Project Description

Valentine given by William Edward Hawks
Bennington, Vermont
to Helen Elizabeth Brown, 1854

Love, Marriage, and Divorce

April 2 – December 31

The highs and lows of love and heartache, from Victorian wedding gowns to scandalous tales of sexual harassment.

Marriage isn’t what it used to be, but what did it really used to be?  In Colonial America, marriage was largely a matter of property and reproduction. Romantic love as we know it today was not considered necessary to wedded bliss until the Victorian era. Some same-sex couples quietly cohabited in the Green Mountains in plain sight during the nineteenth century, although their relationships were not recognized as “marriage” until a century later. Domestic abuse, sexual harassment, and scandal have been tabloid fodder since the earliest days of Vermont’s statehood.  This exhibit will explore the highs and lows of love and heartache, from gorgeous Victorian wedding gowns, to scandalous tales of sexual harassment. Despite changing social customs, we may find that human nature has changed very little over the years, although the nature of marriage continues to shift.