The latest Journal of Legal History has an interesting article on the genesis of the marital tort immunity, preventing wives suing their husbands:
Karen Pearlston, ‘Male violence, marital unity and the history of the interspousal tort immunity’, Journal of Legal History 36 (2015) 260-98.
Focusing particularly on the nineteenth century, the author argues that the tort immunity was not straightforwardly a result of coverture and/or unity of persons doctrine, but came about (or perhaps was refined) through the process of alteration of laws on women in the nineteenth century. The argument is careful and convincing, with some neat juxtapositions of contradictory views on the nature and implications of coverture, consistent only in their result of disadvantaging women.
This area and this argument should certainly influence the way in which we approach the reforms relating to women in the nineteenth century: rather than stressing only the narrative of progress for their rights in this era, we should always be aware of the substantial counter-currents.