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Title: Married women, law, and the novel, 1836-1885 : testimonial and circumstantial evidence in the Victorian novel's debate for marriage law reform
Author: Bolin, Marissa
ISNI:       0000 0004 7960 3911
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis explores the relationship between law and literature in the nineteenth-century debates for married women's legal rights from 1836 to 1885. Prior to the 1882 Married Women's Property Act, married women were barred from speaking in legal trials against their husbands due to their non-existence in the eyes of the law. From the 1839 Custody of Infants Act that first recognised the rights of married women to the 1882 Married Women's Property Act that ultimately gave them the right to testify in court, the development of the novel form can be seen as a reflection of ongoing political debates and the role that written testimonial and circumstantial evidence had during this period. The nineteenth century saw an explosion of legislation in support of married women, from the 1839 Custody Act and the 1857 Matrimonial Causes and Divorce Act to the 1870 and 1882 Married Women's Property Acts. Figurehead trials such as "Norton v. Melbourne" (1836), "Robinson v. Robinson & Lane" (1859), "Thelwall v. Yelverton" (1861), "Dalrymple v. Dalrymple" (1811), and "Rex v. Palmer" (1869) illustrate the role that married women's writing had in presenting the narrative of married women's legal oppression under unjust marriage laws. The novels examined in this thesis all present married women's agency and legal representation through the form of written evidence. From Anne Brontë's "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" (1848), Caroline Norton's "Stuart of Dunleath" (1851), Mary Elizabeth Braddon's "Lady Audley's Secret" (1862) and "Aurora Floyd" (1863), Wilkie Collins' "Man and Wife" (1870), and George Meredith's "Diana of the Crossways" (1885), this study explores nineteenth-century novels' representations of the growing debates for married women's legal rights and the role that written evidence had in allowing women to speak out against the injustices of marriage laws.
Supervisor: Major, Emma Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available