Wednesday, January 4, 2023
Tomiko Brown-Nagin joins Melissa and Kate to discuss her book Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality. You may recognize the name Constance Baker Motley from Ketanji Brown Jackson’s speech upon receiving her nomination to SCOTUS. Motley was the first black woman to be appointed to the federal bench– and she and Justice Jackson share a birthday. Judge Motley’s story illustrates the fights for equality, across race and gender lines, in the mid-20th century.
Tuesday, January 3, 2023
Chronicle of Higher Ed, How Gender Bias Worsened the Peer Review Crisis
Mounting evidence suggests the peer-review crisis in academic publishing was worsened, in part, by a system that favors male scholars and discourages women.
A new study of nearly 50 journals in the British Medical Journals Publishing Group found that women accounted for less than one in three peer reviewers — scholars who are experts in their field and are critical to vetting new research before it’s published in academic journals. The proportion of female peer reviewers grew by only 2.9 percentage points between 2009 and 2020. ***
At a time when journal editors across fields and publishing houses say finding peer reviewers is harder than ever, why aren’t more tapping into the pool of female professors and researchers?
Ana-Catarina Pinho-Gomes, an academic clinical lecturer at the University College London who researches biases against women in medical research, said the gap can be traced back to how editors select reviewers.
In the early days of peer review, journal editors, who were predominantly white men, would mine their own professional networks — also comprised of mostly white men — to find reviewers. Today, most journals use search engines, like PubMed or Google Scholar, and internal databases to identify, track, and make requests of reviewers. In theory, this system would cut down on individual editor bias. But in practice, Pinho-Gomes said, it carries forward biases from earlier in the pipeline of academic research.
Scholars with more published work are more likely to come up in databases and search engines as potential reviewers, Pinho-Gomes said. For decades, research has shown that women have published less frequently than men in part because women still take on the lion’s share of child and elder care for their families, leaving less time for career advancement and research pursuits. Thus, more-published scholars tend to be men
Book Review, Mary Ziegler, Roe: The History of a National Obsession
UC Davis law professor Ziegler (Dollars for Life) analyzes in this expert study how the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion captured the nation’s imagination as “a meta-symbol of our many political and cultural disagreements and a shorthand for their inherent contradictions.” In the 1960s, a series of legal cases carved out exceptions to abortion bans for rape, incest, and fetal defects; Ziegler notes opposition from both anti-abortion activists (who believed in fetal personhood) and the women’s liberation movement (which believed abortion should be a constitutional right). In the 1970s, the Hyde Amendment, which blocked Medicaid funding for abortion, led abortion rights activists to elevate the message that Roe was about women’s freedom of choice, while right-to-lifers increasingly sought to upend the Republican establishment. Among other themes, the decades after Roe saw the intertwining of anti-abortion groups and evangelical Christianity; the politicization of science and expertise, especially around the concept of “partial birth abortion”; and the foregrounding of racial issues, with anti-abortion activists highlighting Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger’s belief in eugenics and abortion rights organizations shifting from a white-centered choice message to a reproductive justice framework. Ziegler sets a brisk pace but delivers substantial depth as she reveals just how much the terms of this debate have shifted in the 50 years between Roe and its recent overturning. It’s a must-read for those seeking to understand what comes next. (Jan.)
Thursday, November 17, 2022
In this provocative new biography, Mary Sarah Bilder looks to the 1780s—the Age of the Constitution—to investigate the rise of a radical new idea in the English-speaking world: female genius. Bilder finds the perfect exemplar of this phenomenon in English-born Eliza Harriot Barons O’Connor. This pathbreaking female educator delivered a University of Pennsylvania lecture attended by George Washington as he and other Constitutional Convention delegates gathered in Philadelphia. As the first such public female lecturer, her courageous performance likely inspired the gender-neutral language of the Constitution.
