The 'Treasure Box of Greater Learning for Women' was a short treatise, first published in Japan 1716, and generally accepted as being the work of Kaibara Ekiken (1630-1714). It contained guidelines concerning the proper instruction of women and included a list of behaviours for which a man would be justified in divorcing his wife. I thought I'd share them here. Let's see how many of us would still be married today if these rules had continued to be followed!
1. A woman could be divorced if she showed disobedience to her father-in-law or mother-in-law.
Well, I've fallen at the first hurdle. Imagine having to submit to the wishes of your mother-in-law in all things... to the point where, even if the reason for a dispute were miniscule, she could insist that her son divorce you. I'd have rolled up my futon and hit the road about five minutes after saying 'I do'. Ok, I admit it, I wouldn't have lasted that long.
2. A woman could be divorced if she did not bear a child; the reason being that women were sought in marriage to give men posterity. A man who had a child by a concubine, however, would not have had reason to divorce a wife of virtuous heart.
And the second hurdle has brought me down too. No children. No concubines either, to save me from being shown the door. All was not lost though, if your husband happened to have an affair and got some other filly pregnant, you could adopt her baby and bring it up as your own to avoid being divorced... what fun. And if he did have an affair, consider the next reason for divorce before smiting him with a frying pan.
3. A woman could be divorced if she were jealous.
This print, on the right, is from a series by Utamaro called 'Variegations of Blooms According to their Speech' (Sakiwake kotoba no hana), published around 1802-3. The woman portrayed is a merchant's wife, and the text above her records her words as she reprimands her husband; the implication being that he has been seeing another woman. The purpose of the series was to highlight the traits amongst women that should be avoided; jealousy being one. In addition to complaining about the infidelity, however, the woman is complaining about her husband's parents. Consider the first reason for divorce listed here... this little lady's on very shaky ground!
4. A woman could be divorced for being lewd.
Ah well, in this I am safe, as I am always the model of propriety. I hear my husband laughing but cannot imagine why.
5. A woman could be divorced for talking too much.
Remembering that those judging what 'too much' was were men, if this rule had been adhered to, surely there would have been no women who stayed married long enough to become mothers-in-law who could then insist their daughters-in-law be tossed out onto the street for disobedience!
6. A woman could be divorced for being a kleptomaniac.
At last, one that has no affect upon my own marital status. I have receipts to prove this is so.
7. A woman suffering from leprosy or any 'like foul disease' could be divorced.
I love you sweetie, you've given me three wonderful children and you're great with my parents, but you're ill... toodle-pip.
Would now be a good time to mention that one of the things young women were persuaded against doing, as it took time away from doing the household chores, was reading? Liking small animals too much was also to be avoided. Oh, who needs a husband anyway!
Causes Gina Collia-Suzuki Supports
The World Wildlife Fund
Cancer Research UK