Weaving modern-day wives' tales: women redefining wifehood
Taylor, Dana Katherine
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Women's Lives as portrayed in art, literature, and public sentiment reflect like notions of marriage offering the quintessential defining moment of their personhood. Feminist thought and analysis has questioned such assumptions and has sought to raise awareness to the multi-dimensionality of women's lives and as well to provide critical analysis of the disproportionate advantage for men through the institution of marriage. Consequently, while feminist research promotes and values the direct inquiry into women's lives to replace mythical notions about women with truths, such investigations into the personal experiences of women as wives has been a neglected area of inquiry. This study provides a phenomenological exploration of wifehood as it is incorporated into the tapestry of the female self, based upon an integration of feminist, symbolic interactionist, and psychosocial developmentalist theories. Utilizing an existing, ongoing investigation into adult identity, the Adult Identity Development Project (Sorell, Montgomery, & Busch-Rossnagel, 1983-2001), designed to inquire into role-related identities, a small sub-sample of twenty-six married, professional women, from the West Texas area were selected and their qualitative interview data for the role of wife was analyzed. These women were selected because of their high levels of education and the resultant anticipation of their ability to articulate effectively about processes and thoughts that often remain internal and invisible, and as well because of their participation twice in the interview series, approximately a decade apart, providing an opportunity to look at change as well as constancy over time. Utilizing a semi-structured interview schedule, women were invited to share their experiences as wives, answering questions regarding saliency and meaning, personal influence and effect, behavioral expressions, expectations of others, perceived benefits and costs, as well as past, present, or future changes in this role. Utilizing Wolcott's (1994) three-staged protocol for qualitative data analysis, these women's responses were determined to be both unitary and divergent.