Female Genius reconstructs Eliza Harriot’s transatlantic life, from Lisbon to Charleston, paying particular attention to her lectures and to the academies she founded, inspiring countless young American women to consider a college education and a role in the political forum. Promoting the ideas made famous by Mary Wollstonecraft, Eliza Harriot brought the concept of female genius to the United States. Its advocates argued that women had equal capacity and deserved an equal education and political representation. Its detractors, who feared it undermined male political power, felt deeply threatened. By 1792 Eliza Harriot experienced struggles that reflected the larger backlash faced by women and people of color as new written constitutions provided the political and legal tools for exclusion based on sex, gender, and race.
In recovering this pioneering life, the richly illustrated Female Genius makes clear that America’s framing moment did not belong solely to white men and offers an inspirational transatlantic history of women who believed in education as a political right.
h/t Paula Monopoli
New Book, Invisible Mothers: Unseen Yet Hypervisible After Incarceration (UC Press)
Author Book Talk, Q&A With Janet Garcia-Hallett, Author of Invisible Mothers
Mothering is work. Yet, as I mention in my book, not all motherwork is equally visible, validated, or respected by the general public. This is especially true for mothers in the criminal legal system. Their experiences are unique because of the competing demands they face in oppressive carceral systems. Still, they did motherwork through varying housing arrangements, in noncustodial circumstances, while recovering from substance use, with low pay, during unemployment, and while not in contact with their children. All things considered, they did motherwork that was realistic for them and their circumstances post-incarceration – even if this went unnoticed or was undervalued by outsiders.
Wednesday, November 2, 2022
Q&A with Prof. Diana Rosenfeld, What Our Primate Ancestors Can Teach Us About Dismantling the Patriarchy
Women’s organized resistance to male dominance continues to make headlines around the world, from young women leading an uprising against the restrictive policies of the theocratic regime in Iran, to feminist activism in the U.S. in response to the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.
A new book shines an intriguing new light on the possibilities for alliances among women in the ongoing struggle to end men’s violence against women by examining the social organization of one of our closest primate relatives. In The Bonobo Sisterhood, Harvard Law School professor Diane Rosenfeld shows how we have much to learn from the bonobos about how to eliminate male sexual coercion.
Diane Rosenfeld: It blew my mind when I learned from my friend and colleague Richard Wrangham, the renowned anthropologist, about how bonobos protect one another from male aggression. I saw how this connects directly to my work on domestic violence and sexual assault law.
For those who don’t know, bonobos are primates that look like but are a separate species from chimpanzees. They share 98.7 percent of our DNA, like chimpanzees, but have a completely different social order. If a female bonobo is aggressed upon, she lets out a special cry and all the other females within earshot come rushing to her aid, forming an instantaneous coalition to defend her. They come whether they know her, like her, or are related to her. We can take a critical lesson from that as humans! Evolutionarily, they have eliminated male sexual coercion.
Monday, October 10, 2022
Danielle Citron on "The Fight for Privacy: Protecting Dignity, Identity, and Love in the Digital Age"
To combat invasions of intimate privacy, we first need to recognize intimate privacy as a moral and legal right. Everyone deserves intimate privacy to create a life of meaning, respect, and love and to feel that they belong as citizens. In making this a civil right, lawmakers would show their appreciation of intimate privacy’s significance for individuals, groups, and society.* * *
Following the development of modern civil rights laws, a civil right to intimate privacy would combat privacy invasions amounting to invidious discrimination. It would limit or ban data practices that imperil the opportunities of women and marginalized communities because of their membership in protected groups. * * *
But a civil right to intimate privacy should not only be a right to combat invidious discrimination: It should also be a right to baseline protections for intimate privacy for everyone. As legal philosopher Robin West explains, civil rights should be understood—and protected—as “human or natural rights” that enable “our most fundamental human capabilities.” They are rights to something—entitlements that let us “thrive and be social,” feel like we belong, and engage as citizens. Civil rights deserve recognition and protection because they “secure the preconditions for a good life.” In the United States, civil rights protections have been operationalized through the interpretation of constitutional rights, the passage of state and federal laws, and the enforcement of existing laws that foreground those rights.
Tuesday, September 20, 2022
Call for Book Chapters:
Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Women and Conflicts of Law:
Global Perspectives, 1815-Present
EXTENDED DEADLINE AND BROADENED FOCUS
We invite chapter submission for inclusion in an edited collection on Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Women and Conflicts of Law.
