The Boundaries of Her Body: A Troubling History of Women's Rights in America

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For women, the U.S. Constitution offered neither express inclusion, nor exclusion. Rather, there was silence; raising the emerging question of what rights women were to have in their new land. At that time in freedom-loving America, it was against the law for a woman to vote, to hold property in her name, to conduct legal affairs without the permission of her father or husband or to use contraceptives to control the size of her family -- even if she were a married woman. The battle for women's rights is an emotional and often polarized debate: a debate over what a woman is, what a woman ought to be, and what a woman should, therefore, be allowed to do.

Debran Rowland chronicles the issues involved from the woman's point of view -- revealing why each case is significant, and why it still matters today. The Boundaries of Her Body explores the critical issues that matter to both women and men. As seen every day in news across the country, women's rights continue to define American history.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this masterful treatise, legal journalist Rowland analyzes how women's rights have, and have not, evolved since the signing of the Mayflower Compact in 1620 (though the bulk of the book covers just the 20th century). From time immemorial, women were perceived as having the singular mission of bearing and raising children, says Rowland, who documents the consequences of this view: until the late 19th century, women's rights derived from husbands, fathers and sons. It was believed that their biology made women incapable of thinking rationally-hence they could not own property, vote or work as many hours or for as much pay as men. Nor could they have sex not aimed at procreation without social and legal opprobrium. Rowland documents how a legal "zone of privacy" granted men as far back as the 1620s didn't accrue to women until 1965, when the Supreme Court legalized contraception. Drawing on legal and historical sources as well as the Bible, the journals of Meriwether Lewis and Lolita, Rowland covers every imaginable aspect of women's legal lives, up to the present day. This massive and remarkable history is well written in smart yet accessible language and is thus the perfect book for the classroom as well as the family room. (Aug. 4) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In a lengthy text aimed chiefly at law students, attorney Rowland has interpreted women's experience in the United States by looking at the impact of the law on women's bodies. Rowland observes that the legal position of women has always reflected the view that woman's main function is procreative and that women's sexuality therefore required monitoring. To buttress the attachment between women and marriage, the law limited women's access to employment. Even later in the 20th century, after the law ostensibly barred discrimination based on sex, judges affirmed that women's procreative roles authorized differential treatment. The narrative is well supported by references to historical literature, although Rowland's chief interest lies in the explication of judicial decisions. The organization is neither precisely topical nor precisely chronological and therefore somewhat opaque. Rowland ends with an indictment of the modern women's movement for its "startling silence," a complaint that seems misplaced coming so soon after an estimated million or more feminists demonstrated in Washington, DC, in April 2004. Nevertheless, the book is valuable for its current analysis of this issue. Recommended for large public and academic libraries and law libraries. Cynthia Harrison, George Washington Univ., Washington, DC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Analysis of the issues, strategies, and tactics behind the battles that have been fought-and continue to be fought-over the rights of women in the US. Feminist, journalist, and civil-rights attorney Rowland brings all three facets of her background to bear in this impressively documented account of the political, cultural, and legal struggles over the status and rights of American women from colonial days to the present. Her extensive research (footnotes occupy about one-quarter of the pages) turned up such a wealth of interesting material that she frequently interrupts her text with lengthy sidebars to include pertinent but auxiliary data: e.g., summaries of the contradictory laws in the 50 states regarding minor females and of the extent of AIDS/HIV around the world. The author begins with an examination of the obligations and restrictions imposed on colonial women, then moves on to the battle over birth control, the rights of women in the workplace, and the rights of reproductive privacy. She scrutinizes the impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on issues involving gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and employment inequity. She also looks at the legal and social implications of advances in reproductive technology and takes a critical look at the issue of violence against women. Throughout, Rowland focuses on court cases and the impact of their outcomes. Deeply concerned by the tactics of those who are resistant to changes in public policy regarding the status of women, she cites President Bush and conservative Christian activists for attempting to undermine or undo the progress women made in the latter decades of the 20th century. "Some men will fight forever to limit thereproductive choices of women," Rowland warns, asserting that women are losing ground, and that the trend will continue unless feminist activists adopt a new, more aggressive game plan. Indispensable source book for courses in women's studies, especially valuable for its coverage of a multitude of court cases.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781572483682
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/28/2004
  • Pages: 832
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 2.33 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Politics of Biology--The Essence of Control XXIII
Section I The 1600s-Early 1900s
Chapter 1 Women and the Hierarchy of Gender 3
Early America: A New World of European Ideals and Godly Influence
Impossible Women: "Remarkable Providences" and God in a History of Details
Inventing America: The European Tradition, Obedient Women, and American Common Law
Identity Crisis: Women and the Constitution: What Went Without Saying
The Dred Scott Decision: Carving Women's Rights Out of "Human Rights"
Bradwell v. Illinois: Why Women Couldn't and Shouldn't Practice Law
Minor v. Happersett: When is a Citizen Not a Citizen?
