Runes, Yews, and Magic by Ralph W. V. Elliott

By Ralph W. V. Elliott

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It was not until 1979 that a family planning law legalised contraception for married couples, and only in 1985 could single people over the age of 18 buy contraceptives legally. The bans on divorce and on abortion remained in force, and in the early 1980s pro-life groups sought to strengthen the law against abortion by bestowing on the foetus the right to life. In a referendum held on the issue in 1983, two-thirds of those voting supported the change in the law, and only a third voted against. As far as the status of women was concerned, Ireland undoubtedly lagged well behind the other nine countries at the end of the 1970s.

Edith Summerskill, a married doctor practising under her maiden name, unsuccessfully contested a by-election in Bury in 1935 in which, in the face of strong opposition from the churches, she campaigned on the right of women to be allowed to practise birth control. She was elected in West Fulham in 1938 and began to campaign to extend the right of wives to matrimonial property and to ease their ®nancial dependence on their husbands. Having served as a junior minister in the 1945±50 Labour government, she turned her attention in the 1950s to the campaign to secure equal pay for women.

The Act recognised that, because only women experienced pregnancy and childbirth, their situation was different from that of men. Positive discrimination was required to enable them to secure real equality. Thus, strong campaigning and close collaboration between a range of different women's groups and organisations laid the foundations in the 1970s for a dramatic transformation of the Norwegian social and political system over the following 20 years. DENMARK AND THE NETHERLANDS In these two countries, radical feminist groups emerged in the 1970s to challenge existing social and political structures and to campaign for liberation for women.

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