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.
American marriage in the early twentieth century has been increasingly built around the autonomy of youth, romantic heterosexual love and intimacy, and contraceptive practice, while the power of the patriarchal family over children’s marriage has weakened. This modern form of marriage began earlier in the U.S. and other industrialized nations, but over the century it emerged in many parts of the world, influenced by consumer capitalism, urbanization, mass media, and women’s employment and political mobilization. Ideals of emotional and sexual intimacy in marriage became very powerful, but they have often clashed with the realities of class and gendered power differences in people’s lives. This lecture examines how Americans and others have experienced and sought to re-think the inner dynamics of modern marriage in the mid- to late-twentieth century.