> Skip to content
  • Published: 19 July 2012
  • ISBN: 9781409051886
  • Imprint: Preface Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 512

The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton

The extraordinary story of the first campaigner for women's rights in the legal system

Caroline Norton, born in 1808, was a society beauty, poet and pamphleteer. Her good looks and wit attracted many male admirers, first her husband, the Honourable George Norton, and then the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne.

After years of simmering jealousy, George Norton accused Caroline and the Prime Minister of a 'criminal conversation' (adultery) resulting in a trial referred to as 'the scandal of the century'.

Cut off and bankrupted by George Norton, she went on to become one of the most important figures in changing the law for wives and mothers.

  • Published: 19 July 2012
  • ISBN: 9781409051886
  • Imprint: Preface Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 512

About the author

Diane Atkinson

Diane Atkinson was born in the North-East and educated in Cornwall and London, where she completed a PhD on the politics of women's sweated labour. At the Museum of London she worked as a lecturer and curator specialising in women's history. She has an MA from the University of East Anglia in Life-writing. She is the author of Suffragettes in Pictures,Funny Girls: Cartooning for Equality and Love and Dirt: The Marriage of Arthur Munby and Hannah Cullwick, whichwas published in 2003.

Also by Diane Atkinson

See all

Praise for The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton

The liberating life story of the first feminist legislator

Kathy Lette

Diane Atkinson has written the definitive account of one of the most important trials of the nineteenth century - that of Caroline Norton's fight to keep her children. The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton is an important and necessary book. It also happens to be beautifully written and extremely entertaining. Diane Atkinson has resurrected a nineteenth century heroine in the twentieth-first century.

Amanda Foreman

Caroline Norton took her fight to see her children to the highest court in the land and changed the lot of mothers for ever. Diane Atkinson tells her story with a clarity and wit that makes it a pleasure to read.

Joan Bakewell

Expertly researched and finely written... Mrs Norton’s journey from abused wife to passionate reformer is as moving as it is fascinating, and Atkinson’s richly detailed work does her subject the justice she deserves.

BBC History Magazine

Diane Atkinson’s captivating fifth book...pacy book that’s as bright and fascinating as its heroine.

Independent on Sunday

Thrillingly readable biography (5 Stars)

Mail on Sunday

Atkinson’s meticulous research shines when she describes the impossible position of women like Caroline.


It is a brave book, written with verve and veracity.

The Times

Poignant and inspirational this is the well-crafted story of a fascinating heroine and her fight to save her family.

Daily Express 5/5 stars


Daily Mail

A glorious read!


Related titles