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Tradition, Revolution and Gender: An Analysis of Wife-Initiated Divorce in North China’s Revolutionary Bases from 1941–1949

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During the 1940s, the Chinese Communist revolutionary bases in North China experienced a sharp increase in divorces in which wives cast off their husbands. This was due in great part to the promulgation of a series of marriage regulations and to the Party’s extensive mobilization of women. Examining both the public and private domains in terms of changes affecting tradition, revolution, and gender, the authors investigate the ways that marriage transformation intertwined with national wars, political changes, and gender liberation. Our analysis reveals that marriage institutions experienced a severe crisis as traditional needs and new longings, such as marriage freedom, wartime needs, and the stability of rural traditions, family, and social structures, intersected. The Chinese Communist regime carried out successive adjustments in marriage policies as they affected women. With Party support, the paradigm of “wives divorcing husbands” became de facto marriage policy in order to adapt to resolve conflicts between emotions and the law and to meet the requirements of rural society and military stability. Seeking to shake off the traditional “oppression–liberation” paradigm, the research in the present article tries to combine the study of female existences, marriage, and the relevant emotions with rural traditions and the historical background of wartime China, so as to explain the changes in women’s marital status and the nature and significance of their so-called liberation in wartime revolutionary bases in North China.

Affiliations: 1: College of History jiangpei@nankai.edu.cn ; 2: School of Marxism goldfeixiang110m@sina.com

10.3868/s020-005-016-0004-8
/content/journals/10.3868/s020-005-016-0004-8
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/content/journals/10.3868/s020-005-016-0004-8
2016-06-07
2018-08-21

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