Introduction: Feminist Jurisprudence and Child-Centered Jurisprudence: Historical Origins and Current Developments
33 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2010 Last revised: 11 Apr 2010
Date Written: April 7, 2010
This is the “Introduction” to a special issue of the HOUSTON LAW REVIEW that was the outgrowth of a live symposium in November of 2008 on Feminist Jurisprudence and Child-Centered Jurisprudence: Exploring the Connections and Tensions,” (46 HOU.L.REV.671 (2009)). The issue contains articles by distinguished contributors Annette Ruth Appell (“The Pre-political Child of Child-Centered Jurisprudence”), Martin Guggenheim (“Texas Polygamy and Child Welfare”), and Barbara Bennett Woodhouse (“A World Fit for Children is a World Fit for Everyone: Ecogenerism, Feminism, and Vulnerability”).
This Introduction puts theories of “feminist” and “child-centered” jurisprudence into historical perspective. It sketches the origins and development of feminist jurisprudence, starting with the nineteenth-century common law of the family and the doctrine of the “separate spheres,” proceeding to the critique of those positions developed by the first wave of feminism before and after the Civil War. With the civil rights and women’s rights revivals of the twentieth century, we witnessed the elaboration of theories that came to be described specifically as “feminist jurisprudence.” Overlapping (and sometimes inconsistent) analyses focused feminist critiques specifically on family law issues at the same time that other social and political forces also created pressure for legal change. Interestingly, nineteenth century reformers were also the source of new ideas about childhood itself that were brought to bear on laws relating to abuse and neglect or the treatment of juveniles in the criminal justice system. It was not until the late twentieth century, however, that the modern development of what has been called “child-centered jurisprudence” began to take shape. While tensions between the two types of analyses remain, recently pioneer thinkers associated more or less with one of the two developments seem to be finding a pathway of convergence that emphasizes the need to go beyond the resources of the private family in order to create a sound basis for woman- and child-centered policies.
Keywords: Feminist Jurisprudence, Child-Centered Jurisprudence, History of Family Law, Current Developments in Family Law
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