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Comprehensive Child Marriage Research Library

American Child Bride: A History of Minors and Marriage in the United States


Object Type:

Lefkovitz, Alison

Book Review

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Journal of the History of Sexuality

Peer Reviewed


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Students Against Child Marriage's Object Summary:

This object is a review of Nicholas Syrett’s book American Child Bride: A History of Minors and Marriage in the United States. In it, Allison Lefkovitz describes the project of Syrett’s book, its overarching argument that movements surrounding child marriage have historically been about a variety of other topics - parents’ rights, eugenics, the status of women, the sanctity of marriage, the definition of consent - rather than children themselves, and the questions the book raises for further study. She quotes extensively from the book and gives a brief overview of its contents - how historical eras have grappled with the question of child marriage differently. Lefkovitz argues that Syrett poses questions about consent and how we as a society have to grapple with the idea of consent in our laws as opposed to other ethical and material considerations.

Article Abstract (If Available):

Nicholas L. Syrett's new book, American Child Bride: A History of Minors and Marriage in the United States, takes a fascinating topic and uses it to present significant insights into the history of childhood, coverture, parental rights, sexuality, eugenics, and much more in the history of American families. First-wave feminists opposed child marriage as well, but even in these cases, they acted out of self-interest. [...]even as the age of consent has remained the same in some states, feminist and child protection groups have worked to grant hearsay exceptions to child victims of rape, to extend the statute of limitations to adult survivors of child sexual assault, and to procure funding for counseling and other services.1 How have these changes affected our understanding of child marriage?

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