Excerpt from the "A Short History of Marriage" chapter of
Barbara G. Walker's
Man Made God

The Church fully sanctioned marriage only when it became a primary means for keeping women "meek and obedient." Some of the Eastern churches insisted that a bride at her wedding must kneel and place her bridegroom's foot on her head, and receive a token stroke from a fancy little jeweled whip. Churches eventually accepted marriage on condition that it deprived women of both their autonomy and their traditional control of property. By Victorian times, married women didn't legally own even their clothes. Wife enslavement and abuse were recommended from the pulpit as activities that would earn a man points in heaven. Blackstone's "rule of thumb" decreed that a man could beat his wife with a stick, so long as it was no thicker than his thumb.  Wife-beating became so routine in Western culture that Alsatian New Year decorations symbolized "marriage" by a toy man beating his toy wife.

For more, see Man Made God.