The UK parliament brought in several acts which slowly improved the custody rights, property rights and status of married women during the nineteenth century. Most applied also in Ireland.
|1839||A married woman could apply for custody of her children up to the age of 7, if separated from her husband and not guilty of adultery.|
|1857||Separated and deserted wives could control their own property. Divorce through the courts was made available in England.|
|1870||A married woman could keep her own earnings. Property acquired before her marriage still belonged to her husband.|
|1873||A married woman could apply for custody of her children up to the age of 16 if separated from her husband. Adultery was not mentioned.|
|1882||A married woman could own and control her own property.|
|1886||A married woman could apply for custody of her children up to the age of 21. She could become the legal guardian of her children if her husband died. A deserting husband could be forced to support his wife.|
Married women in Ireland would have to wait until the Succession Act 1965 for security in widowhood but centuries of disadvantage had left many inequities still in place. Legislation followed in the 1970s and 1980s as a result of the findings of the Commission on the Status of Women, the Women's Movement of the 1970s and membership of the European Community.
For further information see Independent Ireland.