The volume discusses the consequences for women when law systems clashed--between independent nations, colonizers and colonized, majority and minority religions, or between secular and religious laws. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw industrial nations draw more and more of the globe into the orbit of their law systems, and these were also the centuries in which women contested their legal positions vigorously. Thus, this period offers an ideal forum for studying the effects of legal differences across the globe. Conflicts of law were inevitable whenever people crossed borders, converted to different religions, or married/divorced someone of a different class, religion, or locality. Women were often harmed by conflicts of law, but this was not inevitable. In other words, these clashes offered both a challenge and an opportunity.
This volume has no geographical limitations; we welcome proposals from historians of all parts of the world. The most important factor for selection will be the authors’ ability to highlight women’s experiences when law systems clashed. Possible topics include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Conflicts between criminal and civil law
- Conflicts over differing national laws of marriage, divorce, and child custody
- Women in imperial law systems
- The interaction between gender and other factors such as race, class, and sexual orientation in the law courts
- Conflict between secular and religious courts
- The consequences of the lack of legal recognition for lesbian and transgender families
- The regulation and criminalization of sex work across national borders
- Women as actors in the international legal community
- Feminist efforts to eliminate women’s disabilities caused by conflicts of law
- Disputes over nationality, dual nationality, and statelessness in peace and war
The proposed schedule is as follows:
January 15, 2023 – Proposals due; these should be of no more than 300 words, accompanied by a one-page C.V.
February 15, 2023 – Authors receive notice of editorial decision.
November 15, 2023 – Full manuscripts due to the editor. Manuscripts should be standard length for journal articles, approximately 7,500-8,500 words (including notes).
Those interested in contributing should direct all correspondence to the volume editor, Dr. Ginger Frost at: email@example.com
Friday, September 16, 2022
Tuesday, September 13, 2022
This book tells the untold story of the Married Women's Association. Unlike more conventional histories of family law, which focus on legal actors, it highlights the little-known yet indispensable work of a dedicated group of life-long activists.
Formed in 1938, the Married Women's Association took reform of family property law as its chief focus. The name is deceptively innocuous, suggesting tea parties and charity fundraisers, but in fact the MWA was often involved in dramatic confrontations with politicians, civil servants, and Law Commissioners. The Association boasted powerful public figures, including MP Edith Summerskill, authors Vera Brittain and Dora Russell, and barrister Helena Normanton. They campaigned on matters that are still being debated in family law today.
Quiet Revolutionaries sheds new light upon legal reform then and now by challenging longstanding assumptions, showing that piecemeal legislation can be an effective stepping stone to comprehensive reform and highlighting how unsuccessful bills, though often now forgotten, can still be important triggers for change. Drawing upon interviews with members' friends and family, and thousands of archival documents, the book is compulsory reading for lawyers, legal historians, and anyone who wishes to explore histories of law reform from the ground up.
In 1938, a group of feminist agitators came together in London to tackle what they saw as the most pressing issue of their time: inequality in marriage. For the Married Women’s Association, the right to vote – won for women over 30 in 1918 – was just the beginning of women’s emancipation. The legal status of housewives was next.
If you were a married woman in the early 20th century, you had no rights in your home, nor in the housekeeping money your husband gave you, nor even in the bed you slept in, unless you had used your own money to buy it.
You were also paid less than men, while all the work in the home was exclusively your domain and was unpaid. Your husband, by contrast, would be paid an inflated income to support his dependants, termed a “family wage”, to which, ironically, you had no rights to whatsoever. In the eyes of the law, you were essentially invisible.
Thursday, August 25, 2022
This snapshot illustrates the merits of Elisabeth Griffith’s engaging, relevant and sweeping chronicle of women’s fight for equality in the United States — and by examining 100 years of history through a feminist lens, a pattern emerges: Each blow from the patriarchy is countered by a well-aimed and calculated retaliation from American women.
