Kimberley Reilly

Position title: UW System Fellow (2016-2017)

Democracy and Justice Studies; History; Women and Gender Studies, UW-Green Bay

Portrait image of Kimberley Reilly outdoors

Reconstructing Love: Marriage in U.S. Law and Culture, 1890-1920

My project explores the historical roots of the modern American ideal of marital love as an expression of personal choice and spousal equality. I examine the work of a generation of social reformers, feminists, jurists, and intellectuals in the late nineteenth century who rejected an old model of marital hierarchy in favor of a new, middle-class ideal of marriage in which husbands’ and wives’ parity rested on their emotional reciprocity and sexual constancy. But even as this new ideal rejected the old regime of husband-as-sovereign and wife-as-servant, it reconstructed and perpetuated wives’ subordination. I argue that it was precisely the legal and ideological embrace of “love” as the basis of spousal equality that obscured wives’ unequal status within this emergent marital ideal.

Kimberley Reilly is an Assistant Professor of Democracy and Justice Studies; History; and Women’s and Gender Studies at UW-Green Bay. She received her Ph.D. in History from the University of Chicago. A recipient of grants from the Social Science Research Council and the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation, Reilly has published articles in Law and History Review and the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.