Lex vincit? The Chicago Legal News and the changing status of household dependents from 1868-1873.


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This thesis uses Myra Bradwell and the Chicago Legal News (CLN) to explore the changing legal status of household dependents (wives and children) during the middle years of Radical Reconstruction, 1868-1873. Emancipation deconstructed the legal household; this thesis argues that activists like Bradwell fought to excise judicial paternalism from its subsequent reconstruction, with mixed success. Incorporating the CLN into histories of postbellum legal culture bridges two disparate historiographical explanations for nineteenth-century household change: gradual change grounded in systematic legal treatises and sharp change grounded in localized studies. The CLN was both systematic and episodic; as such, historians are able to apply methodologically cultural/social questions to an intellectual system. Furthermore, integrating Bradwell—a woman pursuing gender equality—into this historiography clarifies that the laws of the household were neither as continuous nor as inherently patriarchal as the writings of her male counterparts have led historians to believe.



Reconstruction. Dependents.