April 21, 2020
2 maps, 1 figure, 7 tables
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
1.15 Pounds (US)
$40.00 USD, £50.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Marriage on the Border

Love, Mutuality, and Divorce in the Upper South during the Civil War

Not quite the Cotton Kingdom or the free labor North, the nineteenth-century border South was a land in between. Here, the era's clashing values—slavery and freedom, city and country, industry and agriculture—met and melded. In factories and plantations along the Ohio River, a unique regional identity emerged: one rooted in kinship, tolerance, and compromise. Border families articulated these hybrid values in both the legislative hall and the home. While many defended patriarchal households as an essential part of slaveholding culture, communities on the border pressed for increased mutuality between husbands and wives.

Drawing on court records, personal correspondence, and prescriptive literature, Marriage on the Border: Love, Mutuality, and Divorce in the Upper South during the Civil War follows border southerners into their homes through blissful betrothal and turbulent divorce. Allison Dorothy Fredette examines how changing divorce laws in the border regions of Kentucky and West Virginia reveal surprisingly progressive marriages throughout the antebellum and postwar Upper South. Although many states feared that loosening marriage's gender hierarchy threatened slavery's racial hierarchy, border couples redefined traditionally permanent marriages as consensual contracts—complete with rules and escape clauses. Men and women on the border built marriages on mutual affection, and when that affection faded, filed for divorce at unprecedented rates. Highlighting the tenuous relationship between racial and gendered rhetoric throughout the nineteenth century, Marriage on the Border offers a fresh perspective on the institution of marriage and its impact on the social fabric of the United States.

About the Author

Allison Dorothy Fredette is assistant professor in the Department of History at Appalachian State University. Her work has appeared in West Virginia History: A Journal of Regional Studies and in Rethinking American Emancipation: Legacies of Slavery and the Quest for Black Freedom.


"Through careful analysis of divorce records, private writings, and prescriptive literature, Fredette traces regional variation in white southerners' expectations of marriage while raising intriguing questions about how those views informed sectional identities. By foregrounding marriage in her investigation of regional identity, Fredette not only enriches scholarship on the border South but also shows how examining domestic life can illuminate moments of political upheaval."—Journal of Southern History

"Fredette's study offers a lively glimpse into the private world of love, marriage, and divorce. The author's research into the court cases of separating couples reads, at times, like a collection of salacious tales of love found and lost. Perhaps it is such mining of often overlooked court records that makes this work a must-read for those interested in the personal lives of men and women living on the border."—Virginia Magazine of History & Biography

"Marriage on the Border is a compelling look at how the war impacted romantic relationships. Even with all the math, it is a 'sweet read.' Some incidents ring all too true for today, and some that make the reader laugh out loud. 'How did she NOT see that coming??' is one of my go-to comments for several of the divorces. I recommend this book for those interested in the Confederate homefront and women's history."—Emerging Civil War Book Reviews

"Fredette identifies in the antebellum border states a shifting sentiment in favor of more progressive divorce and family law compared to the rest of the South. This relative liberalization continued through the Civil War years, despite the Southernization of regional identity in the post-war border states. Marriage on the Border offers a cutting-edge work of nineteenth-century gender and family studies as well as a fascinating window into the social history of the Civil War era in the Upper South."—Aaron Astor, author of Rebels on the Border: Civil War, Emancipation, and the Reconstruction of Kentucky and Missouri

"Marriage on the Border leaves no doubt that the tumult of the Civil War and emancipation reached deeply into the most intimate spaces of the border South. Vivid stories of marital conflict, culled from personal papers and legal records of white residents, anchor this fine study. Fredette identifies a unique practice of 'mutuality' in this region where the North and South met and thus offers an eye-opening perspective on the culture of the border South in the Civil War era."—Amy Murrell Taylor, author of Embattled Freedom: Journeys through the Civil War's Slave Refugee Camps

"Marriage on the Border is a fascinating study of how geographical and cultural identity affected attitudes about entering into and leaving marriage contracts. Fredette's innovative use of sources has allowed her to uncover both the ideals and realities of marriage in the border South. This is essential reading for anyone interested in the social history of the South, and this volume makes a significant contribution to the history of the Civil War era and women's history."—Anne E. Marshall, author of Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State

9780813179155 : marriage-on-the-border-fredette
298 Pages
$40.00 USD

Other Titles from New Directions In Southern History

Law and Society in the South

John W. Wertheimer
Dec 2021 - University Press of Kentucky
$30.00 USD - Paperback / softback
$45.00 USD - Electronic book text

Lum and Abner

Randal L. Hall
Dec 2021 - University Press of Kentucky
$35.00 USD - Hardback
$60.00 USD - Electronic book text

The Long Civil War

edited by John David Smith, Raymond Arsenault, with contributions by Michael J. Birkner, Paul A. Cimbala, Stanley Harrold, James R. Hedtke, James Oliver Horton, Lois E. Horton, Daniel Kilbride, Diane Miller Sommerville, Stephen J. Whitf...
Jul 2021 - University Press of Kentucky
$40.00 USD - Hardback
$45.00 USD - Electronic book text
$45.00 USD - Electronic book text

Other Titles in HISTORY / United States / Civil War Period (1850-1877)

Camp Nelson, Kentucky

Richard D. Sears
Dec 2025 - University Press of Kentucky
$40.00 USD - Hardback
$12.95 USD - Electronic book text

Anatomy of a Duel

Stuart W. Sanders
Nov 2023 - University Press of Kentucky
$30.00 USD - Paperback / softback
$60.00 USD - Online resource
$60.00 USD - Electronic book text

Abraham Lincoln, Abridged Edition

Michael Burlingame - edited and abridged by Jonathan W. White
Oct 2023 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$34.95 USD - Hardback
$34.95 USD - Electronic book text

Other Titles in Social & cultural history

Dirt Don't Burn

Larry Roeder, Barry Harrelson
Sep 2023 - Georgetown University Press
$29.95 USD - Hardback

Multicultural Cities of the Habsburg Empire, 1880–1914

Catherine Horel
Jul 2023 - Central European University Press
$105.00 USD - Hardback

Texts and Contexts from the History of Feminism and Women's Rights

edited by Zsófia Lóránd, Adela Hîncu, Jovana Mihajlović Trbovc, Jovana Trbovc, Katarzyna Stańczak-Wiślicz
Jun 2023 - Central European University Press
$115.00 USD - Hardback