Throughout the 1840s and 1850s, women’s rights advocates and other reformers engaged in repeated public debate about what was broadly termed the “marriage question.” One such advocate was the poet, novelist, lecturer, and activist Elizabeth Oakes Smith. Although a radical crusader for women’s rights on most questions, Oakes Smith resolutely opposed the liberalization of divorce laws. This article aims to unpack her position, particularly within the context of the “Free Love Controversy,” the contest over marriage that erupted at the end of American socialism’s first wave. Grounding Oakes Smith’s position against the intellectual backdrop of socialist marriage reformers, this article argues that Oakes Smith, like many political economic radicals, opposed divorce because they saw it as the embodiment of market culture’s radical individualism.


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pp. 38-59
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