Feminist Legal History

Essays on Women and Law

285 pages

1 illustrations

April, 2011

ISBN: 9780814787199



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Tracy A. Thomas is Professor of Law at The University of Akron School of Law, where she holds the Seiberling Chair of Constitutional Law and directs the Center for Constitutional Law.

All books by Tracy A. Thomas

Tracey Jean Boisseau is associate professor of gender and cultural history at The University of Akron in Ohio. She is the author of White Queen: The Imperial Origins of American Feminist Identity and co-editor, with Abigail Markwyn, of Gendering the Fair: Histories of Women and Gender at World’s Fairs.

All books by Tracey Jean Boisseau

Attuned to the social contexts within which laws are created, feminist lawyers, historians, and activists have long recognized the discontinuities and contradictions that lie at the heart of efforts to transform the law in ways that fully serve women’s interests. At its core, the nascent field of feminist legal history is driven by a commitment to uncover women’s legal agency and how women, both historically and currently, use law to obtain individual and societal empowerment.

Feminist Legal History represents feminist legal historians’ efforts to define their field, by showcasing historical research and analysis that demonstrates how women were denied legal rights, how women used the law proactively to gain rights, and how, empowered by law, women worked to alter the law to try to change gendered realities. Encompassing two centuries of American history, thirteen original essays expose the many ways in which legal decisions have hinged upon ideas about women or gender as well as the ways women themselves have intervened in the law, from Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s notion of a legal class of gender to the deeply embedded inequities involved in Ledbetter v. Goodyear, a 2007 Supreme Court pay discrimination case.

Contributors: Carrie N. Baker, Felice Batlan, Tracey Jean Boisseau, Eileen Boris, Richard H. Chused, Lynda Dodd, Jill Hasday, Gwen Hoerr Jordan, Maya Manian, Melissa Murray, Mae C. Quinn, Margo Schlanger, Reva Siegel, Tracy A. Thomas, and Leti Volpp


  • “An exciting, interdisciplinary collection of original articles that demonstrates the complex and dynamic interplay among history, law, and gender. This volume will help historians think more practically about legal change, challenge law professors and legal professionals to employ history with greater care, and provide all readers with fresh perspectives on interrelationships between women and the law, past and present but with an eye on the future.”

    —Leigh Ann Wheeler, author of Against Obscenity: Reform and the Politics of Womanhood in America, 1873-1935

  • “These essays clearly indicate where women’s legal history has been and anticipate where it is going based on the various kinds of feminism that emerged in the course of the twentieth century. They constitute the most comprehensive review to date of the role that gender issues have played and will continue to play in the enduring historical struggle to reconcile female and male legal rights in the United States well into the twenty-first century.”

    —Joan Hoff, author of Law, Gender, and Injustice: A Legal History of U.S. Women

  • "Well worth reading...the variety of topics, perspectives, and outlooks confirms the richness and complexity of the field of women's history."

    The Journal of American History