Feminist scholars have tended to regard women in the nineteenth-century United States who elected to remain single as champions of women's autonomy and as critics of marriage as an oppressive institution. Indeed, many nineteenth-century American women who participated in reform movements or who distinguished themselves as writers and professionals were single. Yet this view of single women tends to distort the meaning of their choices. The nineteenth century saw the elevation of marriage for love as a spiritual ideal. Consequently, it became socially acceptable for women not to marry if such an ideal marriage could not be realized with an available suitor. Thus, many women's choice to remain single reflected not a negative view of marriage but a highly idealistic one.