Behind every great woman... who are history's most supportive husbands?
October 19, 2010 5:17 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of supportive husbands (or other kind of male lifepartners) through history, men who helped their female spouses achieve greatness. I'm looking for examples from before 1900, any culture and time period before that is fine.

Basically I'm looking for examples of men from before the 20th Century who made every effort to support their spouses in their endeavors, be they creative, political, philosophic, scientific etc.
posted by Kattullus to Society & Culture (34 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Prince Albert and Queen Victoria.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:23 PM on October 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

H.G. Wells was an outspoken fan of free love for men and women and an big proponent of women's rights. I don't know if he propelled any of the women he was with to greatness, but he did have an affair with Margaret Sanger.
posted by phunniemee at 5:25 PM on October 19, 2010

Best answer: William Cavendish, husband of Margaret Cavendish.
posted by Bardolph at 5:26 PM on October 19, 2010

Best answer: William Godwin, husband of Mary Wollstonecraft.
posted by oinopaponton at 5:31 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Many of the women's suffrage activists of the 19th century had amazing, supportive husbands. I remember reading that one of them (maybe Elizabeth Cady Stanton?) had trouble convincing the captain of the ship they were on to marry them because they wanted to take the "obey" part out of the wedding vows.
posted by wholebroad at 5:32 PM on October 19, 2010

Paul Child
posted by heyforfour at 5:36 PM on October 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

oops, not before 1900, sorry!
posted by heyforfour at 5:36 PM on October 19, 2010

Pierre Curie, perhaps, though that might be on the edge of the time you are interested in.
posted by Nothing at 5:39 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Pierre Curie helped and supported his wife, Marie Curie in her research.
posted by mmascolino at 5:41 PM on October 19, 2010

Best answer: Annie Oakley and Frank Butler.
posted by Miko at 5:42 PM on October 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

John Brown, personal servant of Queen Victoria. They may or may not have been lovers.

As she wrote herself, upon his death:
'Perhaps never in history was there so strong and true an attachment, so warm and loving a friendship between the sovereign and servant ... Strength of character as well as power of frame - the most fearless uprightness, kindness, sense of justice, honesty, independence and unselfishness combined with a tender, warm heart ... made him one of the most remarkable men. The Queen feels that life for the second time is become most trying and sad to bear deprived of all she so needs ... the blow has fallen too heavily not to be very heavily felt...'
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:48 PM on October 19, 2010

Best answer: George Henry Lewis, partner of Mary Evans (George Eliot).

I've read that Lewis sometimes stood in for Evans when "George Eliot" was supposed to meet with publishers. I can't confirm this.
posted by nangar at 5:54 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Perhaps Jane Austen, who for some time lived in a house in Chawton owned by her brother Edward, and whose brother Henry helped find her a publisher.
posted by zompist at 5:58 PM on October 19, 2010

I found Julia Child's description of her husband's devotion and support in her memoir My Life in France to be very touching.
posted by amanda at 5:59 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Augh! I didn't see Paul Child already mentioned or the pre-1900 caveat! Sorry!
posted by amanda at 6:00 PM on October 19, 2010

Best answer: For the few years they were together before his death, Asa Eddy supported Mary Baker Eddy as leader of the Christian Science Movement.
posted by kurt9701 at 6:00 PM on October 19, 2010

John Adams and Abigail.
posted by caddis at 6:18 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Henry Fawcett, husband of the suffragist Millicent Garrett Fawcett.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:18 PM on October 19, 2010

To some extent Mary and Percy Shelley (I say to some extent because, while highly supportive of her writing, he frequently abandoned her for long periods of time (although he did encourage her to take lovers in his absence).
posted by cyphill at 6:33 PM on October 19, 2010

Albert Parsons meets your criteria I think, but he was probably more prominent/famous than Lucy.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 6:37 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Leonard Woolf was a very supportive husband to Virginia Woolf.
posted by Elsie at 6:54 PM on October 19, 2010

Best answer: Robert and Elizabeth Barret Browning!
posted by katopotato at 7:43 PM on October 19, 2010

Caesar backed Cleopatra's rise to the throne in Egypt, though probably not entirely out of the kindness of his heart. Cleopatra's original ascension to power had been tenuous, at best, and she actually had been ousted from power before her relationship with Caesar had begun.

Of course, the chaotic years following Caesar's assassination were ultimately not great for her, what with the whole Marc Antony/Battle of Actium/suicide by asp debacle.
posted by SpringAquifer at 8:19 PM on October 19, 2010

I was also going to suggest William Cavendish, but Bardolph beat me to it! They are a great pair.
posted by apricot at 8:21 PM on October 19, 2010

elizabeth 1 and Lord Robert Dudley had an unspoken and lifelong attachment. Even after they couldn't get married he supported her politically, even after she outwardly got mad jealous when he finally married someone else.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:45 PM on October 19, 2010

Best answer: William and Elizabeth Gaskell.
posted by plonkee at 4:15 AM on October 20, 2010

Frederick I or Prussia and his wife Sophia Charlotte.

These wiki pages do them no justice as a couple though.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 7:16 AM on October 20, 2010

Laura Ingalls Wilder's husband "Manly"
posted by cda at 8:39 AM on October 20, 2010

Harriet Taylor Mill and John Stuart Mill-- although their work was collaborative and published under his name, that was a choice they made together, and he was incredibly supportive and encouraging of her contributions and valued them extremely highly.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 2:35 PM on October 20, 2010

cda: Laura Ingalls Wilder's husband "Manly"

That's Almanzo James Wilder, suddenly referred to as "Manly" in The First Four Years, after being called Almanzo up through These Happy Golden Years.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:03 PM on October 20, 2010

A bit of elaboration on Manly's support of Laura:
“Laura was silent again. Then she summoned all her courage and said, “Alamanzo, I must ask you something. Do you want me to promise to obey you?”

Soberly he answered, “Of course not. I know it is in the wedding ceremony, but it is only something that women say. I never knew one that did it, nor any decent man that wanted her to.”

“Well, I am not going to say I will obey you,” said Laura.

“I’d never expect you to,” he told her. “And there will be no difficulty about the ceremony, because Reverend Brown does not believe in using the word ‘obey.’ ”

“He doesn’t! Are you sure?” Laura had never been so surprised and so relieved all at once.

“He feels very strongly about it,” Alamanzo said. “I have heard him arguing for hours and quoting Bible texts against St. Paul, on that subject.”
posted by filthy light thief at 5:10 PM on October 20, 2010

Before including Almanzo Wilder on this list, it'd be worth reading a real biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, because Almanzo doesn't come off all that great. The Little House books were heavily edited and shaped byRose Wilder Lane, Laura's daughter, who is now a Libertarian heroine and had a politicized interest in portraying the family - both Laura's family of origin with Ma and Pa, and her family with Almanzo and Rose - as a lot healthier and happier than it really was.
posted by Miko at 9:05 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: William, Earl of Lovelace married Ada Byron. He was, so far as I can gather from biographies I've read in the last year or so, generally hugely supportive of her and proud of her intellect.
posted by rodgerd at 12:15 AM on October 21, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone!
posted by Kattullus at 4:42 AM on October 26, 2010

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