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No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies:
In the second half of the 20th century, "rights talk," characteristic of political and legal discourse in the United States, has been forcefully invoked by minorities and women in their respective quests for equal treatment under the law. In No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies, University of Iowa history professor Linda K. Kerber looks at the other side of the rights equation: the issue of obligations. Kerber argues that while men's rights have been bought by their obligations to public service, for women the obligations were to family. Absolution from public service--the constitutional right to be "ladies"--has clear roots in the principle of coverture, by which a woman's legal identity is absorbed by a man's, be it her father, husband, or other protector. This, Kerber writes, is not a boon for women. Women have always had obligations, she notes, it is merely "the forms and objects of demand" that have differed, and disparities between the obligations of men and women have affected women's qualitative ability to exercise rights, such as trial by a jury of one's peers. Kerber presents a series of narratives focusing on particular women whose situations became catalysts for political and legal change and the women, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who helped effect those transformations. No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies is engrossing reading for layperson and scholar alike. --Julia Riches [via]