Women, law, religion, marriage, and St Joan of Arc

A small roundup of articles I found through the Feminist Law Professors blog. I read this for the feminism, but found several items worth blogging about here.

First, in honor of the 600th anniversary of Joan of Arc’s birth, the Amicae Curiae themed their Blawg Review, a weekly carnival of law blogging, around the Maid of Orleans. It opens with a synopsis of Joan’s story and includes images and quotes from her life and trial testimony interspersed throughout. The authors explain:

Insubordinate, heterodox, incredibly brave, smart and sassy whilst pushing the boundaries of fashion, we are inspired by Joan of Arc and her story as an allegory for for women lawyers and justice for women. . . . We salute the Maid of Orleans’ leadership by presenting a selected round up of blogging women lawyers and their posts in the last week (plus a couple of surprises) all inspired by St Joan. Like Jeanne herself, women legal bloggers step up to give voice to their experiences and those of other women. Whether they talk about law, justice, women’s issues, culture or their private life, these voices resonate with conviction, courage and humour.

Readers interested in the history of marriage law may be interested in Kate Galloway’s review of “the context of marriage and its regulation by the law,” primarily English law, in her post What is the ‘Truth About Marriage’?

Finally I must recommend a really fascinating journal article by law professor Marie Ashe titled “Women’s Wrongs, Religions’ Rights: Women, Free Exercise, and Establishment”:

Abstract: This article provides an historical examination of American Constitutional law concerning religion as it has evolved through three periods: the Mormon period of the late nineteenth century; the religious pluralism period of post-WW2 decades; and the multiculturalism period that began around 1990 and that remains underway. It examines Supreme Court interpretations of First Amendment provisions pertaining to religion, and it contextualizes those interpretations to explore their implications for women’s liberty and equality at each of the three periods. Its argument is that Constitutional doctrine relating to religion – through its multiple doctrinal reversals – has consistently entailed and depended upon negative constructions of women, sacrificing women’s liberty and equality interests in order to prefer and to cultivate the liberty and equality interests of churches.

Ashe provides a comprehensive historical review of relevant cases pertaining to religious liberty, exercise, and establishment, and the status of women, but it’s her analysis examining the two issues in light of each other, including an exploration of how the concepts of “religion” and “women” have been constructed in legal and popular discourse, that makes this article stand out.

It’s not light reading – while the writing is clear and accessible to non-lawyers, it is a 52 page PDF (including a lot of text in footnotes, which I haven’t read yet), but if you are interested in the history or current state of either of these topics, it’s well worth the time.

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