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Cradle of the Middle Class: The Family in Oneida County, New York, 1790-1865 (Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Modern History) Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0521274036 ISBN-10: 0521274036

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Product Details

  • Series: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Modern History
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (November 25, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521274036
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521274036
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #794,059 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Book Description

Winner of the 1981 Bancroft Prize. Focusing primarily on the middle class, this study delineates the social, intellectual and psychological transformation of the American family from 1780-1865. Examines the emergence of the privatized middle-class family with its sharp division of male and female roles.

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3.6 out of 5 stars
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ryan's Cradle of the Middle Class broke new ground when it was published in '81, forcing historians to rethink the rise of the middle class, placing it into its historical context and at the same time arguing that the retreat to the middle-class home was a choice, for both men and women. Often held up as a classic of women's history, what makes this book amazing is that it's also pioneering in men's history, examining the effect of the domestic sphere on both boys and girls, men and women, and the social, cultural, economic and religious forces that led to their identification with the domestic sphere as the source of moral strength. Ryan gives a clear view of the complex interactions of economic and political change with personal relationships, literature and other social factors in creating the idea of the 'middle class.' She uses a wide variety of sources, including private letters and personal portraits which give oyu an idea of the real people who made these decisions, and it's becautifully organized & well written. For anyone interested in an academic book examining the middle class, the domestic sphere, or the family in the 19th century, this is a great read-- I've read it three times for different graduate classes, and I still like it (and THAT'S a compliment...) :)
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Roger D. Launius VINE VOICE on January 17, 2006
Format: Paperback
When Mary P. Ryan's local study of the transformation of Oneida County, New York, from an agricultural to an industrial society appeared in 1981 it sparked a debate about the nature of the American family that has yet to abate. Ryan argues that changes in family structure as a result of this economic transformation created the Victorian culture of the latter half of the nineteenth century. She offers a complex, and richly drawn, exploration of how the family moved from the farm to the factory. It is, without question, an important consideration of changes n the American family and the costs of those changes. The movement from the patriarchal society of an agricultural society to one that was industrial and commercial altered the perspectives of both men and women. She suggests that in the agricultural society of the early Republic, the family rested on the use of "productive property, a domestic division of labor, and generational continuity" (p. 231).

With the rise of a new economy, and the changes it necessitated, Ryan insists that there was a bifurcation of gender roles that emphasized a cult of domesticity for women as well as a male-oriented "bread-winner" emphasis. The middle class, the focus of this study, reflected these changes more dramatically than other segments of the population and Ryan explores this in some detail. She comments that the social reform movements of the antebellum era also fundamentally influenced the construction of this new middle class society.

Ryan notes several key changes to the nuclear family that resulted from this dynamic. First, she found a change in the mother-child relationship as the "central place in the constellation of family affection" and a lessening role of the father in child-rearing (p. 233).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was purchased for my Family History book collection. It was not necessarily an easy, enjoyable read!! I was not very impressed with it.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Harold Henderson on August 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
She ties together big-picture economic changes, religious revivals, child-rearing strategies, the emergence of privacy, the separation of public and private spheres, and the loosening grip of family ties -- all without losing touch with specific people and places.

I had no idea, for instance, how "a fine network of kin relationships was superimposed upon the factory order of New York Mills. One set of employment records dating from 1826 was actually arranged into family units. This ledger detailed the work experience of some twenty families, all identified by the name of the father or occasionally a widowed mother at the top of the page."

[...]
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3 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book put me to sleep at every single corner. There was nothing interesting about it, I will never EVER read anything from Mary P. Ryan again.
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