Gender, Sexuality, and the Law

Legislation and policies affecting gender roles and policing of sexuality

Timeline

Chronological table

Displaying 1 - 20 of 20
Date Event Created by Associated Places
1 Jan 1792

Vindication of the Rights of Woman

In January 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft published A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which laid out the tenets of what today we call ‘equality’ or ‘liberal’ feminist theory. She further promoted a new model of the nation grounded on a family politics produced by egalitarian marriages. Image: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman title page from the first American edition, 1792 (Library of Congress).  This image is in the public domain in the United States because its copyright has expired.

Articles

Anne K. Mellor, "On the Publication of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman"

Related Articles

Ghislaine McDayter, "On the Publication of William Godwin’s Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1798"

16 Aug 1819

Peterloo massacre

print depicting the Peterloo MassacreOn 16 August 1819, at St. Peter’s Field, Manchester, more than 60,000 workers gathered to demonstrate in favor of an expansion of suffrage in England. In an attempt to disperse the crowd and arrest the organizers of the demonstration, local cavalry and members of the 15th Hussars and 88th Foot attacked the crowd, killing a dozen protestors and injuring as many as 600. Though Wellington was not involved, the incident was dubbed “Peterloo” because of his persistent opposition to reform in the House of Lords. Image: Richard Carlisle, To Henry Hunt, Esq., as chairman of the emeeting assembled in St. Peter's Field, Manchester, sixteenth day of August, 1819, and to the female Reformers of Manchester and the adjacent towns who were exposed to and suffered from the wanton and fiendish attack made on them by that brutal armed force, the Manchester and Cheshire Yeomanry Cavalry, this plate is dedicated by their fellow labourer, Richard Carlile: a coloured engraving that depicts the Peterloo Massacre (1 October 1819), Manchester Library Services. This image is in the public domain in the United States because its copyright has expired.

Related Articles

James Chandler, “On Peterloo, 16 August 1819″

Sean Grass, “On the Death of the Duke of Wellington, 14 September 1852″

Jun 1832

Reform Act

first page of Reform ActThe Great Reform Act of 1832 was passed in June 1832 after long discussion, with King William IV giving the royal asses on 7 June 1832. This followed a failed attempt on September 1831 that was vetoed by the House of Lords. A second draft was passed after the King intervened. The Bill eliminated many rotten boroughs and created a new class of eligible voters, providing a model by which non-landowners might claim representation in Parliament. Image: First page of the Reform Act, from the British government's national archives. This image is in the public domain in the United States because its copyright has expired.

Articles

Carolyn Vellenga Berman, “On the Reform Act of 1832″

Related Articles

Janice Carlisle, “On the Second Reform Act, 1867″

Pamela Gilbert, "On Cholera in Nineteenth-Century England"

29 Aug 1833

Factory Act

British Coat of ArmsAct to Regulate the Labour of Children and Young Persons in the Mills and Factories of the United Kingdom passed on 29 August 1833. Image: the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Articles

Elsie B. Michie, "On the Sacramental Test Act, the Catholic Relief Act, the Slavery Abolition Act, and the Factory Act"

Related Articles

Peter Capuano, “On Sir Charles Bell’s The Hand, 1833″

17 Aug 1839

Act on Custody of Infants

British Coat of ArmsOn 17 August 1839, passage of an Act to Amend the Law Relating to the Custody of Infants. The Act allowed a separated wife to petition the court for custody of her children under the age of seven. Image: The Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Related Articles

Rachel Ablow, “‘One Flesh,’ One Person, and the 1870 Married Women’s Property Act”

Kelly Hager, “Chipping Away at Coverture: The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857″

Jill Rappoport, “Wives and Sons: Coverture, Primogeniture, and Married Women’s Property”

14 Mar 1856

Petition for Reform of Married Women’s Property Law

On 14 March 1856, presentation of the Petition for Reform of the Married Women’s Property Law, 1856. The petition began the joint effort by lawmakers and public women to grant married women control of their own wealth.

