A 1930s Pre-Nup

Marriage in America has, traditionally, been defined by gender roles for the husband and wife.  The husband was primarily seen as the breadwinner while the wife was the caregiver.  These roles were held firm in America's society until the rise of the suffrage movement which culminated in the 19th amendment passed in 1920 giving women the right to vote.  Since that time, women and men have seen a growth in the possibility within their marriage roles.  Now, it is not uncommon to see a man who stays at home with the children while the wife works or to see two working parents.  The feminist movement has aided both men and women in diversifying their responsibilities in the home.

During The Great Depression, America saw a significant decrease in the number of marriages as men waited until they could fully provide for a family before committing to the financial support of additional family members.  Similarly, there was a significant decrease in the number of formal divorces as men did not want to spend money on the lawyers or in the potential spousal support.  This concern for the monetary effects of marriage helped coin the term "poor man's divorce" to put a name to the act of abandoning one's family.  Birth rates also fell during this time as people learned more about birth control in an attempt to minimize the number of mouths they were responsible for.

Feminism and The Great Depression gave more freedom to those women who were marrying, like Amelia Earhart. Amelia was novel in her time from her dress to her fascination with aviation, but her marriage pre-nuptial proves that she was ahead of her time in her thoughts on marriage gender roles.  As part of an Amelia Earhart collection, Purdue University includes a copy of her pre-nuptial letter to then fiance George Putnam:

Image from Huffington Post
In the letter Amelia defines an open marriage free from "medieval code of faithfulness."  If you'd like to see more of these historical documents, you can visit Purdue's Library collections online.  See below for more specific links to the Amelia Earhart collections.  Happy Monday!

Visit George Putnam's Papers about Amelia Here
Visit the Amelia Earhart at Purdue Collection Here

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