Janet Mary Riley: Women and the Law
Louisiana Community Property Law
Janet Mary Riley spearheaded the cause to change the code for equal management and division for both partners. The “Head and Master” rule within Louisiana’s Civil Code gave the husband sole control over community property or, everything a husband and wife acquired while together.
[Head and Master] “was the one issue that united all women in the state. I saw women with anti-ERA buttons sitting side by side with women wearing pro-ERA slogans. Both sides saw it as a victory for their cause when the bill passed; anti-ERA women used it to show that states can handle women’s rights locally and don’t need a national ERA, and the pro-ERA women saw it as a natural step toward a national ERA. I don’t know of one woman who opposed it.”
-- Janet Mary Riley, Remapping Second-Wave Feminism
Lousiana Women and the Law
Janet Mary Riley campaigned for change in the Community Property Law of Louisiana, speaking to women’s groups, presenting at conferences, and literally wrote the casebook on the subject.
“Whichever path she chooses, working outside or inside, she is contributing to society’s good and to the family in a monetary, economic way and should have equality. Her work at home should be recognized.
-- Janet Mary Riley, An Angel With Teeth
Her Legal Legacy
“So when people tell me, ‘Oh you’re a feminist, you work to get women out of the home,’ I say ‘No, I work for them to get equal protection whether in the home or out of the home.” But it was a hard thing to get across. They kept on coming back saying, “Oh, you’re working to ruin the household, the family.’ … Women’s rights as human beings were not being recognized.”
-- Janet Mary Riley, Navigating New Terrain: Work and Women’s Spiritual Lives