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Edith Summerskill: letters from deserted wives

Thompson, Sharon ORCID: 2022. Edith Summerskill: letters from deserted wives. Women's History Review 10.1080/09612025.2022.2138201
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While Edith Summerskill was an important feminist reformer of the twentieth century, she remains an arcane figure in the history of the Labour Party and is a mere footnote in family law history. Yet she has played a significant, albeit unacknowledged role in law reform, particularly through her campaigns for greater legal protection of married women. Summerskill’s relegation to the margins of family law, and in particular the understated significance of her role in divorce reform in the 1960s, can in part be attributed to interpretations of her perspective as reinforcing women’s dependency on men, at the very time feminists were seeking to be liberated from this dependency. This article challenges this view, drawing upon previously unaccessed sources such as letters written to Edith Summerskill by deserted wives. These sources bring new meaning to Summerskill’s concerns about divorce reform, enabling Summerskill’s view to be re-evaluated. It is concluded that dismissing Summerskill’s role in divorce reform results in a failure to properly understand a landmark moment in family law history, while oversimplifying feminist debates about the recognition of married women’s rights in the 1960s.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: In Press
Schools: Law
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D839 Post-war History, 1945 on
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
K Law > K Law (General)
K Law > KD England and Wales
Publisher: Routledge
ISSN: 0961-2025
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 21 December 2021
Date of Acceptance: 14 December 2021
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 16:31

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