Robert Dale Owen's Wedding Day Declaration
and Mary's Concurrence

In accord with Robert Dale Owen's liberal ideas on marriage and religion, his wedding to Mary Jane Robinson, April 12, 1832, took place without the presence of a clergyman. Thirty guests attended the simple afternoon event in the living room of the Robinson home in New Harmony, Indiana.

That morning, Owen had written a letter intended only for close friends. However, the letter was soon published, possibly without Owen's consent, and subsequently republished many times. The portion italicized below has become rather famous. It must be remembered that at the time of this wedding, the wife and her possessions became, by law, property of the husband.

This afternoon I enter into a matrimonial engagement with Mary Jane Robinson... We contract a legal marriage, not because we deem the ceremony necessary to us, or useful ... to society; but because, if we became companions without a legal ceremony, we should ... be perpetually exposed to annoyances, originating in a public opinion [which] we do not perceive the utility of unnecessarily braving.

We have selected the simplest ceremony which the laws of this state recognize ...

Of the unjust rights which, in virtue of this ceremony, an iniquitous law tacitly gives me over the person and property of another, I cannot legally, but I can morally divest myself. And I hereby distinctly and emphatically declare, that I consider myself, and earnestly desire to be considered by others, as utterly divested, now and during the rest of my life, of any such rights ...

I put down these sentiments on paper this morning, as a simple record of the views and feelings with which I enter into [the] engagement ...

Beneath the signature of her husband, Mary wrote, "I concur in these sentiments."
Robert Dale Owen
New Harmony Scientists, Educators, Writers & Artists
Clark Kimberling Home Page