Most in the United States likely associate the concept of the child
bride with the mores and practices of the distant past. But
Nicholas L. Syrett challenges this assumption in his sweeping and
sometimes shocking history of youthful marriage in America.
Focusing on young women and girls--the most common underage
spouses--Syrett tracks the marital history of American minors from
the colonial period to the present, chronicling the debates and
moral panics related to these unions.
Although the frequency of child marriages has declined since the
early twentieth century, Syrett reveals that the practice was
historically far more widespread in the United States than is
commonly thought. It also continues to this day: current estimates
indicate that 9 percent of living American women were married
before turning eighteen. By examining the legal and social forces
that have worked to curtail early marriage in America--including
the efforts of women's rights activists, advocates for children's
rights, and social workers--Syrett sheds new light on the American
public's perceptions of young people marrying and the ways that
individuals and communities challenged the complex legalities and
cultural norms brought to the fore when underage citizens, by
choice or coercion, became husband and wife.