Friday, May 29, 2009
My colleague Stephanie McMahon (Cincinnati) presents California Women: Putting the "Community" in Community Property today at the Gender and Justice in Courts and Families panel at the Law & Society Association Annual Meeting in Denver:
Community property is currently thought of as a more equitable marital property regime than the common law system because it is thought to provide each spouse with ownership of fifty percent of the family’s income. Historically, however, community property as exercised in the United States, and in particular in California, has not always been thought of so favorably. Although the concept implied a partnership between spouses, in practice wives were denied almost all rights a partner would normally enjoy. This paper looks at how women lobbied to enlarge the protection wives enjoyed under the community property regime in the early twentieth century. In particular, women’s groups used arguments under the federal income tax, that a community property regime that gave more rights to wives would reduce families federal tax obligations, to help equalize spouses’ rights and obligations. It was the ability of Progressive Era women to use arguments seemingly independent of their purpose to accomplish their goal that furthered their claims to equity, even if they failed to win completely equality.