Family historian Stephanie Coontz will debunk popular myths about marriage and the family in her Assembly Series lecture titled “Courting Disaster? The World Historical Transformation of Marriage” at 11 a.m. Feb. 1 in Graham Chapel.
The talk also is part of the School of Law’s eighth annual Public Interest Law Speakers Series, “Access to Justice: The Social Responsibility of Lawyers.”
From her research, Coontz finds that the current pop culture frenzy about the “marriage crisis” is unfounded.
Instead, she argues that the institution of marriage has always been dynamic, shifting to fulfill economic needs in societies or kin groups.
She traces the evolution of marriage through the ages in her book Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage. Using exhaustive research that traverses centuries and cultures, Coontz illustrates that the traditional breadwinner/homemaker model is neither traditional nor ideal.
The book was selected as one of the best of 2005 by The Washington Post.
Nationally recognized as an expert on the history of the American family, Coontz continues to deconstruct widespread myths about the disintegration of the social unit.
She has written five books on the subject, including The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap and The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms with America’s Changing Families. Using historical examples, she shows that society has always blamed the instability of the family in times of economic upheaval.
“There is no one family form that has ever protected people from poverty or social disruption,” she writes, “and no traditional arrangement that provides a workable model for how we might organize family relations in the modern world.”
Coontz is a professor of history and family studies at The Evergreen State College. She has taught at universities around the world, including Kobe University in Japan and the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
She has received numerous awards for her work in the field of family values, including the Visionary Leadership Award from the Council on Contemporary Families in 2004 and the Dale Richmond Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1995.
In addition, she has been featured in numerous national publications and a range of media, including The Oprah Winfrey Show and Crossfire television programs, and on National Public Radio.
Coontz earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s in European history from the University of Washington.
Assembly Series talks are free and open to the public.
For more information, call 935-4620 or go online to assemblyseries.wustl.edu.