By Caroline Sheridan Norton
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year:2010
Online Publication Date:November 2010
Original Publication Year:1855
Subjects: English literature 1830-1900 , Legal History
Caroline Norton (1808–1877) was a Victorian author and campaigner for social reform, especially reform of women's legal rights. In this lucidly written account Norton describes how upon marriage in 1855 women became legally 'non-existent': they could not bring cases to court; they could not enter into a contract; they could not instigate a divorce and their possessions, earnings and any bequests made to them automatically became their husband's property. Norton explains how this lack of legal autonomy affected women if they became estranged from their husbands, using her own experiences for illustration and recommending changes which would improve women's legal position. Published in 1855 when Parliament was debating the subject of divorce reform, this volume shows the legal position of women at this time. It provides the opinions of contemporary legislators in support and opposition on the issues of women's legal rights and reform of divorce laws.
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