Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Thomas on Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Let's just start with a blurb on this one: "This is not your mother's legal history," writes Al Brophy.
He is referring to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law (New York University Press, 2016), by Tracy A. Thomas (University of Akron School of Law). A description from the Press:
Much has been written about women’s rights pioneer Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Historians have written her biography, detailed her campaign for woman’s suffrage, documented her partnership with Susan B. Anthony, and compiled all of her extensive writings and papers. Stanton herself was a prolific author; her autobiography,  History of Woman Suffrage, and Woman’s Bible are classics. Despite this body of work, scholars and feminists continue to find new and insightful ways to re-examine Stanton and her impact on women’s rights and history.

Law scholar Tracy A. Thomas extends this discussion of Stanton’s impact on modern-day feminism by analyzing her intellectual contributions to—and personal experiences with—family law. Stanton’s work on family issues has been overshadowed by her work (especially with Susan B. Anthony) on woman’s suffrage. But throughout her fifty-year career, Stanton emphasized reform of the private sphere of the family as central to achieving women’s equality. By weaving together law, feminist theory, and history, Thomas explores Stanton’s little-examined philosophies on and proposals for women’s equality in marriage, divorce, and family, and reveals that the campaigns for equal gender roles in the family that came to the fore in the 1960s and ’70s had nineteenth-century roots. Using feminist legal theory as a lens to interpret Stanton’s political, legal, and personal work on the family, Thomas argues that Stanton’s positions on divorce, working mothers, domestic violence, childcare, and many other topics were strikingly progressive for her time, providing significant parallels from which to gauge the social and legal policy issues confronting women in marriage and the family today. 
A few blurbs, starting with a continuation of Brophy's:
". . . . Thomas knits together Stanton's values to reveal her as decades ahead of her time.  In fact, I'm not sure the rest of U.S. culture has quite caught up to her views on marriage. A very good book and one that–like Stanton herself–breaks free from convention. How could there be higher praise?" —Alfred Brophy
"Thomas does both legal studies and feminist history a great service. Comprehensive in its approach to Stanton’s life, Thomas’ enjoyable and eminently readable text unearths new information about this most important legal mind while deftly directing our attention to the key ways our legal culture has been indelibly stamped with Stanton’s towering intellect and radical spirit." —TJ Boisseau
More information is available here. Professor Thomas has been  blogging about her book here.