ABSTRACT

Although I have suggested that the cry of “a crisis” in the family has been so common in American history as to be not a very reliable indicator of much, there were plenty of real tragedies in the families of the Gilded Age. Everyone from conservatives who wished to push the clock back to the old agrarian way of life to radicals who criticized capitalism as undermining family relations saw a negative impact from the vast changes of the latter nineteenth century on the family. Urbanization, industrialization, overcrowding, immigration, poverty, and various forms of exploitation were among the many causes that politicians, newsmen, and charity offi cials all identifi ed. For the poorer classes, not only was their behavior more visible and hence frightening to the upper classes, but poor people do suffer more from the tragic circumstances of life that unemployment, low wages, poor health, overcrowding, and stress bring them. Hence, it is usually the poorest that experience the most domestic violence and family “breakdown,” along with social problems such as alcoholism.