Restored to reason: A case study of women's use of legislative reform for the purpose of legal equality

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Haahr, Kristina
Henry, Robin

Women of the nineteenth century, dissatisfied with the legal role in which they had been cast, utilized the process of legislative reform and through its use, obtained legislation for equal parity and self-ownership. They systematically dismantled the common-law doctrine of coverture through legislative acts, increasing legal equality and rights for women. At the same time, each act passed showcased the existing loopholes and inspired further reform. The emerging mental health reform movement, which required legislative acts for state-run asylums, was one area where women worked on their own behalf to secure their personal freedom and right to property. Galvanized by their experiences with the laws and courts, Elizabeth Packard, Myra Bradwell, and Mary Lincoln effected changes within the Illinois insanity laws beginning in 1860. In an effort to protect and advocate for themselves, these women challenged the traditional social structures of their day and fought for women's justice in the laws, facilitating the creation of gender neutral legal equality throughout the nation.

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Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of History