Service of Listening to Your Heart, Social Pressures Be Damned

March 16th, 2017

Categories: Marriage

I kept Lesley M.M. Blume’s article, “The Woman Who Said No,” which was part of the Commitment series—165 Years of Love (and War)–in The New York Times’s wedding announcement section in Sunday Styles, because the woman, Mary Landon Baker, 1900-1961, was a pioneer. She didn’t cave to convention even though she had plenty of opportunities: Sixty five marriage proposals, supposedly, wrote Blume, yet the Chicagoan never married.

In the day, some postulated that she was shy.

She couldn’t have been lonely with all that company. It didn’t hurt that she was an “international catch.” Her father, Alfred Baker who left her a fortune when she was 27, “suggested to a reporter that she was simply having too delectable a time playing the field to settle down.” Baker later “confessed ‘I have never been in love.’”

Blume listed some of her fiancés as “an English Lord, an Irish prince, a Spaniard of means,” and a Yugoslav diplomat. She left Alistair McCormick at the alter three times. [He ended up marrying someone else in London.]

Blume wrote: “We will probably never know Miss Baker’s motives in marionetting her suitors, but we do know this: She was never in need of spousal support.” Blume was referring to her fortune. “She had security; she had status. Mary Landon Baker wasn’t ‘shy.’ Rather, she was free.”

In “Love and Marriage,” D’Vera Cohn wrote in 2013 on “Among married people, 93% say love is a very important reason to get married; 84% of unmarried people say so. Men and women are equally likely to say love is a very important reason to get married.” Other reasons married people say they got married included making a lifelong commitment, 87%; companionship 81% and having children 59%.

Do you think seeking financial security has a lot to do with why people marry in this country today? What priorities do you give love, lifelong commitment, companionship,  having children–or something else?

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6 Responses to “Service of Listening to Your Heart, Social Pressures Be Damned”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    Money plays a part in all aspects of human relationships, there’s no telling who marries who and for what reason. If I had the answer, I would have as many assets as the wise Miss Baker!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I wonder if she had doubts about the affection of her 65 suitors thinking that they might be after her money… which may also be a reason she didn’t marry any of them. Having as much money as she had might not always be a blessing [though I wouldn’t mind trying it out for a few years–at least long enough to put a giant chunk aside after giving even larger chunks to favorite charities!].

  3. Martha Takayama Said:

    I read several articles about Mary Landon Baker. She certainly did not want for anything material and definitely was not shy. She was known to have numerous suitors and never worried about what polite society might think of her behavior , but it doesn’t seem likely that she had any interest in making social or political change for anyone other than herself. It does seem that she was more than a tad indulged and spoiled by her wealth and not overwhelmed by feelings of love, commitment, devotion or need for social acceptance or economic security.
    I am at a loss s to understand why Americans do or don’t marry. I would like to think that the basis of most marriage is love, companionship, commonality of interest and aspirations. Looking at our present President certainly makes all of those factors irrelevant and absurd.

    Children are another matter, with wide variation about what your civil status or relation ship need to be to have them.

    Since more women are working than ever and able to support themselves or make major financial contributions to shared living, perhaps the idea of marrying for support or financial security is less popular than it used to be. I used to think that marriages of convenience, for economic and social reasons were a larger part of society in Europe and Latin America. Europeans did not and may still not shed their marriages with the ease and frequency of Americans. Often laws (religious in origin), financial reasons, family, however loosely maintained continue to seem convenient.

    For some marriage is more appealing than single living, divisions of households and possible loneliness .Although we tend to be very puritan in recognizing this, many people stray, but do not want to recreate a marriage or formalized structure with a new mate. I have heard of people who consider their marriage de facto terminated, but who for economic reasons remain in the same physical dwelling.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I have been watching re-runs of Downton Abbey. In the period after the war, the pressure on certain classes to marry and carry on the family name was palpable. We are lucky that we did not have similar pressure here.

    In “my day,” my mother was about the only one who warned me that if I married in college, she’d not pay my tuition–I was on my own. She was not a fan of people marrying too young. So many other young women were put under tremendous pressure to tie the knot by their parents. I often wondered if marriage wasn’t what they wanted their daughters to earn–not degrees as much! No wonder there were so many divorces as a result.

  5. EAM Said:

    I don’t think financial stability is a certainty in why people get married. My mother told my sister, “You have expensive taste, I hope you marry well.” My sister replied, “I don’t need to marry well, I can do it for myself.” I have many friends in their 40’s who have different types of relationships that do not require marriage but at times, it’s a pragmatic arrangement.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I agree with your sister though I bet there are plenty who still marry for [big] bucks in the U.S. It’s not a good plan for the obvious reasons.

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