Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


Gabrielle M. Lanier

Kevin Borg

Evan Friss


This thesis examines the early twentieth century as a period of transition for rural, southern communities where the state began to increase its authority in matters of the family and the household. This prompted a transition from traditional patriarchal authority to state paternalism. Using the criminal court case records from the Rockingham Criminal Court, it is possible to evaluate the rural population’s reaction to this transition. Certain populations, particularly women, were willing to use the law as a place to find justice against male power, while men continued to perpetuate traditional ideas about masculinity and informal, violent retribution as a response to insults to their reputation. Families continued to violate laws which inhibited the household economy, such as labor laws and prohibition. On the side of the state, it began to litigate crimes perpetrated by men against women, although it was still limited by traditional notions of male authority and it also saw itself as a power which could regulate acceptable relationships between adults. The criminal court cases displays the tensions between the population of Rockingham County and the shifting power from the patriarch to the state.



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