Articles

Jill Rappoport, “Wives and Sons: Coverture, Primogeniture, and Married Women’s Property”

Related Articles

Rachel Ablow, “‘One Flesh,’ One Person, and the 1870 Married Women’s Property Act”

Anne D. Wallace, “On the Deceased Wife’s Sister Controversy, 1835-1907″

28 Aug 1857

Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857

British Coat of ArmsOn 28 August 1857, passage of the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857. The Act legalized divorce and protected a divorced woman’s property and future earnings. The grounds for divorce for men was adultery (in legal terms, criminal conversation), for women adultery combined with bigamy, incest, bestiality, sodomy, desertion, cruelty, or rape. Image: The Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Articles

Kelly Hager, “Chipping Away at Coverture: The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857″

Related Articles

Rachel Ablow, “‘One Flesh,’ One Person, and the 1870 Married Women’s Property Act”

Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, “The Moxon Tennyson as Textual Event: 1857, Wood Engraving, and Visual Culture”

Jill Rappoport, “Wives and Sons: Coverture, Primogeniture, and Married Women’s Property”

1858

English Woman’s Journal first published

photo of ParkesMarch 1858 saw the first issue of England’s first feminist monthly magazine, the English Woman's Journal. Aimed primarily at a middle-class audience, the magazine promoted new employment and educational opportunities for women, and featured a mix of political and social commentary, reportage of current events, poetry, book reviews, and a correspondence column. Image: Photograph of Bessie Rayner Parkes Belloc (date unknown). This image is in the public domain in the United States because its copyright has expired.

Articles

Janice Schroeder, “On the English Woman’s Journal, 1858-62″

9 Jul 1860

Nightingale Home and Training School for Nurses opened

Photo of NightingaleOn 9 July 1860, the Nightingale Home and Training School for Nurses opened its doors. Image: Photograph of Florence Nightingale (1858). This image is in the public domain in the United States as its copyright has expired.

Articles

Lara Kriegel, “On the Death—and Life—of Florence Nightingale, August 1910″

Related Articles

Arlene Young, “The Rise of the Victorian Working Lady: The New-Style Nurse and the Typewriter, 1840-1900″

15 Aug 1867

Second Reform Act

British Coat of ArmsOn 15 August 1867, the Representation of the People Act, 1867 (also known as the Second Reform Act), received the royal assent. This act increased the electorate of England and Wales to approximately one man in three, theoretically including substantial numbers of working-class men. Image: The Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Articles

Janice Carlisle, "On the Second Reform Act, 1867"

Related Articles

Carolyn Vellenga Berman, “On the Reform Act of 1832″

Elaine Hadley, “On Opinion Politics and the Ballot Act of 1872″

Herbert F. Tucker, "On Event"

Sarah Winter, “On the Morant Bay Rebellion in Jamaica and the Governor Eyre-George William Gordon Controversy, 1865-70″

9 Aug 1870

Education Act of 1870

British Coat of ArmsOn 9 August 1870, the Education Act of 1870 (England), written by William Edward Forster, received the royal assent. The Act established local education boards empowered (but not required) to levy taxes to support the education of children ages 5-13 in “Board Schools,” for which fees could also be charged. It also permitted local boards to fund existing and future religious schools. Image: The Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Articles

Florence S. Boos, “The Education Act of 1870: Before and After”

Herbert F. Tucker, “In the Event of a Second Reform”

9 Aug 1870

1870 Married Women's Property Act

British Coat of ArmsOn 9 August 1870, the Married Women’s Property Act was passed. Image: The Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

This Act established limited protections for some separate property for married women, including the right to retain up to £200 of any earning or inheritance. Before this all of a woman's property owned before her marriage, as well as all acquired after the marriage, automatically became her husband's alone. Only women whose families negotiated different terms in a marriage contract were able to retain control of some portion of their property.

