The Progression of Women's Rights

Acts in chronological order that have dramatically changed women's lives. 


Chronological table

Displaying 1 - 8 of 8
Date Event Created by Associated Places
1700 to 1857

Divorce through a Private Act of Parliament

Between 1700 and 1857, the only way to receive a divorce which allowed for re-marriage was through a Private Act of Parliment. During this time, there were only 314 Acts. 

Katherine Muck

Marriage Act 1753

The Marriage Act of 1753 was also called "An Act for the Better Preventing of Clandestine Marriage" and Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act. This required weddings to take place in an approved church or chapel. This act also set aside common law marriages. 

Katherine Muck

Marriage Act 1836

The Marriage Act 1836 legalized civil marriages in England and Wales. This meant that religious nonconformists and Catholics could marry in legally registered buildings or their place of worship.

Katherine Muck

Matrimonial Causes Act 1857

The Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 was a major reform on divorce. This Act allowed ordinary people to divorce since couples could receive a divorce from civil courts instead of from an Act of Parliament. Men could divorce on the grounds of adultery but women had to prove additional faults (such as cruelty) along with adultery.  

Katherine Muck

Punishment of Incest Act 1908

This act defined incest as illegal. Incest was defined as sexual relations between a person and their grandchild, child, sibling (including half-siblings), or parents.

Katherine Muck

Adoption of Children Act 1926

This act made adoption in England and Wales a legal process. Before this act, adoptive parents had no rights over their child, the rights remained with the biological parents. Adopted children could also receive a new birth certificate including the names of the adopted parents. 

Katherine Muck

Legitimacy Act of 1926

This act allowed children born outside of marriage to be legitimized (following a marriage of the parents). Neither parent could be married to a third party at the time of birth. This act was modified in 1959 extending it to parents who were married to a third party at the time of birth.

Katherine Muck

Divorce Reform Act 1969

This act made divorce easier. Couples could divorce if both parties wanted one and were separated for two years. If one party wanted a divorce, they needed to be separated for five years. Also, “Irretrievable Breakdown” became a ground for divorce. This meant neither party had to prove a fault with their partner. 

Katherine Muck