The Case of the Married Woman: Caroline Norton and Her Fight for Women's Justice

The Case of the Married Woman: Caroline Norton and Her Fight for Women's Justice

by Antonia Fraser
The Case of the Married Woman: Caroline Norton and Her Fight for Women's Justice

The Case of the Married Woman: Caroline Norton and Her Fight for Women's Justice

by Antonia Fraser



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Award-winning historian Antonia Fraser brilliantly portrays a courageous and compassionate woman who refused to be curbed by the personal and political constraints of her time.

Caroline Norton dazzled nineteenth-century society with her vivacity, her intelligence, her poetry, and in her role as an artist's muse. After her marriage in 1828 to the MP George Norton, she continued to attract friends and admirers to her salon in Westminster, which included the young Disraeli. Most prominent among her admirers was the widowed Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne.

Racked with jealousy, George Norton took the Prime Minister to court, suing him for damages on account of his 'Criminal Conversation' (adultery) with Caroline. A dramatic trial followed. Despite the unexpected and sensational result—acquittal—Norton was still able to legally deny Caroline access to her three children, all under seven. He also claimed her income as an author for himself, since the copyrights of a married woman belonged to her husband.

Yet Caroline refused to despair. Beset by the personal cruelties perpetrated by her husband and a society whose rules were set against her, she chose to fight, not surrender. She channeled her energies in an area of much-needed reform: the rights of a married woman and specifically those of a mother. Over the next few years she campaigned tirelessly, achieving her first landmark victory with the Infant Custody Act of 1839. Provisions which are now taken for granted, such as the right of a mother to have access to her own children, owe much to Caroline, who was determined to secure justice for women at all levels of society from the privileged to the dispossessed.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781639361588
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 05/03/2022
Format: eBook
Pages: 304
File size: 17 MB
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About the Author

Antonia Fraser is the author of many widely acclaimed historical works which have been international bestsellers. She was awarded the Medlicott Medal by the Historical Association in 2000 and was made a DBE in 2011 for services to literature. Her previous books include Mary Queen of Scots; King Charles II; The Weaker Vessel: Woman's Lot in Seventeenth-Century England, which won the Wolfson History Prize; Marie Antoinette: The Journey; Perilous Question; The King and the Catholics; and The Wives of Henry VIII.  Must You Go?, a memoir of her life with Harold Pinter, was published in 2010, and My History: A Memoir of Growing Up  in 2015. Fraser's The Case of the Married Woman is available from Pegasus Books. She lives in London. 

Table of Contents

Note on names ix

Family trees of Sheridans and Nortons x

Note on money xii

Author's note xiii

Prologue: She Does Not Exist xv

Part 1 Starry Night

Chapter 1 Child in a Dark Wood 3

Chapter 2 'Here She Comes!' 19

Chapter 3 Melbourne's Hat 35

Chapter 4 What Mr Norton Liked 49

Part 2 Summer's Gone

Chapter 5 Helpless 65

Chapter 6 Extraordinary Trial 79

Chapter 7 Given against Whom? 92

Chapter 8 Hungry for the Children 108

Chapter 9 Woman's Tears and the Law 124

Part 3 Half in Shade, Half in Sun

Chapter 10 Heavenly Norton 141

Chapter 11 Lost Companions 154

Chapter 12 The Name of Writer 169

Chapter 13 Let Him Claim the Copyright 181

Part 4 The Winds of Change

Chapter 14 Reaping in Joy? 199

Chapter 15 Nonna Wants the Pen 213

Chapter 16 Floated Away from Shore 227

Epilogue: One of the Little Hinges 241

References 247

Sources 255

Acknowledgements 266

List of Illustrations 269

Index 271

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