Books of true feminist history are rare. Rarer still are these histories intersectional; feminist history tends to be synonymous with white women’s history. Not this book. Griffith delivers a multiracial, inclusive timeline of the struggles and triumphs of both Black and white women in America. “Historically, the white press has not covered the activism of Black women,” she writes. (Her previous book centered on the life of Cady Stanton.) Despite difficult-to-find archival sources, Griffith says, “I’ve named as many women as possible.”
A profoundly illuminating tour de force, Griffith’s book begins with Susan B. Anthony and unfolds chronologically, sorted into chapters that track a “pink” timeline of history. “Fifty years ago, when women’s history was struggling for legitimacy in academia,” Griffith explains, “feminists divided American history into ‘blue’ and ‘pink’ timelines. Conference panels debated whether Zachary Taylor’s presidency was more relevant to women’s lives than the invention of the tin can, or whether Jacksonian democracy deserved a chapter when the suffrage campaign did not.”
“Formidable” is organized around major fights: voting rights, working conditions, education access, health care, racial violence, reproductive rights, race and gender discrimination, the wage gap, electoral office.
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
False Claims Continue Claiming Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony as Anti-Abortion Advocates
False claims continue to abound about pioneering 19th century feminists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony as to their views on abortion, including this week in the Wall Street Journal.
As a scholar of Stanton's work for the last twenty years studying her focus on legal and social reform of the family and marriage, I have written extensively against these false claims and tried to set the record straight by delving into the historical details (incorrectly) asserted for these claims. I post here to refresh the recollection of that work as relevant to ongoing debates:
First, here's the current, incorrect report, written by anti-abortion activists:
Early feminist icons Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony changed forever the role of women in American society. In the 19th century they tirelessly promoted public education on behalf of women’s equality and demanded that women be given the right to vote. But contrary to recent claims by advocacy groups, they were not in favor of abortion.
After a leaked Supreme Court draft decision appearing to overturn Roe v. Wade circulated in May, the nonprofit National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House in Rochester, N.Y., accused the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life political action committee, of misappropriating the famous suffragist’s name. “To suggest that Susan B. Anthony would support government intervention in a woman’s decision about a pregnancy is abhorrent,” museum president Deborah L. Hughes wrote in a post on the organization’s website.
The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust similarly claims that its namesake would have supported abortion-rights advocacy in the 21st century. The group has filed lawsuits in Michigan, New York and Rhode Island, asking courts, according to a press release, “to protect Roe v. Wade from being overturned, and firmly establish the Equal Rights Amendment . . . in the United States Constitution.”
In fact, it’s the pro-choice groups that have it wrong. During their lifetimes, both women vociferously condemned abortion.
Here are links to my work challenging and disproving the historical basis on which these incorrect assumptions continue to rely:
Tracy Thomas, Misappropriating Women's History in the Law and Politics of Abortion, 36 Seattle L. Rev. 1 (2012) (discussing both Stanton & Anthony)
Tracy Thomas, ECS Book Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Lawm chp. 4, The "Incidental Relation" of Mother (NYUP 2016)
Tracy Thomas, Gender & the Law Prof Blog, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was Not Against Reproductive Rights
Tracy Thomas, Gender & the Law Prof Blog, Voluntary Motherhood: What Did 19th Century Feminists Think About Abortion and Birth Control
Tracy Thomas, National Constitution Center "We the People" Podcast, The Constitutional Legacy of Seneca Falls
Tracy Thomas, Gender & the Law Prof Blog, Theme for March for Life 2020 Relies on Questionable Women's History, Incorrectly Claiming Early Feminist Leaders as Pro-Life
Tracy Thomas, Gender & the Law Prof Blog, The "Incidental Relation of Mother" and 19th Century Demands for Women's Reproductive Control
Friday, June 10, 2022
Ederlina Co, Weathering Invisible Labor, 51 Southwestern Law Review 258 (2022)
Professor Meera Deo’s Unequal Profession: Race and Gender in Legal Academia powerfully demonstrates how the legal academy has adopted many of American society’s social hierarchies as they relate to race and gender. Inspired by Unequal Profession and using a Critical Race Feminism framework, this Essay centers on women of color professors and the problem of invisible labor in legal academia.
