1839 Custody of Children Act

In 1838Caroline Norton began a campaign to get the law changed on the custody of children. Sir Thomas Talfourd, the MP for Reading agreed to Caroline's request to introduce a bill into Parliament which allowed mothers, against whom adultery had not been proved, to have the custody of children under seven, with rights of access to older children. The bill was passed in the House of Commons but was rejected by the House of Lords.

Norton now wrote another pamphlet, A Plain Letter to the Lord Chancellor on the Law of Custody of Infants. A copy was sent to every member of Parliament and in 1839 Talfourd tried again. This time the bill was passed in both houses and became the first piece of feminist legislation passed into law. The act gave mothers the right of custody of their children under seven for the first time, but only if the Lord Chancellor agreed to it, and only if the mother was of good character.