Christina Simmons became a historian of U.S. women and sexuality under the influence of the women's movement of the 1970s. Her research has centered on how the changing roles and activism of American women have affected marriage and sexuality for both whites and African Americans. She taught at the University of Cincinnati and the University of Windsor (Ontario), retiring from the latter in January 2015 as a professor of history and women's and gender studies. She is a coeditor, with Kathy Peiss, of Passion and Power: Sexuality in History (1989) and the author of Making Marriage Modern: Women's Sexuality from the Progressive Era to World War II (2009). She is currently researching sex and marriage education among African Americans, examining how their unique position in American society affected their views and experiences of marriage and sexuality in the 1940s and 1950s. She is also editing "A Cultural History of Marriage: The Modern Age," a global history of marriage in the twentieth century.
In the twentieth century marriage in the U.S. was transformed from a powerful and patriarchal social and legal institution to a much more fragile and somewhat more egalitarian one. These shifts, especially in the roles and rights of women, have generated sharp social and political controversy. While macro socioeconomic forces like women's increasing labor force participation and cultural developments such as intensified individualism have contributed to these changes, women's concerted efforts to modify marital norms and practices are equally important. This lecture examines how white and African-American women criticized, reconceived, and attempted to reform marriage in the twentieth-century U.S.