On marriage

by Jess


If you thought marriage counseling was the innocent family-friendly institution it appears to be, you have to read this article by Jill Lepore from The New Yorker.  I read much of it with my jaw hanging down to the floor.

We’re introduced to Paul Popenoe, “the father of marriage counselling, who is best remembered for the Ladies’ Home Journal feature ‘Can This Marriage Be Saved?’ It’s still running. For decades, the stories in ‘Can This Marriage Be Saved?’ came from Paul Popenoe’s American Institute of Family Relations, based in Los Angeles, the country’s leading marriage clinic. Reporters called it ‘the Mayo Clinic of family problems.’ At its height, in the nineteen-fifties, Popenoe’s empire also included stacks of marriage manuals; a syndicated newspaper column, ‘Modern Marriage’; a radio program, ‘Love and Marriage’; and a stint as a judge on a television show, ‘Divorce Hearing.’ People called him Mr. Marriage.”

Oh, and by the way, he just so happened to be really into eugenics and forced sterilization of “the black, brown, and yellow races.”  How could such things possibly be related to marriage, you ask?  It’s simple: encourage the best people to marry and reproduce, and you end up with only the best children.  Theoretically.

And I quote: “In 1918, Paul Popenoe and Roswell Hill Johnson wrote ‘Applied Eugenics,’ to explain ‘the practical means by which society may encourage the reproduction of superior persons and discourage that of inferiors.’ It became the most widely assigned college textbook on the topic; it was also translated into German. Where Grant blamed ‘swarms of Polish Jews’ and the like, and ‘half-breeds,’ Popenoe and Johnson blamed college girls. Education, they warned, ‘is tending toward race suicide’: ‘Many a college girl of the finest innate qualities, who sincerely desires to enter matrimony, is unable to find a husband of her own class, simply because she has been rendered so cold and unattractive, so overstuffed intellectually and starved emotionally, that a typical man does not desire to spend the rest of his life in her company.'”

Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin.  My cold, overstuffed intellect fails me.

Lepore goes on: “Not until the end of the Second World War did Popenoe stop publishing on racial purity, and then only begrudgingly, complaining in 1945, ‘When it comes to eugenics, the subject of “race” sets off such tantrums in a lot of persons that one has to be very long-suffering!’ The next year, at the Nuremberg trials, lawyers defending the Nazi doctors cited Madison Grant’s work. ‘My interest in eugenics . . . is as keen as ever,’ Popenoe wrote, privately, in 1949, ‘although most of the work I am doing is in a slightly different field.’ Four years later, Ladies’ Home Journal began publishing ‘Can This Marriage Be Saved?'”

Read the article.  Be amazed at the path history has taken, and how little we know about the darkness we have come through.