The Ladies' Health Protective Association: Lay Lawyers and Urban Cause LawyeringAkron Law Review (2008)
The legal history of women and gender is a crucial and radical project that seeks to rewrite the dominant legal narratives that we tell about the development of law and the role that law has played. It is in part about how law shapes culture and society and how society and culture shape law. Crucial to any understanding of law, culture, and society is how gender functions. Yet gender is a slippery term that is at once historically contingent, malleable, shifting, and unstable. This indeterminacy makes gender such a rich mode of analysis.' Creating a women's or gendered legal history is not just a matter of adding women to legal history and stirring. Rather the very presence of women and an analysis of gender, changes the story itself - how we imagine, characterize and even locate law, rights, citizenship, property, the family, the state, the individual, and of course the gendered connections between these already complex terms.
As a legal historian, I attempt to put women's history and legal history in dialogue with each other and this Article is an example of such a project. The Ladies Health Protective Association (LHPA), established in the late-nineteenth century and the topic of this Article, was an early example of what historians traditionally would characterize as a "women's club." In the past two decades, historians of women have written about how these clubs often engaged in important reform activities from temperance and suffrage work to the creation of kindergartens and playgrounds. Although research on the topic of women's clubs has produced a large and extraordinarily significant body of scholarship, much of the literature on women's clubs does not consciously consider the important role that law played in constituting these organizations, how these organizations strategically employed the law, or how they shaped the law. On the other hand, legal historians, with rare exception, have paid little attention to such women's organizations. From the perspective of traditional legal history, such organizations are relegated to the sphere of culture, emphatically situated as unrelated to the law.
Citation InformationThe Ladies Health Protective Association: Lay Lawyers and Urban Cause Lawyering, 41 Akron Law Review 701.