custody of infants act, divorce & matrimonial causes act, frances power cobbe, victorian women's rights, women's rights
1873-8 Further important Acts of Parliament were passed giving women more rights. The Custody of Infants Act gave women who were divorced or legally separated from husbands the right to see their children regardless of whether they possessed a ‘blemished character’. Mothers were also permitted to apply for custody of children. This was no longer automatically given to fathers.
Frances Power Cobbe, an investigative journalist and campaigner, inspired the passing of a second Divorce & Matrimonial Causes Act, notably through her pivotal article ‘Wife Torture in England’. It allowed women in violent marriages to apply for a protection order. It was less costly than a divorce, so was an important step forward for working class women, and came into effect far quicker. It was in essence a legal separation giving women independence.