Award Date

12-2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History

Department

History

First Committee Member

David Tanenhaus, Chair

Second Committee Member

Sue Fawn Chung

Third Committee Member

David Holland

Graduate Faculty Representative

John Valery White

Number of Pages

201

Abstract

This study focuses on "illegitimate" children, who are more visible
than other children within the historical record because of the many laws
related to their existence. By examining this group of children, it is
possible to improve upon the framework that shapes our understanding
of childhood and provide a starting point for future studies that will
continue to illuminate children's history. Although illegitimacy laws are
as ancient as Western civilization, the key moment for the United States'
laws related to nonmarital children came in the spring of 1968 and the
pivotal decision of Levy v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 68 (1968). In that case,
the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that nonmarital children deserved the
same legal rights as marital children. While Levy marked the beginning
of a series of court cases involving nonmarital children, the case itself
drifted into obscurity, its importance reduced to Justice William O.
Douglas' majority opinion. In an effort to rescue this significant case
from the shadows, an analysis of the complete court record for Levy,
occupies a prominent position within this work. This close historical analysis provides a glimpse into American culture during the late 1960s,
a time when a fundamental shift was occurring within society, creating a
more complete picture of how that shift affected the understanding of
childhood and children's rights.

Keywords

Children's rights; Civil rights – Cases; Illegitimate children; Levy v Louisiana

Disciplines

Civil Rights and Discrimination | History | United States History

Language

English


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