Men, Women, Work and Law
In the last chapter, we looked briefly at the ways in which married women suffered disadvantages. We want now to continue that discussion and to examine the relationship between married women, the world of paid employment and the Rule of Law. As we have seen, at least until the beginning of the 20th century, marriage created for the woman a special status, inferior to that of the unmarried woman and clearly inferior to that of her husband. She was a protected person, unable to own property and unable to make contracts. The ‘neutral’ framework of the Rule of Law did not include her and the ideology of freedom and equality did not affect her. How is the existence of this special status to be accounted for at a time when the Rule of Law was supposed to be in its purest form? What effect does the exclusion of such a large class of people from the realm of formal equality have upon the thesis, argued by many of the writers to whom we have referred in this book, that there is a close relationship between the Rule of Law and the demands of a full market economy? Does the retention of a special status for married women strengthen or undermine the argument about the connection between the Rule of Law and the market?