Bryan Caplan  has been arguing that women were freer (from a Libertarian perspective) during the Gilded age. Will Wilkinson and many, many others are fighting that notion. Tyler Cowen's perspective:

I would not in this case take the *legal* oppressions to be a stand-alone or exogenous variable, separable from more general societal attitudes.  There were various male desires to oppress women, which took a mix of legal and non-legal forms.  Asking how bad the "government-only" restrictions were is an odd division of the problem, since the governmental and non-governmental restrictions were an integrated package which worked together in non-linear fashion.

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