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Living In SinCohabiting As Husband and Wife in Nineteenth-century England$
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Ginger S. Frost

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780719077364

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719077364.001.0001

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The ‘other Victorians’: the demimonde and the very poor

The ‘other Victorians’: the demimonde and the very poor

(p.123) 6 The ‘other Victorians’: the demimonde and the very poor
Living In Sin

Ginger S. Frost

Manchester University Press

This chapter discusses the very poor, the ‘criminal’ classes, and the demimonde, with the most emphasis on the first, since the second and third groups have received more historical attention. Most of the poor married legally but a significant minority did not. Marriage conferred a legal obligation for the husband to support his wife, but a cohabitee had no such right. Age, race, ethnicity, family and occupation are the reasons why couples prefer cohabitation. The resemblance of stable cohabitation to marriage comes out most clearly in the violence cases. It is noted that the most of the poor who lived in cohabiting unions lived among and interacted with their married neighbours. Voluntary cohabitees were more often pressured to marry by authorities and their families, since they had no impediments to marriage. Women accepted free unions, but seldom as a first choice.

Keywords:   cohabitation, very poor, criminal classes, demimonde, marriage, age, race, ethnicity, family, occupation

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