Document Type

Honors Project

Publication Date



On 20 September 1792, the newly formed French Legislative Assembly, spurred
by rapidly developing women's political clubs, passed two laws that enhanced women's rights. The first made twenty-one the age of majority for entering into marriage; once a woman reached that age, her father had no power over who she decided to marry. Paternal power over marriage, which had been limitless in the Old Regime, was significantly curtailed. The second law enabled women to divorce their husbands for a variety of reasons, including, mutual consent, incompatibility, "mental illness, condemnation to an infamous punishment, cruelty or serious injury, notorious disorder of morals, abandonment of at least two years, absence without news of at least five years, and emigration." The new divorce law represented a major change over the slow and inequitable canon and royal laws governing divorce in the Ancien Regime, which was an option only for wealthy aristocratic men who had obtained the permission of their fathers. Women from all classes, therefore, had gained a few, yet important, legal rights in the early stages of the French Revolution.

Level of Honors

magna cum laude




Paul Cohen