Caroline Norton

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  • Caroline Norton
    • Married George Norton but was abused
      • Became friend with Lord Melbourne - rumours circulated
        • George tried to sue Melbourne but failed - resulted in George stopping Caroline seeing their children
      • When Melbourne died, he left some money to Caroline and George demanded that he give it to her but she refused
        • George then refused to pay the upkeep for their two remaining children (one had died in an accident) - he also refused to divorce Caroline
          • Was resolved when George died in 1877
    • Custody of Children's Act - 1839
      • Caroline campaigned by writing pamphlets to catch the attention of MPs and articulate women
        • They highlighted the unfairness of the system - a woman could be innocent of adultery but her husband was still able to prevent her from seeing her children
      • In 1838 she started her campaign with the help of Sir Talfourd - MP for Reading
        • The bill was passed in the House of Commons but rejected in the House of Lords
      • In 1839, Talfourd tried again and this time succeeded
      • The Act gave mothers the right of custody of their children under the age of seven but only if the Lord Chancellor agreed to it, and only if the mother was of good character
    • Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act - 1857
      • Previously, for divorce to take place, it had to go through a private Act of Parliament - slow and expensive
        • Now, divorce went through the Law courts
      • In order for a husband to divorce his wife = prove adultery
        • In order for a wife to divorce her husband = not only prove adultery but either bigamy, rape, sodomy, bestiality, cruelty or long-term desertion
      • Other clauses in the Act:
        • A wife deserted by her husband could keep her own income
        • The courts were able to order payment of maintenance to a wife
        • A wife was able to inherit property the same as a single woman
        • A wife separated from her husband could sue/be sued in a civil court


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