This course focuses on women and the law in the United States from the Revolutionary Era to the Present. We will focus especially on ways and instances in which the law – on the books or in application – treated men and women differently and the reasons or rationalizations for doing so; ways in which it distinguished among women based on status (free or slave, single or married, citizen or non, adult or child, able or disabled), race, class, and sexuality; how women’s legal status changed over time and the limits of that change; and, finally, on women’s individual and collective efforts to claim a right to themselves, equality in the workplace, and in civil and political rights.
Law courses are generally case (or at least casebook) centered. This seminar offers a break from that format. Our lens will be historical. Most of our readings will be by historians whose principal fields of study include women’s history, legal history, the history of citizenship, labor history, and the history of sexuality. The readings will be a combination of historical monographs and journal articles based on original archival research.
Assignments will include weekly short response papers and a final legal-historical op. ed. on a topic of your choice related to women and the law.