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On This Day in Herstory, March 22nd 1808, Caroline Norton, an English feminist, social reformer, and author, whose intense campaigning led to a reformation regarding married women and divorce, custody of their , and the ownership of property, was born in London, England.
Formidable Female Fact: After nearly a decade of tolerating a awful marriage, in 1836, Caroline left her husband. At first, she was able to sustain herself on the money she made as an author; but eventually, George argued in court that the money was legally his, as Caroline’s husband. Caroline and George’s separation became even more hateful, when he abducted their sons, and hid them with relatives in Scotland and Yorkshire, and refused to tell Caroline where they were. She became passionately involved in the passage of laws that promoted social justice, specifically laws that gave rights to married and divorced women. Parliament debated divorce reform in 1855, and Caroline submitted a detailed account of her own marriage and separation, illustrating for the members of parliament that difficulties that women faced under the existing laws. As a result of her passion and intense campaigning, Parliament passed the Custody of Infants Act 1839, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 and the Married Women's Property Act 1870. Under the Custody of Act women who were legally separated or divorced were granted custody of their under seven, and then periodic access to them after; the act took effect in England, Wales, and Ireland. Caroline hoped it would mean that she would gain custody of her youngest son, but because her husband had moved the boys to Scotland, the act had no legal bearing on her situation, and she never gained custody of her . The two additional acts were the Matrimonial Causes Act, which reformed the law on divorce, making divorce more affordable, and establishing marriage as contract based; and the Married Women's Property Act 1870, which allowed married women to inherit property and take court action on their own behalf.