This project aims to take a socio-legal and historical approach to tell the untold story of the Married Women’s Association and its campaigns for economic equality in marriage. For the first time, this project provides evidence of the Married Women’s Association’s impact on the development of marriage and divorce law in England and Wales.
I want to reconstruct and reassess why the work of the Married Women’s Association is so important and how its forgotten legacy continues to shape debates related to divorce reform. This study will examine the role of grass roots activism by using biographical methods to understand the personalities and approaches of the Association’s members, such as suffragist Teresa Billington Greig, Helena Normanton (who was the first woman to practise as a barrister in England), writer Vera Brittain and MP Dr Edith Summerskill.
Through archival research and interviews with historians and surviving family and friends of members of the Married Women’s Association, this project documents the group’s campaigns in its fight for economic equality in marriage.
This research is funded by the Socio-Legal Studies Association.
Project updates can be found on Twitter: @MWA_research
I am a Senior Lecturer in Law at Cardiff University.
In 2015 I published a monograph titled Prenuptial Agreements and the Presumption of Free Choice, which was shortlisted for the Peter Birks Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship in 2017 and both the SLSA Hart Socio-Legal Book Prize and the SLSA Socio-Legal prize for Early Career Academics in 2016. The book has been cited and applied by the High Court of Australia in Thorne v Kennedy  HCA 49. My work in this area has also been discussed in the House of Lords.
I am co-editor of a new Routledge book series on Law and History, co-editor of case notes for Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law and member of Feminist Legal Studies editorial board. I am a member of the Network on Family Regulation and Society (comprised of Family Law academics from the Universities of Bristol, Bath, Exeter and Cardiff). I also co-lead the Law and Gender and Law and History research groups at Cardiff.
I feature in a BBC Radio 4 series titled ‘The Battles That Won Our Freedoms‘ where I tell the story of Victorian activism behind the Married Women’s Property Act 1882, a legal landmark that enabled married women to control their own property. You can listen to this episode here.
Further details of my publications can be found here.
I am on Twitter: @DrSharonThomp