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Broken Engagements
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Broken Engagements: The Action for Breach of Promise of Marriage and the Feminine Ideal, 1800-1940

Saskia Lettmaier


While common law actions for breach of promise of marriage originated in the mid-seventeenth century, it was not until the ‘long nineteenth century’ that they saw their rise to prominence and their subsequent fall from favour. This monograph ties the story of the action's rise and fall between 1800 and 1940 to changes in the prevalent conception of woman, her ideal role in society, sexual relations, and the family, arguing that the idiosyncratic nineteenth-century breach-of-promise suit (a luxuriant blend of both contract and tort) and Victorian notions of ideal femininity were uneasily and fa ... More

Keywords: breach-of-promise actions, femininity, true womanhood, law and ideology, law and literature, empiricism, legal history, nineteenth-century women's history

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2010 Print ISBN-13: 9780199569977
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010 DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199569977.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Saskia Lettmaier, author
Research Fellow at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and S.J.D. Candidate at Harvard Law School