Chapter 2 Biology, Sex, and the Obligation of Motherhood 33
Women and the "Gift:" A Life Defined by Biology
Modern Europe, Early America: Protecting Society--Guarding Sexuality
Women and the Womb: The Emerging Birth Control Debate
Margaret Sanger and Other Rebels: Women Who Would "Injure" Society
Chapter 3 Working Women and the Issue of "Protection" 49
Women Working in America: "Frailty, thy name is woman!"
Working Women Go to Court: Efforts to Overcome the Mission Divine
Protectionist Legislation: A Place at Work for Women and a Place for Muller in History
Section II Twentieth Century Developments
Chapter 4 The Nation goes to War and "Rosie" is Born 67
"Men's Work," the Great Depression, and World War II: Unemployment, War, and Opportunities for Women
History Redrawn at the Roots: Women and the New American Workforce
Women at Work: The Issue of the "Superwoman" is Born
Women Go Home: Life after the Second World War
Chapter 5 The Birth Control Debate Begins 83
America after the War: Turning from Rosie to June
Images of the New American Family: Women in the Shadow of June
The Changes of the 1960s: Sex and the Modern Woman
Uncovering Fundamental Rights: Redefining Zones of Privacy
The Birth Control Debate: Getting from B to A
Resurrecting Substantive Due Process: The Lochner Doctrine is Reborn
Birth Control and Minors: Privacy vs. a Parent's Right to Know
Emerging Issues Today: And a Conservative Challenge
The Abortion Debate: "Unborn Life" vs. Women's Rights
Accidents, Epidemics, Birth Defects, and Consequences: In Sickness and for Health--Abortion as a Solution
Abortion and Adult Women: A History of Fragmentation
How "Choice" Became Law: "Jane Roe" Takes on Texas
Challenging Roe (Over and Over): Attempting to Turn Back the Clock
Assessing the Fallout as the Challenges Continue: Roe Under Attack--Two Decades of Battle
Abortion and Minors: Do Young Women have the Right to Choose?
Child Custody Protection Act: Divide and Conquer in the Name of Family
Chapter 6 The 1960S and an Era of Change 155
Women, Work, and the Question of Equality: The Struggle to Find a Balance
Modern Equations of Women at Work: After the Civil Rights Act of 1964
"Pregnancy Discrimination" and the Constitution: Does the Equal Protection Clause Apply?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 And the Evolution of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act
A New Tool in the Battle: The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978
Chapter 7 The Law of Pregnancy in the Workplace 177
The Tough Task of Proving Pregnancy Discrimination: Title VII and the PDA at Work
The Law in Practice: Applying the Pregnancy Discrimination Act
When She is No Longer Needed: Smith v. F.W. Morse & Co., Inc.
