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Combining historical and legal scholarship, this is an analysis of the history of child custody in the USA from colonial times to the present day. It draws on history to illuminate contemporary issues, offering a rich perspective on the historical relationship of children to their parents. The author draws on three periods of pivotal change in social attitudes and the law, connecting these transformations to the changing status of women and the increasing power of mothers. He describes how the present move away from maternal preference toward equal custodial rights has been promoted by feminists' struggle for equal political rights and a new theory of equal parenting adopted by social scientists.