Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The 19th Century Idea of "The Right to Her Own Person"

This week I have been rereading Jill Hasday’s article on the history of the marital rape exception for its discussion of the 19th century voluntary motherhood advocacy.  Voluntary motherhood was the demand of the women's rights community for the right of the wife to control sexual intercourse against the husband's marital privilege of forced sex. This time I picked up more clearly on Hasday's distinction between what she sees as the feminists' emphasis on bodily autonomy versus what Linda Gordon in her seminal work, The Moral Property of Women, sees as a mechanism for birth control.  Hasday points out this was more than a practical birth control method of abstentience, but was a demand for a legal right and a structural shift in marriage of a gender-specific right to women.  “right to her self,” “the sacred right to her own person,” the right to control men and unilaterially make the decision to engage in marital intercourse and pregnancy.  My own work on Elizabeth Cady Stanton for a forthcoming book explores Stanton’s leadership and advocacy of this right to her own person

Legal History, Reproductive Rights | Permalink


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