Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Morag Martin

First Reader

Owen S. Ireland

Second Reader

Alison Parker


Though historians continue to add important insight on marital expectations and experiences in early national Virginia, a more encompassing examination is necessary. This thesis examines marriage in three interconnected ways to augment the study of marital beliefs and realities. First, sermons, hymns, published religious literature, church minutes, and circular letters describe what Protestant Virginian clergy wrote about matrimony. Second, letters, journals, published books, and newspapers provide a useful understanding as to what lay Virginians expected from marriage. Finally, letters, diaries, autobiographies, and secondary sources to provide a glimpse into the experiences of marriage in Virginia. Taken together, this study concludes that from 1779 to 1835, Virginians struggled to reconcile the companionate ideal with the traditional patriarchal marriage model.