Although for many women of color professors invisible labor involves a labor of love, this Essay contends that the legal academy’s unwillingness to recognize it in a meaningful manner marginalizes women of color professors, devalues how important invisible labor is to law students, law schools, and the legal profession, and perpetuates a race-gender institutional bias. This Essay recommends steps that law school administrators and allies can take immediately to recognize invisible labor but also suggests that the time has come for the legal academy to begin to reexamine how it values “service” more broadly.
Thursday, June 9, 2022
From the Legal History Blog, Jeon on Women-Led, Non-Lawyer Legal Aid in Boston
Kelsea A. Jeon, the holder of an M.Phil in Socio-Legal Research from the University of Oxford, has published Legal Aid Without Lawyers: How Boston’s Nonlawyers Delivered and Shaped Justice for the Poor, 1879–1921 in the Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy:Women nonlawyers were some of the first actors to provide organized legal aid to America’s poor. Yet, today, unauthorized practice of law statutes bar nonlawyers from providing legal help, citing concerns about malpractice and public harm. This Article uses a historical case study to challenge conceptions that nonlawyers cannot provide effective legal services to the people. The study focuses on the development of legal aid in Boston via two organizations, the nonlawyer-led Women’s Educational and Industrial Union and the lawyer-centric Boston Legal Aid Society. Although organized legal aid in Boston began with the nonlawyers at the Union, they were eventually overtaken by the lawyer-centric Legal Aid Society. This paper examines this transition in legal aid practitioners, emphasizing how nonlawyers provided effective legal help. In doing so, it challenges the modern-day conception that access to justice requires access to an attorney and serves as a powerful counter to claims that nonlawyer practitioners endanger the public.
For more on the history of women-led legal aid, see Felice Batlan, Women and Justice for the Poor: A History of Legal Aid , 1863-1945 (Cambridge Press 2015):
This book re-examines fundamental assumptions about the American legal profession and the boundaries between “professional” lawyers, “lay” lawyers, and social workers. Putting legal history and women's history in dialogue, it demonstrates that nineteenth-century women's organizations first offered legal aid to the poor and that middle-class women functioning as lay lawyers, provided such assistance. Felice Batlan illustrates that by the early twentieth century, male lawyers founded their own legal aid societies. These new legal aid lawyers created an imagined history of legal aid and a blueprint for its future in which women played no role and their accomplishments were intentionally omitted. In response, women social workers offered harsh criticisms of legal aid leaders and developed a more robust social work model of legal aid. These different models produced conflicting understandings of expertise, professionalism, the rule of law, and ultimately, the meaning of justice for the poor
Wednesday, June 8, 2022
I enjoyed hearing a little bit about this book at today's Summer Feminist Theory Workshop, and the ways in which it can be incorporated into doctrinal classes like Con Law and others.
Bridget Crawford & Emily Waldman, Menstruation Matters: Challenging the Law's Silence on Periods (NYUP 2022)
Approximately half the population menstruates for a large portion of their lives, but the law is mostly silent about the topic. Until recently, most people would have said that periods are private matters not to be discussed in public. But the last few years have seen a new willingness among advocates and allies of all ages to speak openly about periods. Slowly around the globe, people are recognizing the basic fundamental human right to address menstruation in a safe and affordable way, free of stigma, shame, or barriers to access.
Menstruation Matters explores the role of law in this movement. It asks what the law currently says about menstruation (spoiler alert: not much) and provides a roadmap for legal reform that can move society closer to a world where no one is held back or disadvantaged by menstruation. Bridget J. Crawford and Emily Gold Waldman examine these issues in a wide range of contexts, from schools to workplaces to prisons to tax policies and more. Ultimately, they seek to transform both law and society so that menstruation is no longer an obstacle to full participation in all aspects of public and private life.
Tuesday, June 7, 2022
One of the leading historians, Leslie Regan, who literally wrote the book on the topic, see When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973.com/When-Abortion-Was-Crime-1867-1973 (1996) explains what Justice Alito's draft opinion in Dobbs gets very wrong.
f it were possible to eavesdrop on conversations among women and some doctors in early America, you might overhear the phrase “bringing on the menses.” If a woman didn’t menstruate when expected, she was considered to be sick and action was required to bring her back to health. Women who had “a common cold” — a euphemism for “obstructed” menses — used a variety of methods, teas and concoctions to bring “their menses back.”
