Re: "rule of thumb"

Subject: Re: "rule of thumb"
From: Gina <psu02909 -at- ODIN -dot- CC -dot- PDX -dot- EDU>
Date: Fri, 17 Nov 1995 12:42:21 -0800

The "Rule of Thumb" comes out of seventeenth-century English Chattel Law,
stating that a man may chastize his wife with a stick no larger than his
thumb (so that she would not be damaged in a fashion that would seriously
impair her ability to work). (Dobash). In Eighteenth century French law [a
husband] was "restricted violence against wives to "blows, thumps, kicks,
or punches on the back if they leave no traces." and did not allow the
use of "sharp edged or crushing instruments" (Castan, cited in Dobash and
Dobash 1979:56-57).

Dobash, R. E. and Dobash, R. "Love, Honor, and Obey: Institutional
Ideologies and th Struggle for Battered Women." Contemporary Crises, 1
(1997: 403-415).
in: Women: Images and Realities, Mountain View: Mayfield Publ, 1995.
Kesselman, McNair, Schniedewind, eds.

Hope this is useful. I co/teach with the director of women's studies using
anthology in an interdisciplinary sophomore inquiry class here at Portland
State University.

Gina Eastman

On Fri, 17 Nov 1995, Susan M. Leslie wrote:

> Some years ago I attended a talk by a Texas attorney to the League of Women
> Voters covering how Texas law effects women. The phrase "rule of thumb"
> came up and the attorney told us it dates back to English common law and a
> judge's ruling that men could beat their wives as long as the dismeter of
> the stick was no bigger than their thumb. So I believe the first poster was
> correct except for the time frame. (As y'all probably know, US law is based
> on English common law.) Perhaps, as many times happens, there are two
> anticedents of the term. Whatever the case, because of widespread believe
> in the legal heritage of the term a lot of women prefer it not be used.

> ==============================================================
> Prior discussion:
> >> > (My Dad told me)...not too long ago the law stated that a man could
> beat his wife >> > with a stick no larger than the diameter of his thumb.
> Thus it was
> >> > the "Rule of Thumb.
> >>
> >
> >> Sorry, but I doubt the truth of your dad's statement. I thought the
> >> term came from carpentry, wherein the width of one's thumb could be
> >> used to approximate an inch.
> >
> Susan Leslie
> Houston, Tx

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