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Status of Women and Feminist Response

The idea that marriage is an equal partnership in which legal responsibilities are interchangeable between the spouses continues to gain ground. At the same time,theories of unity coverture and separate-but-equal roles persists in statutes, case law, and marriage customs. The law cooperates with marriages in which the husband is the de facto head of the family and confers his name and status on his wife and children. The status of women has been affected by the expectation in so many states that the husband will have primary financial responsibility while the wife will be concerned with the care of the home. The separate-but-equal theory continues to sustain unequal-domicile and interspousal-immunity laws, and in some states, officially deprives a homemaker’s work of any economic value. This makes her dependent on her husband’s decisions about the appropriate level of marital support, as well as about retirement and health insurance. Any salary a wife earns (and, remember that a majority of married women are employed) is, by definition, secondary family income incidental to the primary work and income of the husband.9