January 29, 2018
Caroline Norton was a social reformer and successfully campaigned for married women's rights. Through her efforts the Custody of Infants Acts was passed by Parliament in 1839, giving married women legal rights to their own children. She fought to pass the Matrimonial Causes Act in 1857, which gave women the legal right to divorce if they had just cause to do so and also, the Married Women's Property Act in 1870, which allowed women to own property.
In 1827, Caroline married George Norton, barrister, M.P. He was very jealous and possessive, given to violent, drunken fits of temper. He was emotionally and physically abusive to Caroline. Abuse of a wife by her husband was legal at that time, so she had no recourse to end it.
Caroline did not know her husband well before she married him, and unfortunately found herself trapped in a dangerous marriage. She bore three children, and most of the joy she had in life came from them.
Caroline was incredibly creative and intellectually gifted; she was a writer and composer and brought in money through her writing. However, any money a wife earned at that time went to her husband.
Matters got worse in the family when George lost his position as a member of parliament. He took it out on his family and made life much worse for Caroline. Through a family connection she had with Lord Melbourne, Britain’s Prime Minister at the time, she was successful in getting her husband a position as a magistrate (lower-level judge).
Unfortunately, even though she had been encouraged by her husband to use her connections to advance his career, he became extremely jealous of her relationship with Lord Melbourne. George went so far as to accuse him of having a verbal affair with his wife.
In 1836, George Norton took Lord Melbourne to court, accusing him of having an on-going affair with his wife, Caroline. As ladies were not allowed in court, she was not even able to defend herself against the accusations, for in the eyes of the law, Caroline did not exist. She was legally a non-human. Her identity and personage was absorbed into the legal identity of her husband.
After Lord Melbourne was cleared of the charges and proven innocent, he was treated as a hero in society. Caroline's reputation, however, was destroyed and bore the shame of her husband's accusation regardless of her innocence and was ostracized by society.
Furious over the loss of the court case, George further punished her by taking her children away from her and putting them in the care of his mistress. She was forced out of her own home with no financial means. It was at this time she realized there were no laws to protect her rights and nothing she could do to get her sons back. In the eyes of the law, they were his and she had no right to them. Moreover, she had no legal right to the royalty money she made from her own books; it all went directly to her husband whom she could not legally divorce.
After a time of struggle and starvation, she decided to teach herself the law and found that, though she no longer lived with her husband, she could charge him for her food and lodging. When she did, he refused to pay and the creditors, not recognizing her as a legal person, took her husband to court for payment of her bills.
With nothing else to lose, Caroline broke the rules and went to court to defend herself and present her case to the court. Once there, her husband ruthlessly brought up the accusations of a verbal affair with Lord Melbourne, which opened the door for her to tell the court of his extramarital affairs and abuse. Needless to say, she won her case.
She went on to work with politicians to change the laws against women. Parliament passed laws to protect women's interests in marriage and due to her perseverance, married women were now legally recognized by law.
I've often heard complaints about feminists amongst male religious leaders, who've tried to paint the feminist movements as worldly and sinful, but it does not take a difficult study through history to see how terribly untrue that report is. Although some feminist movements have gotten off course at times, most all historical feminists came from very pious backgrounds and strove to help women by simply giving them basic human rights. They are better described as missionaries or patron saints to women of all races, positions and walks of life.
Caroline did not want to lead the life she did, but still she is influential because in her most difficult struggles she persevered and won. She won not just for herself, but for every woman and child who would come after her.
Queen Elizabeth I
Although I'm quite sure you've heard of this next influential woman, I'm not positive you've been made aware of the huge advancement made for women by Queen Elizabeth I.
Elizabeth was only three when her mother was put to death by her father because she failed to give him a son. Her father, King Henry the VIII, was the sun, moon and stars to little Elizabeth, yet he had her declared illegitimate and denied royal succession, which, fortunately, he later reversed. While twice narrowly surviving sentences of death, first by her half-brother and then her older half-sister, she lived to succeed her sister, Mary, on the throne in 1558.
Intelligent, as well as clever, twenty-five year old Elizabeth shocked her court by refusing to marry. She had seen the trouble of other queens who'd married and refused to have it thrust upon her. It was believed at that time a queen naturally needed a husband to rule with or for her as co-ruler. It seemed utterly impossible for a woman to rule as her own king, as well as queen, but Elizabeth did.
Her sister, Mary, was a terrible queen and seemed to prove the theory that women were simply unfit to reign. However, Elizabeth was about to completely negate that theory!
While staving off countless attempts to unseat her by her male cousins and then by Pope Pius V in 1570, she ruled as the most successful ruler England ever had. At the beginning of her reign, England was an insignificant country. But by the end, it was a major European power. It is Elizabeth who deserves the credit for laying the foundation for England becoming an extraordinary empire, which reached around the globe.
Having done it all with the guidance of the Lord, Elizabeth had truly developed an intimate relationship with God, always seeking His guidance above all others and placing Him first in her heart. As England was surrounded by Catholic nations who, with the Pope's encouragement, tried to destroy her, she established and protected the newly formed Protestant Church of England.
While some historians call her lucky, her life-long relationship with God is an established fact. She unquestionably believed God had, indeed, protected her. Elizabeth trusted God and He surrounded her with wise and honest council. She was also greatly esteemed by her subjects, and for that, she thanked God often in prayer. She followed God and He made her great and as He did, He used her reign to break off a great deal of prejudice against women rulers.
Elizabeth's life as queen was not at all easy or glamorous as you may suppose. Truly her life was a life of sacrifice and great courage. It was unquestionably difficult for a woman to rule and yet, she did. And she was marvelously successful at it. She is an influential woman if only for the example she has set for all of us even now - we have no excuses. If God has called us to it, with His help we will succeed!
Strength Is Beautiful
Wisdom and strength do not make you less of a woman. No. Indeed, they are qualities anyone should be proud to display. Our lives, whether small or great, influence those around us and you never know who those women may one day become. You may not even realize the encouragement you bring to other women by the way you live. Stand strong! You never know who's watching.
These influential women, of course, are only a few who have become mentors for thousands who sought the Lord. Indeed, they are an army of women - a mighty throng!
From Victoria's book God's Magnum Opus: The Value of a Woman.
VICTORIA BOYSON is co-pastor of Faith Church Conroe, located in Conroe, TX, and founder of Victoria Boyson Ministries and Women of Impact Ministries, a ministry dedicated to raising up an army of women who will revolutionize their world and bring in the harvest. She is a passionate speaker, operating in extraordinary authority to awaken the church to their victorious reality. She's been writing for the prophetic ministry the Elijah List since 2004 and before that has worked for Francis Frangipane ministries. Along with her husband, she's worked in pastoral ministry in the mid-west. Through revelations of the Holy Spirit and the Word, Victoria is breaking down strongholds which have kept the church from fully realizing the great commission.
Based out of the Houston, Texas area, she lives with her husband and together they have 4 grown children. Called to awaken and prepare the bride of Christ for the end-time harvest, she hopes to compel His church to embrace a passionate relationship with their heavenly Father. She is the author of REVOLUTION: The White Horse Rider, God's Magnum Opus: The Value of a Women, AWAKENING: The Deep Sleep, His Passionate Pursuit and The Birth of Your Destiny.
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