As divorce rates in the U.S. were rising by the end of World War II, so were fears over the state of marriage and family life. Skyrocketing rates sent many couples to seek expert advice to bolster their marriages.
During this time, the idea that marriage could be saved — and a divorce prevented — with enough work gained ground, according to Kristin Celello, assistant professor of history at Queens College, City University of New York, in her fascinating book Making Marriage Work: A History of Marriage and Divorce in the Twentieth-Century United States. A slew of experts stepped in to help American couples strengthen their unions — and with some interesting suggestions.
These experts, however, weren’t necessarily trained therapists or even anyone who had anything to do with psychology. Take marriage expert Paul Popenoe, for example. He was incredibly well-known and established one of America’s first marriage counseling centers in the 1930s, made regular media appearances and contributed to Ladies Home Journal — and he was a horticulturalist.
The marriage prescriptions of the 1950s could be summed up in one sentence: It was mainly a woman’s job to foster a happy marriage and steer it away from divorce.
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