Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wife Selling and Tour Gift Card--Marlow Kelly Tells All



I'm so happy to welcome fellow Rose Marlow Kelly today to share a little of her current novel and to talk about a practice that our society would find reprehensible--not to say illegal--today. Wife Selling. Here's Marlow to tell us about the practice and the book.

Thank you. First:
I will be awarding a $10 Amazon egift-card to a lucky winner via rafflecopter. Just go to the link listed below to enter. The giveaway runsfrom 4th March until 31st March



In my novella, A Woman of Love, Annabel’s husband gives her to another man after losing a hand of cards. Would this really happen? In my opinion, yes, especially if the husband has no regard for his wife.

Women in this period did not exist in the eyes of the law. To make matters worse, once a woman was married she, along with all her possessions, and her earnings, belonged to her husband. This made women property rather than people. Which leads me to the shocking subject of wife selling. Yes, there were men in England who thought that they could sell their wives, and in some cases their children too.

Wife selling was a custom that took place, in England, between the late 17th century and the early 20th century. The husband would lead his wife, using a rope around her neck, waist or wrist, to the market place or cattle auction, as if she were livestock. Once there he would sell her to the highest bidder.

Many believed wife selling was a legal way to dissolve a marriage. To understand this you have to understand that until the Marriage act of 1753 all a couple had to do to be legally married was to agree to the union in front of witnesses. As long as they had reached the age of consent, twelve for girls and fourteen for boys, the marriage was legal. (Scary isn’t it.) So if it was that easy to get married it must be just as easy to get divorced, right? Wrong. To obtain a divorce required wealth and connections. It was a legal procedure that involved an act of parliament, the blessing of the church, and a lot of money, and was something well beyond the reach of the average man.

The first reported case of wife selling I can find was in November 1692 when John Whitehouse of Tipton sold his wife to Mr. Bracegirdle. But it’s hard to believe that this custom didn’t exist before this date. Women had long been viewed as property under English law. I have read of an instance where a woman was deeded to another man as early as 1302, and although I haven’t been able to corroborate it, it wouldn’t surprise me to find it was true.

At the turn of the nineteenth century there were judges who opposed the law. But they seemed to be confused as to whether they had the right to prevent it. The magistrate for Ashbourne, Derbyshire called wife selling scandalous, but in the next breath said,

“As to the act of selling itself, I do not think I have a right to prevent it, or even oppose any obstacle to it, because it rests upon a custom preserved by the people of which perhaps it would be dangerous to deprive them by any law for that purpose.”


**See Caption Below
In fact, there were Poor Law Commissioners (These were local officials who were responsible for the workhouses.) who took advantage of it and forced husbands to sell their wives and children, so the family could be expelled from the workhouse. In one such case in 1814 the wife and child of Henry Cook, who were living in Effingham workhouse, were sold at Croydon market for one shilling, the parish paid for the cost of the journey and a "wedding dinner". (This breaks my heart.)

Wife selling jumped in popularity reaching its highpoint in the 1820’s and 1830’s. When it was at it’s most popular there was a backlash of public opinion. Husbands wanting to sell their wives came under extreme social pressure and the practice waned, but it didn’t disappear completely. Newspapers in England reported ten cases of wife selling in the 1890’s, according to a research paper, Wife Sales written by Peter T. Leeson, Peter J. Boettke, Jayme S. Lemke.

The fact is that once women were granted property rights under the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857, and then the Married Women’s Property Act of 1870, wife selling declined. I should point out that from 1730 and 1900 newspapers reported only 192 wife sales. (Newspaper accounts are the best way to gage this subject as husbands were rarely prosecuted for this crime.) This seems a relatively small number compared to the number of marriages and how many of those marriages would have been unhappy.

This is undoubtedly one of the most deplorable, disgusting customs I have researched, but I will leave you with a true tale of wife selling that does have a happy ending.

Henry Bridges, 2nd Duke of Chandos, while on his way to London, dined with a companion, at the Pelican Inn in Newbury. A commotion in the courtyard caught their attention and upon further investigation they discovered that a man was going to sell his wife, Anne. They went to see. The duke was instantly taken with the poor young wife. He purchased her and brought her home where he educated her. The pair fell in love and were married On Christmas Day in 1744. They remained together until her death in 1759.

If that isn’t inspiration for a romance novel I don’t know what is.
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Here's a taste of Marlow's terrific A WOMAN OF LOVE   
                      


Blurb

When her dissolute husband insists that Lady Annabel Peters bed one of his villainous cohorts to repay a gambling debt, she is scandalized. But she is forced to agree because he controls every aspect of her life.

A physically and emotionally crippled war hero, James Drake has retreated from society. At the request of his brother, he manipulates events so he can interrogate Annabel, a woman he thinks may be part of a ring of thieves.

Neither of them count on an instant and overwhelming attraction. James may now believe Annabel but she suspects her husband plans to kill her. As one of her husband’s friends, James is not to be trusted.
Yet how can she escape a man who has the ability to control her with a gentle kiss?

