1st Edition

Family Men Middle-Class Fatherhood in Industrializing America

By Shawn Johansen Copyright 2001

    The image of the cold and distant Victorian patriarch, whose domestic roles were limited to those of provider and disciplinarian, is one that still dominates the way we think about nineteenth-century fatherhood. In Family Men, Shawn Johansen reveals that this myth has very little to do with the complex domestic lives these men actually led. Fathers routinely engaged in numerous domestic chores, cared for children, and took a far more active role in parenting then previously thought. Using a rich selection of personal writings, Johansen resurrects the voices of nineteenth-century fathers, uncovering how their feelings during childbirth, their views on education and religion, the ways their relationship to their children changed as they both grew older, and their attitudes toward many other domestic matters. Family Men is a sophisticated and compelling addition to the growing literature on the history of masculinity and the family.

    Introduction; Chapter 1 “Oh Ambition!”; Chapter 2 Husbands as Fathers; Chapter 3 Oedipus Forgiven; Chapter 4 The Tyranny Of Love; Chapter 5 Providing a Middle-Class Future; Chapter 6 Fathers and Children’s Transition to Adulthood; Conclusion;


    Shawn Johansen is an Assistant Professor of History at Frostburg State University in Maryland. He lives in Frostburg, Maryland.

    "Skillfully examining the letters and diaries of scores of antebellum fathers, Johansen forces us to abandon the simplistic, yet commonplace notion that men in the first half of the nineteenth century had little interaction with their children. The 'separate spheres,' as he so convincingly demonstrates, were not so separate after all. This book makes a vital contribution to the rapidly growing literature on the history of fatherhood and will assume an important place in the study of manhood and masculinity in America." -- Robert L. Griswold, author of Fatherhood in America: A History
    "Family Men is a major contribution to the history of family and of gender, with findings and implications that make it significant in the more general areas of social and cultural history. The author reveals that the standard interpretation of fatherhood for this period (asserting its decline) is pat, oversimplified, and perhaps just plain wrong." -- E. Anthony Rotundo, author of American Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era
    "Shawn Johansen's Family Men brilliantly challenges many of our assumptions about men in history. Here we find real men, not sermon or advice book representations of masculinity: awaiting the birth of their children, raising their sons and daughters, worrying about their families. This book does for the social history of men what the earliest, best women's history did for women: examines what they wrote, how they felt, and what their lives were actually like. This is history that is both illuminating and moving. It deserves a wide readership." -- Ellen Carol DuBois, author of Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848-1869
    "Family Men joins the few pioneering studies that help us to delve beneath common stereotypes about nineteenth-century fathers in America. Shawn Johansen powerfully demonstrates that the supposed absence of fathers in domestic life has been based on an absence of research. While providing a much richer understanding of antebellum fathers' roles and emotions, Family Men makes us look at present-day fathers in a new light as well." -- Peter N. Stearns, author of Battleground of Desire: The Struggle for Self Control in Modern America
    "Johansen's study offers a welcome alternative to shopworn depictions of the early middle class as mired in repression and blunted by a work ethic." -- Journal of American History
    "Shawn Johansen offers a careful and compassionate portrait of the roles of middle-class fathers in mid-nineteenth-century United States families." -- American Historical Review