In other words, returning menstruation to its normal cycle was within the purview of a woman’s own self-health care and was not regulated by the state until after “quickening” — the moment during a pregnancy when a woman could feel a fetus kick and recognized a life “stirring” within her. Quickening occurred between the fourth and sixth month of pregnancy. Only after quickening was an induced miscarriage, an abortion, considered immoral and banned by law.
The truth is that abortion is deeply rooted in our nation’s history — in practice, in morality and in law. Abortion was not always a crime — although Justice Samuel Alito speciously claims otherwise in his recently disclosed draft majority opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.***
The logic that Alito uses in the draft opinion leans heavily on history — history that he gets egregiously wrong. Alito explicitly dismisses the distinction between ending a pregnancy before or after quickening, a distinction that my research has found was critical to the way American women and American physicians traditionally thought about pregnancy. In early America as in early modern England, abortion before “quickening” was legal under common law and widely accepted in practice.
Tuesday, May 31, 2022
The Summer Feminist Legal Theory Series is co-sponsored by the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University and the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, together with The Feminism and Legal Theory Project, The Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative, the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies at Osgoode, the Family Law Center at the University of Virginia School of Law, and the AALS Section on Women in Legal Education. The series is coordinated by Bridget J. Crawford (Pace), firstname.lastname@example.org and Kathy Stanchi (UNLV), email@example.com.
2022 Virtual Summer Feminist Legal Theory Series
New Books in the Field:
Gender, Race and Diversity in the Center of the Conversation
This summer, the U.S. Feminist Judgments Project will host a series of virtual conversations featuring authors and editors of new books in the field, with a focus on how to best use those texts to raise and frame issues of gender, race and other diversity issues in teaching and scholarship. There will be a particular emphasis on how feminist legal theory can enrich both classroom discussions and scholarly perspectives by scholars working across subject matters.
The dates and featured books are:
Authors or Editors
June 8, 2022
Menstruation Matters: Challenging Law’s Silence on Periods (2022)
Bridget J. Crawford (Pace) & Emily Gold Waldman (Pace)
June 22, 2022
Fight the Power: Law and Policy Through Hip-Hop Songs (2022)
Frank Rudy Cooper (UNLV)
July 6, 2022
Panes of the Glass Ceiling: The Unspoken Beliefs Behind the Law’s Failure to Help Women Achieve Professional Parity (2022)
Kerri L. Stone (FIU)
July 20, 2022
Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Employment Discrimination Opinions (2020)
Ann C. McGinley (UNLV) & Nicole Buoncore Porter (Chicago-Kent)
Sessions will run from 11:00 am to 12:15 pm Pacific/2:00 to 3:15 pm Eastern. Attendees from all parts of the academy with a verified academic email address are welcome to attend any and all sessions. There is no charge to attend. All sessions are held via Zoom.
Preregistration for all participants (speakers and attendees) is required via this link: https://pace.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJYsceGgrTsuEtd7jdyjQVGVExQa0ODkK5Fd
All attendees including speakers must register. Attendees need to register only once and then can attend any of the sessions in the summer series. Regular attendance is encouraged but not required. Approximately one week before each session, all registrants will receive an excerpt of the book that will be the subject of the discussion.
After a pause in August, the Feminist Legal Theory Series may continue into the academic year with occasional sessions featuring additional works.Authors or editors of recent books are welcome to self-nominate their work for consideration to be featured in a future session.
Thursday, May 26, 2022
New Book The Case of Caroline Norton and the History of Married Women's Loss of Child Custody Rights
***[This is] the tragic story, of Caroline Norton, as conveyed in Fraser’s new book.... Born in 1808, 30 years before Queen Victoria came to the throne, she and her two equally beautiful sisters made a stir when they debuted in society. Her sisters married titled men, while Caroline married George Norton, who, while a younger son, had hopes of a title of his own — but would also turn out to be jealous, violent, petty and unremittingly vicious.***
In 1836, after yet another episode of her husband’s violence, Caroline went to stay with her parents. George moved their children (the youngest not yet 3) to his sister’s house, where he forcibly detained them, refusing Caroline access. He also claimed her earnings as a writer. All this was, at the time, his legal right.