The McDonnell Douglas Standard: Racial Discrimination Creates a Framework for Gender Discrimination Claims
Shifting Burdens in Real Life: Differing Interpretations Among the Courts
Beyond the McDonnell Douglas Test: The Evidentiary Requirements
Bergstrom-Ek v. Best Oil Co.: A Smoking Gun or a Loose Canon?
Direct vs. Circumstantial Evidence: Balancing the Facts in Pregnancy Discrimination Claims
Defining Intent: The Pretext Question
Sorting Out the Facts: The "Bad Employee" Defense
Market Forces and Job Elimination: "Layoff Litigation" and Maternity Leave
Force Reductions Analysis: The Armbruster Test
Modern Issues in the Workplace Today: A Love-Hate Relationship with "Protective" Measures
"Preference" or "Protectionism": Reassigning the Pregnant Employee and the Question of Accommodation
When a Firefighter is a Woman: Richards v. City of Topeka
Title VII and Gender Discrimination: Four Cases and the Making of a Turning Point
The "Gender Revolution" and the 1990s: Title VII and a Flood of Modern Cases
The 1998 Supreme Court Term: The Law Poised for Change
No Longer Business as Usual: Sexual Harassment Law after the 1998 Term
Chapter 8 Guerrilla Tactics and Reproductive Rights Today 251
In the Bedroom: Issues of Sex and Privacy
Reexamining Sexual Privacy: Through the Prism of Same-Sex Activity
The Same-Sex Marriage Challenge: With This Ring, I Do Change the Rules
The Fall of Bowers v. Hardwick: Changing Times Lead to New Laws
Lifestyle Choices vs. Medical Treatment: Current Issues in Reproductive Rights Law
Abortion and the Challenge of the 1990s: Murder and Mayhem in the Name of "Life"
After the Violence; The Declining Availability of Abortion: Where Choice Exists--The Procedure May Not
The Battle that Never Ends: Abortion and Where Women Stand
The Landscape of the New Debate: A Conservative Agenda and an Administration Open to It
A Direct Challenge and Failure: The Partial-Birth Abortion Debate
The Law after Stenberg v. Carhart: The Battle Moves to Washington
Humanizing Fetuses--Dehumanizing Women: And the Creation of "Unborn Children"
The Politics of Deconstruction: Redefining "Life" to Dismantle Roe
The Neo-Semantics of the Continued Debate: Turning the "Fetuses" of Roe into the "Unborn Children" of Today
A Shift in Perspective and Changing Law in Play: Where the Law Stands Today
Knocking On the Back Door: Connor's Law and the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act"
The White House Weighs In: Religious Initiatives and George W. Bush
Chapter 9 A Woman's Worth: Less is Still Less 381
A Century of Questions: Where Women Stand Today
The 1990s: A Postmodern June
At the Turn of the Millennium: Money Matters and Women
The "New Economy": A Boom or Bust for Women?
This Woman's Work: Seventy-Something Cents on the Dollar
Chapter 10 The Reproductive Rights of "New Medicine" 397
Other Issues in Reproductive Law: When Does the State's "Concern" Go too Far?
