Saturday, September 1, 2012

Welcome, Elizabeth Pleck!

We here at LHB are delighted to welcome Elizabeth H. Pleck as a Guest Blogger for the month of September.  She is a Professor Emerita of History (among other things) at the University of Illinois and the author of Love of Freedom: Black Women in Colonial and Revolutionary New England (Oxford University Press, 2010); Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding (University of California Press, 2003); Celebrating the Family: Ethnicity, Consumer Culture, and Family Rituals (Harvard University Press, 2001); Domestic Tyranny: The Making of American Social Policy against Family Violence from Colonial Times to the Present (University of Illinois Press, 1987); and Black Migration and Poverty: Boston 1865-1900 (Academic Press, 1979).  With Nancy F. Cott, she edited the path-breaking A Heritage of Her Own: Toward a New Social History of American Women (Simon and Schuster, 1979).

We’re especially looking forward to posts relating to her brand new book, Not Just Roommates: Cohabitation after the Sexual Revolution (University of Chicago Press), of which the Press writes:
The late twentieth century has seen a fantastic expansion of personal, sexual, and domestic liberties in the United States. In Not Just Roommates, Elizabeth H. Pleck explores the rise of cohabitation, and the changing social norms that have allowed cohabitation to become the chosen lifestyle of more than fifteen million Americans.

Despite this growing social acceptance, Pleck contends that when it comes to the law, cohabitors have been, and continue to be, treated as second-class citizens, subjected to discriminatory laws, limited privacy, a lack of political representation, and little hope for change. Because cohabitation is not a sexual identity, Pleck argues, cohabitors face the legal discrimination of a population with no group identity, no civil rights movement, no legal defense organizations, and, often, no consciousness of being discriminated against. Through in-depth research in written sources and interviews, Pleck shines a light on the emergence of cohabitation in American culture, its complex history, and its unpleasant realities in the present day.
And here are the blurbs:

Steven Mintz, Columbia University

 "In Not Just Roommates, Elizabeth H. Pleck explores all facets of a trend that has produced intense controversy and opposition: from college students ‘shacking up’ to common law marriages among the poor, cohabiting same-sex partners, and unmarried couples’ households among the elderly. Her book not only explains how a phenomenon that sixty years ago was derided as ‘living in sin’ became the norm, it comments forcefully and utterly convincingly about how law and public policy have failed to take account of a fundamental shift in American life."

Stephanie Coontz, author of A Strange Stirring

“This richly detailed history documents the uneven and still incomplete struggle to remove the legal penalties and social stigma against cohabitation. Pleck shows how the movement for same-sex marriage has simultaneously expanded the rights of heterosexual cohabitors and obscured some of their particular needs. Can we, she asks, find ways to protect both the right to marry and the right not to have to marry in order to enjoy equal treatment in society?”

Pamela J. Smock, University of Michigan

Not Just Roommates transcends conventional accounts of the dramatic upsurge in cohabitation, demonstrating that it occurred in spite of—and not because of—changes in law and social policy. Pleck deftly chronicles the sociocultural and legal history of ‘living together,’ showing us how class and race are vital to the story and effectively arguing that cohabitors remain second-class citizens in a country that privileges marriage. This is an important scholarly contribution and a book that will transform how readers think about cohabitation and the changing American family.”

Welcome, Liz!