Alternative Forms of Marriage Polygyny Part 2
About the alternative form of marriage known as polygyny, history of the practice and people who have them.
Alternate Forms of Marriage
One daughter of Mormon leader Brigham Young said, "If Salt Lake City were roofed over, it would be the biggest whorehouse in the world." People called the city "New Turkey" and were fascinated by what they thought to be a bacchanalia of sexuality. In actuality, life in the Mormon community was quite low-key. Women were untouchable during menstruation and lactation, and procreation was the only allowable reason for intercourse.
The belief in polygyny was first made public by the Mormon Church in 1852. The Republican party of 1856 ranked it with slavery as an abomination, but little was done to stop it. Abraham Lincoln compared it to a log: "It was too heavy to move, too hard to chop, and too green to burn. So we just plowed around it." But the laws eventually changed, and between 1885 and 1900, 1,000 Mormons were jailed for practicing polygyny. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Mormons in several cases, the Church disavowed it.
Practitioners: History is full of men who practiced polygyny: Old Testament figures Abraham, Moses, David, and Solomon (700 wives and 300 concubines); Priam of Troy, who had 60 children; Genghis Khan, who married sisters; Clotaire, king of the Franks (6th century); Landgrave Philip of Hesse, allowed by Martin Luther to marry a second wife just so he would stay Protestant.
In spite of Brigham Young's grandiose statement "The only men who become Gods or even the sons of God are those who enter into polygamy," he was henpecked to a fare-thee-well. One of his 27 wives, Amelia Folsom, demanded and got a private carriage, a big house, and a box at the theater. When he gave her a sewing machine and she saw it wasn't the Singer she had asked for, she threw it at him.
Where It Stands Today: Though the 1969 Pan-African Cultural Congress supported polygyny, the practice is waning in the modern world. It is expensive (in many cultures, polygynous wives have separate households); it is anathema to liberated women; it is no longer a mark of status in many places. In Tanzania, in 1970, the government sought to make the taking of a second wife legal, to give some consistency to the law in that Muslim-Christian-tribalist country. But Tanzanian women protested violently, using the slogan "To admit a second wife is to bring poison into the home" (not exactly sisterhood, but not subservience, either).
In the East, once the stronghold of polygyny, monogamy is now the rule, except among Muslims, who are allowed four wives. (However, most Muslims cannot afford more than one wife, and the practice is not fashionable.)
In the U.S., as many as 30,000 Mormons live in secret polygynous marriages, in spite of the fact that it is a crime punishable by a fine and a long jail term.
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