Women’s rights during the 1800s changed drastically. In the beginning of the century, a woman had few freedoms, and her identity was linked directly with her husband and his property. She had no right to her own property, money children or any privileges as far as voting or statements in any law making decisions. As things progressed in the 1800s, things moved forward for women. They gained more rights, including the right to vote. Although there were many other major changes for women in the 1800s that were also very important to changing the woman’s role in society.
The divorce and matrimonial causes act and the custody of children act are both big legislation’s that changed the role of women towards the end of the 19th century. The Married woman’s property acts were very important in changing the role of women. Women were essentially invisible when it came to property and money. As soon as a woman married, she disappeared as far as the law was concerned, she would no longer be a person in her own right, but merely an extension of her husband’s wealth and property. The married woman’s property acts were important for changing the role of women in the way of women essentially becoming a person again.
With the acts changing law for women to now be able to have possession of their own earnings and income, essentially breaking part of the economic bond between the married couple, allowing the woman to be able to afford for herself if needed. This gave women more rights, the separation and a new view of the woman being economically individual. This shows the acts were important for the changing of the woman’s role as to make them able to becoming an individual within society’s economy and to be able to more responsible for their property and money, showing the males that a woman was capable of doing so.
Rather than before when they were not as trusted. The married women’s property acts were also important in changing the role of women by giving women the sense of authority and the thoughts of being capable of individuality, being involved with the work of men, politics. With the protests and campaigns of Barbara Leigh Smith in 1954 the influence and new found image of women towards these laws and rights of property. They were able to pressure the Government to combine and group their thoughts owards current laws. For example, they were able to sign a petition containing 26,000 signatures to the Government. This movement caused the change of certain laws and rights for women. This then showed society and the women themselves that they were able to influence or pressurize the men and their tainted world of politics that they are wanting change and more rights, to remove themselves from the stereotypical “angel of the house”.
This included the married women’s property acts along with other changes gave women the optimism and feminism to become as equal as men. Spiraling towards gaining more rights and become equals. The married women’s property acts were an important part to changing the role of women as it gave women the power and a clearer perspective of what they could achieve from the pressurization they could put onto the Government.
Although the married women’s property acts were major changes in the role of women, the Custody of children’s act was also a major change for the role of women at the end of the 19th century. This act gave women the right to custody of her children under the age of 7 if the mother was of good character. This changed from the original custody rights of the mother not having any and the father having the choice to keep all of the children and not letting the wife have any say in the matter of keeping them.
However this act changed that to allow court cases to decide the best solution to this problem by changing women’s right to keep their children. Giving women more rights and available choices and decisions when previously in time it would all go to the husband. For example, the Caroline Norton case of 1839 where she was compelled from seeing her children for a long period after the husband’s and Caroline’s divorce where he was abusive and excessively controlling.
This change was a major change in the woman’s role by giving women the ability to take the matter of child custody to a court case where she has a fairer chance of winning the case from previous law meant she had more equality and was becoming a threat to the male dominance of women. Overall, I think the Married woman’s property acts were very important legislations in the change of the role of women at the end of the 19th century and majorly changed how women were viewed economically and were able to be more independent due to the rights that these acts had given them a ajor change in political state of society. Although other acts such as the custody of children’s act also had a major impact on the equal rights and laws of male dominance and female prosperity towards independence and having their views seen. There were also more acts that had a big impact on the changing role of women during this period of time and I believe that they all had an impact to change the way things were to how they are now, rather than one act being the most important. Especially seeing how the married women’s property acts were inspired from other acts that were passed.