Articles

Rachel Ablow, "On the Married Woman's Property Act, 1870"

Related Articles

Kelly Hager, “Chipping Away at Coverture: The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857″

Jill Rappoport, “Wives and Sons: Coverture, Primogeniture, and Married Women’s Property”

Anne Wallace, “On the Deceased Wife’s Sister Controversy, 1835-1907″

1 Jan 1883

1882 Married Women's Property Act

British Coat of Arms1882 Married Women's Property Act passed on 1 Jan 1883. Referred to as the 1882 MWPA, the Act came into effect at the beginning of 1883. Although still identifying some married women's property as "separate," this Act significantly increased the scope and protections for married women's acquisition and retention of property separate from their husbands. Image: The Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Articles

Jill Rappoport, “Wives and Sons: Coverture, Primogeniture, and Married Women’s Property”

Anne Wallace, “On the Deceased Wife’s Sister Controversy, 1835-1907″

Related Articles

Rachel Ablow, “‘One Flesh,’ One Person, and the 1870 Married Women’s Property Act”

Jan 1885

Franchise Act

British Coat of ArmsThe Representation of the People (Franchise Act) came into effect January 1885. Image: The Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Jul 1885

The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon

In July 1885, W. T. Stead published The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon in the Pall Mall Gazette.

Related Articles

Heidi Kaufman, “1800-1900: Inside and Outside the Nineteenth-Century East End”

14 Aug 1885

Criminal Law Amendment Act

British Coat of ArmsCriminal Law Amendment Act passed on 14 August 1885. The Act raised the age of consent for girls from 13 to 16 and introduced the misdemeanor of “gross indecency” to criminalize sexual acts between men in public or private. Image: The Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Related Articles

Mary Jean Corbett, “On Crawford v. Crawford and Dilke, 1886″

Andrew Elfenbein, “On the Trials of Oscar Wilde: Myths and Realities”

26 Nov 1888

London School Board elections

On 26 November 1888 occurred the election for seats on the London School Board for the Sixth Board.

Articles

Patricia Rigg, “Gender and Politics in London School Board Elections: Augusta Webster, Helen Taylor, and a Decade of Electoral Battles”

Apr 1895 to May 1895

Trials of Oscar Wilde

photo of WildeThe trials of Oscar Wilde, which occurred in April and May of 1895, have become legendary as a turning-point in the history of public awareness of homosexuality. By their close, Wilde had gone from being a triumphantly successful playwright to a ruined man, condemned to two years of hard labor for gross indecency. They garnered extensive coverage first in the London press and then in newspapers around the world; the story of the trials continues to be retold in ways that have persistent relevance for contemporary queer culture. Image: Photograph of Oscar Wilde, by Napoleon Sarony. This image is in the public domain in the United States because its copyright has expired.

Articles

Andrew Elfenbein, “On the Trials of Oscar Wilde: Myths and Realities”

30 Nov 1900

Death of Wilde

photo of Wilde30 November 1900 was the day Oscar Wilde died (in the Latin Quarter, Paris). Image: Photograph of Oscar Wilde. This image is in the public domain in the United States because its copyright has expired.

Articles

Ellen Crowell, “Oscar Wilde’s Tomb: Silence and the Aesthetics of Queer Memorial”

Related Articles

Andrew Elfenbein, “On the Trials of Oscar Wilde: Myths and Realities”

28 Aug 1907

Deceased Wife's Sister's Marriage Act

British Coat of ArmsDeceased Wife's Sister's Marriage Act passed on 28 Aug 1907. Although there are minor clauses and clarifications, the Act's opening and primary clause is simply this: "[n]o marriage heretofore or hereafter contracted between a man and his deceased wife’s sister, within the realm or without, shall be deemed to have been or shall be void or voidable, as a civil contract, by reason only of such affinity." Image: The Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Articles

Anne Wallace, “On the Deceased Wife’s Sister Controversy, 1835-1907″