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Examines the legal status and rights of women in the United States throughout history.
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In this masterful treatise, legal journalist Rowland analyzes how women's rights have, and have not, evolved since the signing of the Mayflower Compact in 1620 (though the bulk of the book covers just the 20th century). From time immemorial, women were perceived as having the singular mission of bearing and raising children, says Rowland, who documents the consequences of this view: until the late 19th century, women's rights derived from husbands, fathers and sons. It was believed that their biology made women incapable of thinking rationally—hence they could not own property, vote or work as many hours or for as much pay as men. Nor could they have sex not aimed at procreation without social and legal opprobrium. Rowland documents how a legal "zone of privacy" granted men as far back as the 1620s didn't accrue to women until 1965, when the Supreme Court legalized contraception. Drawing on legal and historical sources as well as the Bible, the journals of Meriwether Lewis and Lolita, Rowland covers every imaginable aspect of women's legal lives, up to the present day. This massive and remarkable history is well written in smart yet accessible language and is thus the perfect book for the classroom as well as the family room.
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"Indispensable source book for courses in women's studies, especially valuable for its coverage of a multitude of court cases. " -- Kirkus Review, July 15, 2004
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