Thursday, 23 May 2013

Reasons to Be Cheerful 6

I needed a man's signature in 1968 to take out a hire purchase agreement for a fridge, even though I was in a good permanent job. My boss was kind enough to help. (Friend HC writes)

Interesting history fact about #Pope Francis' installation mass: for 1st time since Great Schism of 1054 leader of Orthodox Church is there. (‏@bensimmoneau)

1826 University College London founded It was the first university institution to be founded in London and the first in England to be established on an entirely secular basis, to admit students regardless of their religion and to admit women on equal terms with men. (Wikipedia)

1843 Disruption in the Church of Scotland 450 ministers broke away over the issue of the Church's relationship with the State, to form the Free Church of Scotland… most of the principles... were conceded by Parliament by 1929. (Wikipedia) Some church buildings were abandoned.

1850 Libraries Act sets up free public libraries

1861 The Offences Against the Person Act outlawed man-traps and spring guns (used against poachers). It consolidated an act of 1828.

1861 Section 61 of the Offences Against the Person Act "abolished the death penalty for buggery, and provided instead that a person convicted of buggery was liable to be kept in penal servitude for life or for any term not less than ten years. The mandatory minimum sentence was abolished by the Penal Servitude Act of 1891." (Wikipedia)

1866 Uruguay abolishes corporal punishment (It was abolished in the Brazilian Navy after the Revolt of the Lash in 1910. Many Brazilian sailors were the sons of former slaves forced to join the service. In 1971 it was banned in schools in Toronto. There's an interesting history here.)

1892 and 1909 The rule forbidding women to wear trousers in Paris was amended to allow them to wear trousers, "if the woman is holding a bicycle handlebar or the reins of a horse." The law is repealed in 2013.

1932 Irish law forbidding married women to teach in primary schools. Repealed 1973. Here's a history of women's rights in Ireland.

1939 Cancer Act states that it is illegal to advertise offers to treat cancer.

1951 IBM issues a memo saying it's OK to employ married women

1974 Health and Safety at Work Act

1982 Borstals ("approved" schools for young offenders) abolished

1987 European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals prohibits tail docking for dogs (some countries opt out)

1973 Once the UK joined the European Union in 1973, it also became subject to Article 119 of the 1957 Treaty of Rome, which specified that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work.

1998 Human Rights Act makes it illegal to treat people unequally.

1691 Whites only
1724 Blacks with permission of slave owner
1769 The wife is property
1899 Polygamy outlawed
1900 The wife can own property
1965 Contraception legal
1967 Interracial couples
1975 Wife can have credit in her name
1981 Husband no longer owns all property
1993 Marital rape a crime

Marriage liberalisation took longer in the US, perhaps explaining why people still think that "marriage is slavery" or that the words "marriage" and "wife" are relics of patriarchy, or something.

2013 France passes equal marriage law.

2013 Niger villagers take mass public vow to end female genital mutilation. 

We've come a long way. Oxford professors can be married. Monarchs no longer wash paupers' feet or touch them to cure the "King's Evil" (TB). Oxford students are no longer fined for not wearing a gown after dusk (such rules were implemented by a private police force, disbanded in 2003). You won't be deported for catching a rabbit on someone else's land. Parents can visit their children in hospital any time. Most people now understand equality and human rights (they apply to all humans).

And someone has suggested that bullying in schools should be made a crime. Why stop at schools?

1618 to 1967 150,000 children were forcibly deported from the UK to overseas colonies (

1925 Any presumption of law that an offence committed by a wife in the presence of her husband is committed under the coercion of the husband is hereby abolished, but on a charge against a wife for any offence other than treason or murder it shall be a good defence to prove that the offence was committed in the presence of, and under the coercion of, the husband. This does not apply to civil partners, or to men.
The principle difference [between marriage and civil partneships] is that if you go to a country that has both a civil union and a marriage (e.g. South Africa, many US states, France soon, etc) then your civil partnership will usually be treated as the local civil union, not the local marriage - and the rights given by that other country to civil unions may well be significantly lower. (rgadsden@cix)

More here, and links to the rest.


  1. Progress can be slow, but it does come. When I graduated, potential employers felt free to ask women candidates about their marriage and reproduction plans. My daughter is about to graduate, and at least she won't face those questions....

  2. We just have to keep up the social pressure!