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Abstract

This Note explores wives' lawsuits in response to male drunkenness between 1850 and 1910. These suits were notable in part because of the existing common law rule of coverture that denied a woman's legal existence during marriage. The Note argues that prior to the major waves of temperance reform in the twentieth century, American courts devised creative legal solutions providing relief to wives that reflected the courts ' desire to achieve a socially accepted balance between protecting women and upholding male authority within the family. It finds that the courts shaped dram shop, divorce, and dower remedies both to address the incapacity of drunken husbands and to protect male privilege to a certain extent. While scholars have studied how men enjoyed immunities from prosecution for chastisement, they have not explored the historical civil remedies available to wives for male addiction to alcohol.

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