WONERSH
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HISTORY SOCIETY
THE LEGACY Caroline was evicted from her home and George took possession of all the property that she had there including jewellery and clothes. She tried to obtain a legal separation and custody over her sons but quickly realised that she had no legal rights to her children. She decided that the only way she would ever gain access to her children was to campaign to change the law. And so she did. After a long fight the Infant Custody Bill of 1839 was passed giving married mothers, not guilty of adultery, custody of their children under seven and access to children under sixteen. George, vindictive as ever, moved the children to Scotland where the Act didn’t apply. In September 1842 Caroline’s son William, who was nine years old, went riding on his own, was thrown from his pony and cut his arm. It wasn’t a serious injury but he developed tetanus. Caroline was sent for but William died before she arrived. It was only then that George agreed to a legal separation and allowed Caroline joint custody of her remaining boys. George also went to court to try to get possession of her earnings as a writer and so, once again, Caroline campaigned - this time to protect the property rights of married women. In 1857, the Matrimonial Causes Act was finally passed. It contained 68 clauses, four of which came from Caroline’s pamphlets. These included a woman’s right to form a contract, to receive maintenance as directed by the court, to inherit and bequeath property and to keep possession of her own earnings. THE END Unfortunately, there was to be no happy ending for Caroline. In her later years she suffered from poor health and was devastated by the death of her eldest son Fletcher from tuberculosis when he was only 30. George died in 1875 allowing Caroline to marry a good friend of 25 years, Sir William Stirling-Maxwell, in 1877 but in the summer of the same year Caroline was taken ill and she died, aged 69, on 15 June. Her middle son, Brinsley, who was an invalid and depended on his mother financially, died in Capri a few weeks after her aged 45.