Marriage and the Social Mobility of Women in Rural China: 1949-2000

Jing Song, Brown University

This paper uses intensive life history case studies to investigate the role of marriage as a vehicle for women’s social mobility in rural China. The period under study covers three historical phases in the 20th century that provide radically different social and institutional settings for marriage choices. In each period, marriage is a means for women to increase their social connections and improve their family situation. The personal objectives that women endeavor to fulfill through marriage, however, as well as the strategies they use to achieve their aims, vary across time and with women’s position in the economic and social life of rural society. We compare and contrast women’s diverse marriage strategies, how they are enacted, and their consequences concerning social mobility. Of particular interest is the finding that many women experience frustration over unfulfilled objectives due to the unpredictability of social change in rural China.

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Presented in Poster Session 5