The Hartman reading entitled "Interpreting the Western Past with the Women and the Households Left In, 1500-1800" focuses on the issue of women in the household and the resultant changes in religious upheaval, political movements and discourse, and economic transformation. Hartman stresses the importance of refocusing historical inquiry on the changes in the domestic household, as opposed to the changes wrought in foreign policy.
Hartman's analysis makes a strong case that the concept of the "female" changed significantly in households that practiced late marriage. She focuses on the economic and political force that young, single, working citizens (women in particular) exercised and the opportunity for this that was far less likely to exist in a married home. In addition to the political and economic freedom of late marriage, it is argued that when a couple did wed, the ability for the spouses to choose one another indicated a de-centering of male dominance in the home to an equal partnership between spouses. Aside from women choosing husbands that would enable them to plan families or contribute economically to the household (thus ensuring a far more stable home), it is acknowledged that for men to choose a spouse meant giving up the concept of the irrational, emotional, and weak woman. If a marriage was going to succeed and a family was to be raised in safety and affluence, the husband needed to recognize and enable the power of the wife.
Hartman's overall point in this chapter is to emphasize not only the practical changes brought on by late marriage, but to push the investigation of history through the household, as family planning and economic stability for individual households cumulatively effect nations. This reading is best for those seeking good pull quotes about gender, marriage and family, employment and work, and feminism. I mean, the article covers every single theme or topic well, so don't just take my word for it.