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Although divorce by Private Act of Parliament was available to men as a way of dissolving their marriages from 1670, the remedy was only ever granted to four women: Jane Addison in 1801, Elizabeth Turton in 1831, Anne Battersby in 1840 and Georgina Hall in 1850. Three other women petitioned Parliament for divorce but had their applications rejected: Louisa Teuch in 1805, Frances Moffat in 1832 and Ann Dawson in 1848. Through an analysis of parliamentary records and contemporary newspaper reports, this paper will examine the reactions of the legislature to the first three applications by women to come before Parliament: Addison, Teuch and Turton. It will place the debates, the case strategies of the parties and the outcomes of the applications within the wider cultural and legal discourses surrounding the issue of adultery, as well as exploring the desire of the English governing classes to reserve divorce for men alone.     

Dr Alison Daniell completed her PhD at the English Department of the University of Southampton in 2020. Her research explored how married women of the long eighteenth century experienced coverture and the ways in which female-authored fiction of the same period engaged with and reimagined those experiences. She was co-convenor of the cross-disciplinary Adventurous Wives conference (May 2021) and a 2021 Chawton House Fellow. Alison is a qualified barrister and practised for a number of years in divorce and family law. She has also lectured in law at UCL. She is currently working as the Academic Skills Officer for the Widening Participation and Social Mobility Department at the University of Southampton.

The seminar will take the form of a question and answer session based on a pre-circulated paper.

The paper is available to view on the History of Parliament website, and will be sent to everyone who has signed up to this event.

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