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Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law$
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Tracy A. Thomas

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780814783047

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814783047.001.0001

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“The Pivot of the Marriage Relation”

“The Pivot of the Marriage Relation”

(p.73) 2 “The Pivot of the Marriage Relation”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law

Tracy A. Thomas

NYU Press

This chapter delves into Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s critique of marriage and its resulting gender inequality. Contradicting Victorian notions of sentimental marriage, Stanton exposed the way legal and religious marriage, with its headship of man, victimized and subordinated women. She compared women’s treatment in monogamous marriage to polygamy, radically opposing the hypocrisy of the anti-Mormon polygamist movement. Using the metaphors of abolition, Stanton depicted marriage as slavery, decried the duty to obey and take a husband’s name, and sought women’s freedom. She opposed common law marriage and breach-of-promise actions, and supported higher age requirements for marriage. The chapter concludes with Stanton’s reconstructive solutions for marriage, consisting of “free love," legal construct as contract, and economic partnership of full equal rights and autonomy for each partner.

Keywords:   common law marriage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, free love, marital partnership, marriage, Mormon, Polygamy

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