Bradwell v. Illinois: Women and Destiny

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A woman was refused a license to practice law because she was married. This was legally relevant because under the philosophy of the day, a woman had no legal existence separate from her husband; accordingly, she could not be bound by any contract in which she engaged because her husband would have the right to withdraw consent.


I found it most interesting that he linked his perception of women's place in society, as well as the social convention of the day, with the law. To quote, "[t]he paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator. And the rules of civil society [83 U.S. 130, 142] must be adapted to the general constitution of things..." (Bradwell 135). A more egregious circumstance of exercising power and privilege over a disfavored class of persons would be hard to imagine. Here, since the laws of God and the conventions of society required women as a class to stay at home and be "timid and frail," the laws of the courts must follow along and prevent a woman from being a lawyer.
Men should, and many men do, support gender equality because it fulfills the humanity of us all. The fact that through the course of civilization men have dominated women and established power structures that favor themselves notwithstanding, there is a shared benefit between men and women when men perceive women as peers to be respected and not as subordinates to be protected. This ethic is slowly-but-surely emerging in society.
The key benefit to men who embrace gender equality is the fact that all relationships; family, work, or recreational, become partnerships ...
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