp.141-152, 203-04, 224-230.<

Ironically, despite policy changes first advocated by Richmond and her co-author, Fred Hall in the 1920s, with the exception of the Great Depression years, up to 1970 more and more young people chose to marry at younger and younger ages, while adults increasingly condemned adolescent parenthood both inside and outside of marriage {24}.

>24. Modell, Into One's Own, pp.106-120.<

[{As always, we can see the tension between parents and their kids' in regards to sex. Kids have healthier and more realistic attitudes about sex, with the exception of the importance of marriage. It is difficult to remain sensible about marriage when the hormones rage out of control. That is why accommodating young marriages is so important.}]


Conclusion

Few people who make hysterical claims about immoral sexual behavior among America's teens realize that adolescent pregnancy rates have actually declined since the 1960s. Interestingly enough, this fact has occurred at the same time that the average age for the onset of menses has dropped from thirteen to eleven. The results of a recent study published in the April, 1997 issue of the journal Pediatrics suggests that better diet is the likely reason for girls as young as eight now experiencing the onset of menarche. This fact also helps to explain the rising incidences of pregnancy in girls under fifteen years of age {25}. Teenagers must be using contraceptives, choosing legal abortion, and "just saying no" in higher numbers than most adults believe.

[{I already addressed the apparent contradictions a few paragraphs back.}]

>25. "All Things Considered" radio broadcast, April 15, 1997 (this story about the journal Pediatrics article may be accessed from the National Public Radio world wide web page located at www.npr.org; on the declining age of menses also see Charlotte Neumann, "Nutrition and Women: Facts and Faddism" in Kopp, Becoming Female, p.451; birthrates among fourteen year olds have doubled since 1925 and females even younger than fourteen are having more babies than in the past (but births to mothers under fourteen still constitute less than 1 percent of all U.S. births), Luker, Dubious Conceptions, p.230; Julee Newberger, "Teen Say Sex Can Wait," Connect for Kids the Benton Foundation, http://www.connectforkids.org/newsletter-url1571/newsletter-url.htm, July 10, 2000 and http://www.connectforkids.org/content1555/content_show.htm?attrib_id=338&doc_id=31462.<

A recent survey by the Benton Foundation found that the majority of teenagers say sex can wait. Also contrary to popular belief, society has extended adolescence for working-class and rural females at the same time that it has been somewhat reversed for the same class of males. Mary Richmond and her supporters would likely support this trend. But these policies have also run contrary to the choices of many young people and ignored the traditional patterns practiced by members of these groups. Therefore, many contemporary adults have a misguided perception of the history of adolescent sexual behavior. Would the United States be better off if minimum-age-at-marriage laws had remained at nineteenth-century levels? Would the nation be improved if couples married at ages typical of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s? I doubt that Mary Richmond would think so.

END OF PAPER and my comments in brackets as well.


My main objective in drawing attention to this paper was that the age for marriage was originally much younger. It was granted to the state in intervene and require age limits thanks to a corporate non-profit foundation and some fanatic activists who likely had a corrupt agenda that likely served a number of groups with related interests. But one thing for sure, these marriage policies have been very destructive for Christians.

Having been seduced by materialism, they see economic matters as being of far more concern than maintaining a good moral standing with God. They also kid themselves in thinking their kids will be able to remain moral and still pursue that all important middle class paradise here on earth. They have been thoroughly deceived and compromised. They have stabbed themselves all over with pains because of their love for money but not for God and His laws.

It is important for us to wake up to what is going on and how we are being manipulated by those above us with their faulty ideology. If God has wanted age limits, He would have put them in the Bible. He did not put any age limits in the Bible and so we should not advocate any. We should be concerned that parents rights and choices have been compromised by the governments who believe they know what is better for us than we do. At stake is also our religious freedom for us and our children.

We may not be able to change anything at this point, but just being aware of the problem is a big start. Knowing our religion and its ideology is under attack is half the battle. We do not want to become people who end up sabotaging our own futures by our ignorance of the real issues involved. Ignorance it truly not bliss. It is danger and even possibly death. Our only defense at all times in the knowledge of God.

Ecclesiastes 7:12 For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money; and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.


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