EXCERPT



Maneuvering Peters into having his wife pay his debts had been easy. He had counted on the bastard to care more about money than his personal relationships. Of course, James had no intention of compromising her. He only wanted her alone for questioning. Hopefully, she would be forthcoming, and he wouldn’t have to resort to intimidation.

He led her to the library. Three of the four walls were lined with shelves, crammed with books. It smelled of old, musty paper, but it was the only room in the house, other than the bedroom, that contained furniture.

“Take a seat.” He pointed to his old, leather couch, then carried the oil lamp from the stone mantelpiece and put it on the small table next to her. She clamped her arms around her body. Her large, oval eyes stared at the light, mesmerized by the small dancing flame. She reminded him of the refugees he’d seen when he served in the Crimea, giving the impression of a woman whose world had collapsed around her. Something in his chest twisted. He wondered if she was more a victim than he had assumed.

In the flicker of lamplight her eyes looked dark, but every now and then he caught a glimpse of a lighter shade. Were they blue or green? Wisps of hair, the colour of honey, escaped their pins and trailed down her neck beckoning him to trace the strands with his lips.

Damn, he might have become an animal, but there were limits to his depravity. He would not coerce a woman into his bed, wouldn’t touch her, kiss her, and he certainly wouldn’t make love to her. He needed her cooperation and honesty and couldn’t be distracted by a pretty face with sad eyes.



 ***Caption of illustration above:
From Robert Barnes's illustrations for the 1886 weekly serialised edition of Thomas Hardy's novel The Mayor of Casterbridge. This illustration, the first, depicts the protagonist, Michael Henchard, on the way to a fair to sell his wife and baby daughter

BIO
After being thrown out of England for refusing to drink tea, Marlow Kelly made her way to Canada where she discovered her love of storytelling. Encouraged by her husband, she put her ideas to paper. Her need to write about strong women in crisis drives her stories.

Social media Links:



Buy links:
 Amazon
 TWRP
 B&N


You can go to www.marlowkelly.com to get the tour dates and follow the tour. The more you comment, tweet and follow the more chances they have to win.
 Remember, the giveaway runs from 4th March until 31st March






 

24 comments:

  1. Barbara, thank you so much for having me as a guest on your fabulous blog.

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    1. So glad you are here today, Marlow. Delightful book!

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  2. Love the concept:-) Congrats on the release!

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    1. I'd read the Mayor of Casterbridge way back in college--fun to see it again here. ;)

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  3. This is great info as I write western historical romance and wives and even daughters were given up for a gambling debt.

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    1. Yep, women were considered property in a lot of countries LOL. Thanks for stopping by, Kim.

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    2. Oh yes, Kim. That would've been roughly the same time frame as my book, and Barbara's right a lot of countries saw women as property.

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  4. Horrible. I can see the usefulness as a plot device, but the reality of it happening to real live women (and children--although almost worse if the husband kept them) makes me feel sick. Really sick!

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    1. Oh, I agree. And the story of the workhouse family was so sad!

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    2. I'm so sorry I upset you, Beppie, but the fact of the matter is this really happened and to ignore their suffering doesn't feel right, at least not to me.
      I want to remind women that in this day and age they have power. It hasn't always been the case, so don't waste it.

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  5. Hey ladies, great post. I was going to mention The Mayor of Casterbridge but I see I've been pipped at the post. The selling of wives is also mentioned in Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe novels (though I can't remember which one)--obviously, it is a good plot device! Good luck with the book, Marlow.

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    1. Thanks A.D. I glad you stopped by.
      Wife selling was unknown to me until fairly recently, so it early captured my imagination.

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    2. A.D., I guess I haven't read the Cornwell book that deals with it. Good mention. Thanks for being here

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  6. Very interesting post. I knew wives were considered property but I didn't realize husbands actually sold them. Thank goodness things have changes!

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    1. I agree Jana. Until I started researching women of the past I didn't realize how grateful I am to the women of the suffragette movement.

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    2. Thanks, Jana.Yes, thank goodness things are better than they were. But we can hope they'll be even better in the future.

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  7. Barbara, I've had a great day on your blog - Thank you.

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  8. I've heard of wife selling but have never researched it. And yes, that true story sounds like a real -life romance novel. Love your excerpt and plot line for your story too! Must add to by TBR pile. BTW, there's an old Jack Nicholson movie called "Going South" that involves selling non-violent offenders to women in the west for "husbands." It's a great romantic comedy, but I bet your book is more romantic.

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    1. I wonder if non-violent offender really were sold to women. Umm that would make an interesting blog.
      Thanks for visiting Lilly

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  9. Enlightening post! Love the storyline for A Woman of Love. I'm putting it on my TBR list.

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    1. Thank you so much Joanne. I'm so glad you made it over to Barbara's blog.

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  10. Wow, what an interesting sounding book! I really do want to read it!
    Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

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    1. Thanks great Carolsue. Thanks for stopping by.

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