Reproductive Rights and New Medicine: Creating a New Universe of Choice
Motherhood and Modern Medicine: Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave, When First We Practice to Deceive Conceive
Assisted Reproduction: And the Kinship of Modern Time
Getting the Ball Rolling: In the Matter of Baby M and Other Issues of Surrogacy
Surrogacy and Artificial Insemination: The Side-Effects of Assistance
The Widows and Sperm: Posthumous Conception and Other Defining Issues
The Sperm and the Egg: Money and the Legal Issues
Davis v. Davis: Frozen Embryos and the Coupling Problem
Sperm Donors and Dads: An Evolving Standard
Assisted Reproductive Technologies: Bigger Possibilities--More Devastating Mistakes
Embryo Fraud: Errors, Destruction, and Deliberate Deception
Baby Strain or Escape Hatch: Assisted Reproduction from the Male Perspective
Prevention Foiled--The Stork has Arrived: Fraudulent Birth and the Misuse of Sperm
Chapter 11 Sex and "Seduction" in the Time of Aids 461
Dating Games and STDs: White Lies as a Cause of Action
Lover's Perjuries: Intimate Contagions and Their Force on the Law
The AIDS Issue: An Offense of a Different Color
American Women and HIV: Facing the Epidemic--Changing the Law
The Limitations of HAART: Resentment and a Backlash
The Spread of HIV: And the New Law
Fraud of the Sexual Variety: A New Tool in an Old War or the Battle of the Sexes Comes Full Circle
Fraudulent Couplings: A New Cause of Action Gaining Ground
Section III The Politics of Female Adolescence
Chapter 12 Pop Life and the Legal Confusion of Girls 511
The World of Pre-Women: Confounding Realities in a Quasi-Adult Universe
Biology's Girl: Becoming a Woman and the Hormone Parade
Precocious Puberty: The Physical Perspective and the Problems It May Cause
C Cups and Precocious Sexual Contact: Because Boys will be Boys
The Terrain of Modern Girlhood: From Adolescent Girl to Woman-of-the-World in a Blink
Society's Girl: The Lolita Effect and Adoration of the 12-year-old
The Clothes that Make the Girl "A Woman": From Simone de Beauvoir to the Commercial World
And Now the Real Story: Ophelia in Snapshots
The Law's Girl: Adolescent Women Under the Law
Girls and Sex: Statutory Rape Laws and a History of Protecting Virtue
Girls and Schools: Issues in Equality and Discrimination
The New ABCs of Education: Sexual Assault in the Classroom
Section IV Violence and Women
Chapter 13 A Woman's Place is in the Hospital 593
The Story of Violence: A Toll Counted Daily
The Seeds of Violence: On History Repeating Itself and Then Some
The Modern Trend of Man: Violence and Mankind; Violence and Womankind
Maidenhood and Maidenheads: Hymen Envy and a Universe Desirous of Virgins
The Opposite of Mary and Working Shame: Sin and Slander by Sexual Reference
Sexual Reference and Libel: The Current and Historic Practice
Chapter 14 Current Issues in Rape and Sexual Assault Law 655
Rape and Sexual Assault: The Cultural Debate--The Legal Issues
The Less Cerebral Measures of Rape and Sexual Assault: The Statistical Dimensions
The Statistical Dimensions of Rapists: Who's Playing at Survival of the Fittest?
Rape: "A Crime of Violence in Which Sex is the Weapon:" The Content and Context of "Rape Law" Today
Defining Rape: Obvious Devastations; Abstruse Standards
History and the "Utmost" Resistance: The Need to Push the Law Forward
Reform Gains a Foothold: The Slow Steps to Change
Enormous Promise--a More Limited Reality: A Model Penal Code and the Reformation of Rape Laws
Rape and Implicit Violence: Pride Makes Resistance "Instinctive"
Shielding Sexual History: Or Creating Doubt by Turning Victim into Vamp
The Rape Shield: And Other Exemptions at Work in the Courts
Inventing Consent: Where There is None
Rape and Sexual Assault: And the Violence Against Women Act
Brzonkala v. Virginia Polytechnic and State University: United States v. Morrison
A Civil Rape Remedy Not Allowed: An "Activist" Court and a Federalist Agenda
Brzonkala v. Virginia Polytechnic: United States v. Morrison is Decided
Chapter 15 The Private Story of Private Abuse 731
Battery Begins at Home: Private Crimes or Public Health Problems
A Woman's Place is in the Hospital: The Statistical Side of Domestic Violence and Murder
Who Takes a Beating: A Socio-economic Portrait of "Intimate Partner" Violence
Violence and the Contemporary Love Affair: Why Battery Prevails When All Else Fails
Violent Factors in Everyday Life: The Power to Cause a Reign of Terror
Mandatory Arrests: The Heavy Hand of the Law
Epilogue 751
Index 759
About the Author 789
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