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Throughout history, individual laborers have often not had freedoms of movement, effort, or work choice. Workers have worked under master/servant relations, indentured servitude, and even slavery. Within marriage, the doctrine of coverture made wives assume the legal identity of their husband. Such restrictions on individual freedoms affect the choices these indivduals make, and lead to various transaction costs. These costs help explain the organization and institutions surrounding nonfree labor.
One of Margaret Cavendish’s most engaging and accessible texts, Sociable Letters (1662), is an epistolary exploration of a variety of topics relevant to the seventeenth-century reader, from women’s friendship and marriage to politics and civil war. While she shows her familiarity with royalist perspectives throughout, in the frequently quoted Letter #16, Cavendish enters civil war and Engagement debates about the proper derivation of a subject’s obligation and offers a powerful argument about women’s political status and their relationship to the state. If women do not take oaths, she reasons, then they must be neither citizens nor subjects of the Commonwealth. This chapter examines Cavendish’s strategic focus on oath-taking as a signifier of proper citizenship. In suggesting that women may not be bound to the state, Cavendish set herself apart from royalism, and from members of her own circle, including her husband and Thomas Hobbes. Her “no-citizen-no subject” argument belongs in the long history of women’s political writing, offering a perspective on women and the state that resonates with the later writings of Abigail Adams and the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments.
Following Japan’s 1941 attacks on Hawai’i and Hong Kong, Canada relocated, detained, and exiled citizens and residents of Japanese ancestry. Many interracial families, however, were exempted from this racial project called the internment. The form of the exemption was an administrative permit granted to its holder on the basis of their marital or patrilineal proximity to whiteness. This article analyzes these permits relying on archival research and applying a critical race feminist lens to explore how law was constitutive of race at this moment in Canadian history. I argue that the permits recategorized interracial intimacies towards two racial ends: to differentiate the citizen from the “enemy alien”; and to regulate the interracial family according to patriarchal common law principles. This article nuances received narratives of law as an instrument of racial exclusion by documenting the way in which a new inclusive state measure sustained old exclusions.
Chapter 4 explores the legal position of women through William Blackstone’s pronouncements on the law of coverture. The chapter considers the dissemination of ideas about women’s legal disabilities in marriage through popular literature, educational material and handbooks for magistrates. It concludes that, by the end of the eighteenth century, coverture was far more important for poor women (and men), interpellated by the laws of settlement and removal, than it was for elite women.
Chapter 5 continues the discussion of Chapter 4 through a consideration of the unfinished manuscript that Mary Wollstonecraft left behind at her death: The Wrongs of Women; or Maria. Under coverture, William Godwin owned Wollstonecraft’s writing during their brief marriage and after she died. Copyright law, as experienced by men and women, is discussed in relation to coverture. Wollstonecraft’s polemic in the novel, on the law of marriage, is discussed in relation to the working-class figure of Jemima, whose own account of the law focuses the next chapter.
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