She’s a Little Young, Isn’t She? 19th Century Age of Consent

"Know All Men by These Presents"  Coles Phillips
“Know All Men by These Presents” Coles Phillips

What do you do when two characters have a tiny talk in the second book of your series at a disastrous Christmas dinner and you suddenly realize that at some future date they will be married and one of them is a bit young? How young? Well, here’s what happened: Once I realized the girl was infatuated with the boy I  started counting back time and figuring and re-figuring and I really couldn’t get around the fact that she would be 13 going on 14 when the boy (about twenty one) realized he loved her in return. Mind you, once the idea arrived there was no going back–they HAD to be together!

"Portrait of a Girl (Sophie Gray)"  Sir John Everett Millais
“Portrait of a Girl (Sophie Gray)” Sir John Everett Millais

But would this make the male character a weirdo or again a creature of his time? I went with choice two, hesitantly at first but as the books unfold their relationship makes perfect sense. As an aside I can’t begin to tell you how much fun it is to know so early in a series that two people are destined for each other–you can make so many little moments fill up with great meaning especially since the boy is so oblivious. Maybe that’s a cliche but so is love and I don’t care.

"Girl in a Green Dress" by William Etty
“Girl in a Green Dress” by William Etty

My mother met my father when she was 13 and would have married him then and there if my father wasn’t such a stickler about what others would say. My mother read a book to us as a child Thelma and in it two guys fall in love with the same woman. We all wanted the underdog guy to get her, but the perfect guy did. I guess the author felt bad and made Thelma’s daughter end up with the underdog (so he had to wait years before she grew up–now that’s a little weird). Did you know that Almanzo Wilder  already had his eyes on Laura when she was quite young?  Of course in fiction having a bunch of catty relatives whispering about an unseemly marriage is great!

Age of consent laws in Texas 1898

Interesting paper on long term marriage patterns in US

Legal Consent  Campaign

11 responses to “She’s a Little Young, Isn’t She? 19th Century Age of Consent”

  1. A girlfriend who write paranormal romance got a really bad review. the reader was upset and couldn’t read anymore because the book was about a perverted pedophile…mind you, the guy was twenty and the girl seventeen. They had flashbacks of their youth in the beginning of the book. totally weird. I was pregnant at fifteen and married with my first child at sixteen. My boyfriend/husband was nineteen. Not sayin he wasn’t a creep… just think the reader overreacted on that review.


    • People are so bizarre. I think teenagers are programmed to procreate so while in our society it’s not supported I know that it happens and it’s not always just creepy guys (not pedophiles). Anyway this character of mine is a good guy–there’s a whole bunch of very good reasons for the couple’s attraction towards each other–all of which interests me greatly.

      One day I’ll be waiting for the bad review 🙂

      I knew lots of girls who dated seniors when they were freshmen or they dated college guys–I think we have to accept responsibility as women for our actions. It’s not all about bad guys.


  2. This reminds me of the legal age for marriage in early 19th-century Belgium: 15 for men and 13 for women. So I think, for the time, your characters might not be that far out of the ordinary.


    • By the end of the century there was a push to higher the ages though I’m sure a lot of people still married young. It will be frowned upon in my book, but not quite horrible. 🙂 Just enough to make things uncomfortable.

      Hope you’re well!


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