In These Happy Golden Years, when Laura agreed to marry Almanzo, she had said she could not obey him if it would be against her better judgement to follow him. But it was important to Laura that she also not break her wedding vows by promising something she may not be able to keep.
According to the book, Revered Brown had agreed not to use the word in their marriage vows, which was also something Reverend Brown was against personally.
Laura was silent again. Then she summoned all her courage and said, “Almanzo, 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.
“Are you for woman’s rights, like Eliza?” Almanzo asked in surprise.
“No,” Laura replied. “I do not want to vote. But I cannot make a promise that I will not keep, and, Almanzo, even if I tried, I do not think I could obey anybody against my better judgement.”
“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.’”
– Chapter 31 Wedding Plans, These Happy Golden Years
Laura was a strong-willed woman, and some have questioned whether this was the truth or if it was embellished.
However, a similar passage was found in Pioneer Girl, which was the original manuscript for what would later become the Little House books.
On the morning of August 25th. 1885 at half past ten oclock, Manly drove up to the house and drove away with me in the buggy, for the last time in the old way.
We were at Mr Brown’s at eleven and were married at once with Ida Brown and Elmer McConnell as witnesses.
Mr Brown had promised me not to use the word “obey” in the ceremony and he kept his word
– Pioneer Girl
So both Pioneer Girl and the published version in These Happy Golden Years both contain similar passages about Laura sharing with Almanzo that she could not promise to obey him, if she felt it was wrong in any way or against her better judgement. And Almanzo was supportive enough of Laura to agree to her stipulation, something that would have been considered very forward thinking at the time.
Almanzo’s sister, Eliza Jane, was considered a feminist, and this likely made him more open to this kind of relationship with his wife, as his comment which made it into the published These Happy Golden Years version shows.