Master of Arts in History
First Committee Member
David Tanenhaus, Chair
Second Committee Member
Sue Fawn Chung
Third Committee Member
Graduate Faculty Representative
John Valery White
Number of Pages
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.
Children's rights; Civil rights – Cases; Illegitimate children; Levy v Louisiana
Civil Rights and Discrimination | History | United States History
Bakelar, Sherrie Anne, "From ‘baggage’ to not ‘non-persons’: Levy v. Louisiana and the struggle for equal rights for ‘illegitimate’ children" (2010). UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. 746.