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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 “Incidental Relation” of Mother

The “Incidental Relation” of Mother

(p.158) 4 The “Incidental Relation” of Mother
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law

Tracy A. Thomas

NYU Press

This chapter explores Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s views on women’s reproductive rights. It traces the voluntary motherhood movement among women’s rights activists and social reformers, which endorsed women’s singular right to choose sexual relations and procreation. Stanton took this concept a step further, advocating eugenic ideas of enlightened motherhood as a method of birth control. The chapter juxtaposes Stanton’s work for reproductive control against the abortion movement of the latter nineteenth century, which eventually criminalized abortion in all states. Following Stanton’s interest in the trial of Hester Vaughan for infanticide, the chapter reveals how Stanton used the trial to expose gendered inequalities of the law, including women’s exclusion as judges, lawyers, legislators, and jurors.

Keywords:   abortion, birth control, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, enlightened motherhood, Hester Vaughan, reproductive choice, voluntary motherhood

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