And so, driven by the loss of her children, Caroline did that most unladylike of things: She fought. She fought George in the court of public opinion, writing pamphlets and essays and articles. She fought him in the courts. And he fought back. He sued Lord Melbourne, his patron, for “criminal conversation” with his wife.
Crim. con., as it was known, was not quite the same thing as suing for adultery. It was, rather, a property suit: Since a wife was the legal property of her husband, and adultery reduced the value of that property, the wife’s lover could be sued for financial compensation. George demanded 10,000 pounds from Melbourne, millions in today’s money.
While George did in fact want money, he wanted revenge much more, and by naming Melbourne he focused public attention squarely on his wife. In court, as in life, George Norton did not shine, and, unable to actually prove adultery, he lost the case. But the damage was done: Melbourne, tainted by the scandal, abandoned Caroline Norton, as did her friends.
However, she did not give up. Norton continued to campaign tirelessly for access to her children, and the publicity she brought to the legal situation forced politicians to confront the law. In 1839, the Custody of Infants Act was passed, allowing judges to give custody of children under 7 to the mother.
Wednesday, May 25, 2022
***To help understand how we got to this point, here is a list of 10 books — five that examine the legal, political and social foundations of abortion in America, followed by another five that explore all that abortion has encompassed since Roe: issues of violence and stigma, politics and race, medicine and law, philosophy and medicine.
Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy (1978), by James C. Mohr
Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade (1994), by David Garrow
Before Roe v. Wade: Voices That Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling (2010), by Linda Greenhouse and Reva Siegel
Abortion & the Politics of Motherhood (1984), by Kristin Luker
Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement before Roe v. Wade (2016), by Daniel K. Williams
After Roe: The Lost History of the Abortion Debate (2015), by Mary Ziegler
Wrath of Angels: The American Abortion War (1998), by James Risen and Judy L. Thomas
Abortion After Roe (2015), by Johanna Schoen
Scarlet A: The Ethics, Law, and Politics of Ordinary Abortion (2018), by Katie Watson
‘What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics (2020), by O. Carter Snead
Wednesday, April 20, 2022
Book Review, The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women's Liberation in Mass Incarceration
Aziza Ahmed, Recovering Feminist Lessons from the Past for a Less Carceral Future, JOTWELL, reviewing, Aya Gruber, The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women’s Liberation in Mass Incarceration (2021).
In a moment when mass incarceration, police reform, and abolition are dominating national headlines, Aya Gruber’s book, The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women’s Liberation in Mass Incarceration, takes on one of the most complicated questions of the politics of policing and incarceration: gender violence. Her book provides a history of the uncomfortable relationship between the carceral state and feminist organizing to end violence against women. And, it offers a path forward that begins to address mistakes of the past by reigniting those modes of feminism focused on poverty, welfare, and race that were sidelined with the rise of what is now called “carceral feminism.”
Gruber begins her book by connecting the dots between the anti-sexual violence activism of the 19th century and today. In doing so, Gruber centers the role of race in structuring how imaginaries of sexual exploitation and violence occur. The voices of dominant groups (including white feminists) constructed the larger social narrative of sexual violence. Their ideas of sexual exploitation were shaped by the racialized ideas undergirding the political economy of the time, including the anti-immigrant sentiments of Chinese exclusion and the racist ideologies wrapped into slavery.***
Understanding our contemporary moment, and the choices activists are making in calling for criminal justice reforms, requires a sense of the past: the decisions that have come to shape contemporary anti-sexual violence organizing and what feminists could have done better. As Gruber powerfully shows, to find a path forward we cannot simply rely on the dominant feminist visions of prior moments, which often were mired in a racial and carceral feminist politics. Instead, advocates should unearth the dissenting feminist voices that long argued that it was possible to have a world free of sexual violence and without the cruelty of the carceral state