My maternal great-grandparents and children. This is on my wall at home, next to one taken around the same time of my great-grandparents on the paternal side. In both pictures, of these two families that were very different from each other, there is one commonality: an older husband, younger wife, and two sets of kids, the older set from a first marriage. Here, the two older girls and the older son were from the first marriage. My great-grandfather above married my great-grandmother less than six months after his first wife died in childbirth.
Needless to say, if the shoe was on the other foot and my great-grandmother had been widowed with three kids, she would have been waiting a lot longer for a second husband, if anyone married her at all. Said hypothetical second marriage would probably only have happened if she’d been able to hold on to whatever property she had inherited upon her husband’s death. The likelihood of that inheritance happening, of course, depended on what state she lived in. Women’s property rights varied widely by state in the second half of the 19th century. “Reforms” that allowed women to inherit property from their husbands were not passed to advance the rights of women but to lessen the burdens to creditors and society posed by impoverished widows and their kids.
(NOTE: the baby in this picture grew up to be the very tired woman inthis picture.)