Women and the Law

Women and the Law is a pioneering study of the way in which the law has treated women – at work, in the family, in matters of sexuality and fertility, and in public life. Written by Susan Atkins and Brenda Hoggett, then University teachers, the book was first published in 1984. The authors examine the origins of British law’s attitude to women, trace the development of the law and ways in which it reflects the influence of economic, social and political forces and the dominance of men. They illustrate the tendency, despite formal equality, for deep-rooted problems of encoded gender inequality to remain.

Since 1984 the authors have achieved distinguished careers in law and public service. This 2018 Open Access edition includes a new Foreword and provides a timely opportunity to revisit their ground breaking analysis and reflect on how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same.

Susan Atkins CB
Dr Susan Atkins graduated from Birmingham University with an LLB in 1973, a Master’s degree in Criminology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1974 and trained as a solicitor in local government. She was a law academic for 12 years, specialising in anti-discrimination law. She joined the civil service in 1989.  Her posts included Deputy Chief Executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission, Departmental Equal Opportunities Officer for the Home Office and Director of the Women and Equality Unit in the Cabinet Office. She has also been a Visiting Professor at Southampton University. In 2003 Susan was appointed the first Chief Executive of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. She was the first independent Service Complaints Commissioner for the Armed Forces from 2007-2015. Susan is an experienced non-executive director and holds a number of advisory positions, including membership of Independent Advisory Boards for the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and the Centre for Women, Peace and Security at the London School of Economics.  Susan Atkins became a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to Armed Service Personnel.

Brenda Hoggett - Rt Hon the Baroness Hale of Richmond DBE
Brenda Hoggett, now Baroness Hale of Richmond and President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, became a High Court Judge in 1994, having taught law at the University of Manchester for 18 years and promoted reform of the law at the Law Commission for over nine. In 1999 she was appointed to the Court of Appeal and in 2004 to the appellate committee of the House of Lords, then highest court for the United Kingdom. This became the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in 2009. She was appointed Deputy President in 2013 and its first female President in 2017. She is also President of the United Kingdom Association of Women Judges and a past President of the International Association of Women Judges. She was Treasurer of Gray’s Inn in 2017 and is Master of the Company of Fellmongers of Richmond, North Yorkshire.



A note on the open access edition

2018 Foreword



Women in society
1. The historical legacy
2. Equality at work
3. Beyond equality of opportunity

The private domain
4. Sexuality
5. Motherhood
6. Breadwinners and homemakers: partners or dependants?
7. Power and violence in the home
8. The case against marriage?

The state and women's rights
9. The welfare state: social security and taxation
10. Women as citizens




ISBN 978-1-911507-10-9 (paperback edition) £25 - Order online

ISBN 978-1-911507-11-6 (epub version) £15 - Order online

ISBN 978-1-911507-12-3 Open Access PDF version in the Humanities Digital Library

This book will be published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-
NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license


A celebration of the republication of Women and the Law

We are holding an event with the authors to celebrate the republication of this landmark work in the Council Chamber at the IALS on Tuesday 4th December 2018 from 6:00pm to 7:30pm – followed by a wine reception.

Professor Fiona Cownie (University of Keele) will host a conversation with the authors:

  • Dr Susan Atkins CB and
  • Lady Brenda Hale (President of The Supreme Court, The Right Hon the Baroness Hale of Richmond DBE)

Followed by a panel discussion chaired by Professor Diamond Ashiagbor (University of Kent and IALS) with speakers discussing the lasting impact of the original work on their own thinking, careers and lives.

Speakers will include: 

  • Christina Blacklaws (President, The Law Society of England and Wales)
  • Professor Alison Diduck (University College London)
  • Professor Linda Mulcahy (London School of Economics / University of Oxford) 
  • Professor Erika Rackley (University of Kent)

This event is free but advance booking is required.  All welcome.

Page last updated: 20th September 2018