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Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law (under contract with NYU Press)

Tracy A. Thomas, 1877

Abstract

The book entitled Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law is a women’s legal history monograph that weaves together law, feminist theory, and history to reveal the feminist underpinnings of family law in the nineteenth century. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a major figure in women rights and feminism in the nineteenth century who was labeled the “chief philosopher and leader of the first generation women’s movement.” Stanton first suggested in 1848 that women be given the right to vote, and she worked for over fifty years with Susan B. Anthony to secure that right. Missing from this historical picture is an appreciation of Stanton’s radical and strikingly contemporary arguments for equality in the family. The book explores this uncharted ground of Stanton’s philosophies and proposals for women’s equality in marriage, divorce, and parenting. Using Stanton’s own words derived from the voluminous archival sources, the book seeks to bring Stanton’s words and recommendations back to life. Stanton was an experiential philosopher and the book therefore integrates her personal experiences with the political action she took to reform the laws. Stanton’s work on family issues demonstrates movement for gender equality within marriage and the family long before the second wave women’s movement of the 1960s. This book seeks to recapture these lost arguments in order to provide some depth and foundation to the use of similar arguments today. With the advent of economic reasoning in the law of domestic relations, many of the gender equality arguments are at risk of being trumped by so-called “objective” standards that ignore women’s actual experiences. Stanton’s arguments as to no-fault divorce, federal restrictions on marriage, domestic violence, and Supermoms continue to resonate today, and provide significant parallels from which to gauge the social and legal policy issues confronting our modern society.

Suggested Citation

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law (under contract with New York University Press)

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