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‘Unadulterated History of Marriage’ topic of ISU Women’s History Month keynote by world-renowned expert Coontz

March 7, 2012
ISU Marketing and Communications

The Idaho State University Anderson Gender Resource Center will host world-renowned marriage scholar Stephanie Coontz who will deliver the Art of Gender in Everyday Life Conference keynote speech "The Unadulterated History of Marriage" at 7 p.m. March 9 in the Pond Student Union Salmon River Suite.

Coontz's talk will focus on the fact that marriage has changed more in the past 35 years than the previous 3500 years. For thousands of years, marriage was not about love and mutual respect but about property, power, and male dominance, according to Coontz. It was only 200 years ago that love began to be central to the definition of marriage, only 100 years ago that companionship and sexual satisfaction became central, and just 40 years since we began the long march to real equality between men and women, Coontz says. She argues that marriage has become fairer and more fulfilling than in the past, but simultaneously more optional and fragile.

In this provocative gallop through the history of marriage from the Stone Age to the Internet Age, the audience will learn the back story behind great love affairs of the ages such as Anthony and Cleopatra, the two most long-standing martial traditions in the world and the one surprising constant in every marriage system researchers have studied, and what's really new in love, marriage and sexual behavior and what is not. 

Coontz teaches history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and is director of research and public education for the Council on Contemporary Families.

Coontz has published articles in the New York Times, The Observer/Guardian, The Times of London, Wall Street Journal, Salon, Washington Post, Newsweek, Harper's, Vogue, LIFE, Time-LIFE Books, and Mirabella, as well as in such professional journals as Annals, Family Therapy Magazine, Chronicle of Higher Education, National Forum and Journal of Marriage and Family. She has contributed chapters to more than 25 academic books. Frequently quoted as an expert in the mass media, some of the most recent articles she has written tackle topics from Mad Men to the royal wedding to gay marriage, with a huge variety in between and include:

• New York Times, "The M.R.S. and the Ph.D.," February 20, 2012

• First Post (UK), "Kate Middleton and the great 'housewife' myth," May 10, 2011

• AARP Bulletin, "Women closing equality gap," March 7, 2011

•, "Aren't You Glad You Weren’t Single Fifty Years Ago?," February 4, 2011

• Washington Post, "Gay marriage isn't revolutionary. It's just next.," January 9, 2011

• Philadelphia Inquirer, "Economic disparity takes toll on marriage," January 9, 2011

•, "Is marriage becoming obsolete?," November 22, 2010

Coontz has testified about her research before the House Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families in Washington, D.C., and addressed audiences across America, Japan, and Europe. She has been a featured speaker at the Renaissance Weekend, PopTech, and Chautauqua and appeared on The Colbert Report, the Today Show, PBS News Hour with Ray Suarez, Oprah Winfrey, Crossfire, 20/20, NPR, CNN's Talk Back Live, CBS This Morning, CSPAN, the O-Reilly Factor and MSNBC with Brian Williams, as well as in several prime-time television documentaries, including ones hosted by Walter Cronkite and Barbara Walters.

Coontz is the author of "A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s" (Basic Books, 2011) and the award-winning "Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage" (Viking Press, 2005). She also wrote "The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap" (1992 and 2000, Basic Books), "The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms with America's Changing Families" (Basic Books, 1997), and "The Social Origins of Private Life: A History of American Families." Her writings have been translated into French, Arabic, Spanish, Russian, Czech, German, Norwegian, Turkish, Greek, Chinese, Ukrainian, and Japanese.                       

A former Woodrow Wilson Fellow, Coontz has also taught at Kobe University in Japan and the University of Hawaii at Hilo. In 2004, she received the Council on Contemporary Families first-ever "Visionary Leadership" Award. In 1995 she accepted the Dale Richmond Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics for her "outstanding contributions to the field of child development." She also received the 2001-02 "Friend of the Family" award from the Illinois Council on Family Relations. She served as a marriage consultant to The Ladies Home Journal from 2006-2009 and consulted with the Pew Research Center in developing their questionnaire for their 2010 report on the state of marriage and family life in America, as well as with for its 2011 survey on singles.

Coontz's books will be available for purchase and signing. This talk, which closes the Gender conference, is sponsored by the National Women's Studies Association, the Anderson Gender Resource Center and the ISU Women's History Month Committee.

For questions or more information about this or other conference events, contact the Anderson Center at 282-2805 or visit for a full conference schedule.



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