An absorbing account of the origins of women’s rights to property and children. A true story which reads like a Victorian novel. ‘In law a husband and wife are one: and that one is the husband’: Blackstone. This was the law until well into the nineteenth century. Until They Are Seven is based on research into the historical background to the modern problems of child custody and access. The result is an absorbing tale of the origins of women’s rights to their children and their property in which John Wroath recounts the brave moves by Henrietta Greenhill and Caroline Norton which led to the Infant Custody Act 1839 and Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 – the rest being history. The story is also fascinating for the insights it gives into the private lives of several famous people of the time who were involved in or around these events – included among them the prime minister Lord Melbourne, the poet and playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.
His Honour John Wroath is the former senior family judge for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. A solicitor by training, he became a part-time registrar of the Newport, Isle of Wight, County Court at the age of 33 in 1965, and worked for the Hampshire Police Authority from 1966 to 1972 before becoming a full-time registrar. He was appointed a circuit judge in 1984. He was a member of the Children Act Advisory Committee for two years and of the County Court Rules Committee for five years. His interest in the cases of Henrietta Greenhill and Caroline Norton described in this book started when researching the historical background to the modern day law concerning children.