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The Famous Five: Heroes for Today
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Becoming Married

Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource.ca and The Famous Five Foundation

Reading: "The House of Clay"

Nellie McClungMen like frivolity—before marriage; but they demand all the sterner virtues afterwards.

                             —Nellie McClung

While the occupations available to single women gave them greater freedom and independence, public perception could not seem to move beyond the idea that women were children themselves or mothers. If a woman was to work outside of the home, it was expected that upon marriage she would give up her job to become a housewife. Those who chose to remain single did so against the popular belief that women should marry and raise children. Single women were stigmatized and often identified as spinsters or "old maids." In an effort to avoid such social consequences, many women did their best to attract potential husbands.

Sharpe and Macleod weddingSocial conditions dictated that marriage came as a relief to many women. It represented security and respectability, especially if into the right family. For many whose parents had arranged marriages, the union came all too quickly. In an arranged marriage situation, the bride-to-be had often not yet left home; in some cases, she did not meet her future husband before the wedding was agreed upon. While some women resisted getting married, most consented to their parents’ wishes and became dutiful wives.

Although social conditions perpetuated the institution of marriage as based on economics, for many women—including the Famous 5—marriage came as a result of genuine love. Whether love remained the basis of each couple's union was uncertain (it appears that each of the Famous 5 never ceased to love their husbands), but for many, marriage brought new expectations and for some, a loss of freedom. As Nellie McClung wrote in In Times Like These, "The light and airy silly fairy may get along beautifully in the days of courtship, but she palls a bit in the steady wear and tear of married life."

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