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Conclusion: The 1857 Divorce Act and its consequences

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 December 2009

Elizabeth Foyster
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

What happened to Rachael Norcott and Mary Veitch? In neither case has a sentence, or judgement upon their request for marriage separation survived. While we will never know whether they were released from the clutches of their brutal husbands, we have seen how in many ways their stories were typical of the experiences of women who resisted marital violence. The similarities of their accounts suggest the continuities of what women could endure over the period between their lifetimes. Their stories have shown us how marital violence had multiple forms, of which physical violence constituted only one damaging part. While the variability of marital violence made it difficult for lawyers to label or define, we have learned that to ordinary people who witnessed the violence directed towards Rachael and Mary, unacceptable or cruel violence depended upon the personal circumstances or characteristics of the person who was its target. As for much of this period violence was seen as a legitimate corrective to insubordinate behaviour, the conduct of Rachael and Mary also had to be assessed before any judgement of cruelty could be made. We have seen how the impact of marital violence extended beyond its intended target, to affect Rachael and Mary's children, family, friends, and neighbours. There is little evidence that the violence directed against Mary was any more private or secret than that against Rachael.

Type
Chapter
Information
Marital Violence
An English Family History, 1660–1857
, pp. 234 - 255
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2005

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